“The horsemanship badge was the straw that broke the camels back. There was no way I could afford the horse rental. I told the troop leader and she was upset that there wasn't a way I could ‘figure it out.’ I never went back.”
Between the ages of six and thirteen, Patricia was a proud Girl Scout. Her pins are on display here.
As a kid, my troop met once a week in the school cafeteria. We were not best friends, but we got along and felt comfortable with each other. The meetings were enjoyable, as I was accepted for who I was.
Patricia self-defines her childhood self as a “nerdy” – a common trait for her troop’s members.
It was a sisterhood of nerds. We all sang camp songs and enjoyed crafts, camping, hiking, tying knots, and building a campfire. We were all proud of wearing our sashes with the badges we’d earned. Our uniforms were unflattering but we didn’t give a darn because we were all wearing them!
In the Girl Scouts, Patricia found not only camaraderie with fellow “nerds,” but also a reprieve from her financial situation, which limited the extracurricular activities that she could afford to be involved in.
Dues for Girl Scouts were ten cents a week, so It was an inexpensive way to allow me to go to events and to camp, which would have not been possible otherwise.
The Girl Scouts were supportive of who she was, and she felt a sense of belonging. But, this all changed.
Going into middle school was a big change. Here there were clearly the kids whose families had a lot, and kids whose families did not. For me this was difficult – I was so shy, and making friends wasn't easy to begin with, so dressing in hand-me-downs really made me stand out.
Patricia eventually found friends at her new school who accepted her for who she was. But, more and more, she felt distanced from the Girl Scout troop that had once been so important to her.
The troop was much smaller in size, since in middle school the Girl Scouts was kind of seen as where the nerds went. The meetings were not held at the school, but at the leader's house, and the leader decided her daughter was going to be the patrol leader. The leader chose badges her daughter was interested in, without attention to the price. This was a problem – since my funds were limited, I would have chosen badges I could earn without spending a lot of money.
The fellow feeling of Girl Scouts in elementary school was gone. Patricia dropped out of her troop.
I stuck with it for a couple of years, but I realized I was not enjoying it anymore because of the snotty attitudes of the girls whose moms were the troop leaders.
Patricia keeps her Girl Scout pins as a reminder of the years she was part of her “sisterhood of nerds.”
When I look at my pins, I think of the crazy group of girls that were in the troop in elementary school, and how much fun we had. But service is a big part of scouting too, and it’s when you work in a group to help others and make a situation better that you get that sense of belonging and being appreciated.
Being accepted for who you are, rather than putting on a front, is something that Patricia still values and uses to form and filter her social network – just as she did in her youth.
I am pretty quick to gravitate to genuinely down to earth people. I don't want to know who designed your handbag, how many carats your diamond is, or where you go to get Botox, because you are not who I want to be around. Tell me instead about the places you've traveled, what interesting foods you've tried, what family traditions you celebrate, what obstacles in life you have overcome, and who you love, because you are the person that makes me feel good to be around.