Tomorrow, March 11, marks the one hundred and seventh birthday of the Girl Scouts of America, so to celebrate, we’re re-running this never-gets-old post where we asked a handful of our favorite ladies to recall their own scouting memories, and/or to add fuel to the fire of the heated debate: WHICH GIRL SCOUT COOKIE REIGNS SUPREME?! Read up on ALL OF THE OPINIONS and ALL OF THE FEELINGS below, and then tell us what the Girl Scouts mean to YOU in the comments, and/or on Twitter (@BYT // @BYTNYC):
I have always wanted to be a boy scout. I remember every year at the end of elementary school our teachers would send us home with pamphlets of summer activities: sports camps, space camps, fat camps—but the only thing that ever stuck out to me was boy scouts. Sure, there are girl scouts, but I wanted the feel of a bow pulled taught in my little hands and the wind of the wild blowing through my hair! I dreamed of camping with my friends (who all happened to be boys) and fighting raccoons. I wanted to learn the secrets of how to turn a rock into compass and how to build a hut out of a fart (ok, that last one was a stretch) At that age, the only thing I had perceived about girl scouts is that they wore dresses and sold cookies so they must be sissies. I was and am NO SISSY. It wasn’t until recently that I learned that you get to do all the camping and cool stuff in girl scouts, too. I had always assumed that the girl in girl scouts meant that I would have to be gender classified into learning things about home economics.
I grew up in a lower middle class family so we couldn’t afford for me to be any type of scout. That didn’t deter me though. I made my own form of Tom Boy Scouts of America by collecting all the shirts, patches, bandanas, and Boy Scout books I could get my hands on at garage sales and thrift stores. I read To Kill A Mockingbird in a tree house and threw darts at a target in the dirt. I made my own obstacle course around the open septic tank in the field behind my house (don’t ask) and timed how fast I could run up the hill to the railroad tracks.
I sometimes think how much better my life would be if I had been in the scouts. Then I realize that I have the Internet in my pocket at all times and no longer need sentient teachers. I have a stranger on YouTube teaching me how to Ranger roll and some rando on a blog teaching me camping tips. So in the end, I win.
I live worlds apart from the Greatest Generation, but like some of its members, my time with the troops began and ended in the Pacific. I became a Brownie as a second grader at an all-girls international school in Tokyo, Japan. After 3 pm, we slid the vests on over our uniform pinafores—teddy bear/mud brown against navy plaid—and ran to the cafeteria. Our meetings featured peanut butter rice krispie treats (a novelty in the Far East—sometimes Stephanie’s mom brought Kool-Aid!) and origami or leadership skits or friendship bracelets or what have you. I remember a kimono’d woman guiding us through a tea ceremony, so that we could nobly, if clumsily, earn a cultural customs patch.
I remember flustered American mothers counting heads on Saturday morning subway rides to nature reserve parks. We sang “this is the song that never ends…” softly, so as to avoid glares from passengers. In December ’96 my troop visited a nearby senior citizens’ home. An audience of residents who had witnessed the atomic bombings now smiled, hummed, or snoozed along as Amerika-jin youths, standing stiffly in semi-circle formation, delivered shrill presentations of “Silent Night” and “Jingle Bell Rock.”
After third grade my family moved to Singapore, where I entered Junior Scouts through the American school. I associate the advent of green sashes with the social complications of tweenhood. Cliquey strife eased during mosquito-rife camp retreats near the Malaysia border, or later, an involved unit on Grease.
I imagine GSUSA gave displaced American parents a chance to escape from the stresses of expat life, to bond over familiar songs and Nabisco products from foreign import grocery stores. To my community of young peers in penny loafers, GSUSA offered a window into our coveted “real American kid experience.
Being a Brownie was so cool. I saw Cinderella on ice with a teacher before I knew he was gay, we made finger-paint sweatshirts and my mom was my troop leader. I was embarrassed at first and then I saw other people’s moms. We revolutionized cookies sales, we asked permission of local grocery stores and set up shop out front and made hundreds! Apparently, there is nothing people in Central Indiana love more than Reggie Miller and Do-si-Dos! We were the best dressed, closest knit, highest paid Brownie troop. It’s tough to feel that cool when you have buckteeth and your favorite outfit is a seahorse dress from Talbots Kids but I had it all!
And then my time came to become a Girl Scout. It seemed like the natural next step for someone who had so clearly dominated the minor leagues. I had encountered some teenage Girl Scouts and realized (even at 7) that they were bizarre weirdoes but I believed I could make this new adventure my own. I had to miss a brand new episode of Full House but my mom said we could record. So I crossed the ceremonial bridge in a high school auditorium for 75 bored parents. Only a few Brownie friends were there, something felt off but I ate my DQ Blizzard. Then I rushed home. The VHS tape skipped a bit at first, then a little more and then entirely shut off. (FYI, it was the episode where Uncle Jesse wants to buy a black toilet for the Smash Club). I was ready to make sacrifices for the green and khaki but TGIF was not one of them. I had all the potential to be a star but I wouldn’t put in the work. I was the Rex Grossman or Ryan Leaf or Matt Leinart or any other traditionally attractive QB loser. I wasn’t strong enough.
I have always been goal-oriented to a fault, even when I was a Brownie. I remember going through the badge book and trying to figure out the fastest way to acquire as many as I could. You’d have to complete, like, five out of eight tasks per badge, so I would choose the easiest five tasks and then do half-assed versions of them. If the art badge required creating a work of art, I would draw something with literally one colored pencil and check it off. If the cooking badge required making food from scratch, I would pour myself a bowl of cereal. Then I would send away for the badges, which my poor parents had to pay for as though I had actually acquired new life skills. I never sewed the badges onto my sash, though, because I didn’t know how to sew. (I still don’t.) All my badges, these markers of my youthful accomplishments, just sat in a takeout container in my closet. Many years later, I went to college and I think my mom threw them away. So it goes.
I was in the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland for five years and every year we attended an event called a Mall Lock In. Imagine hundreds of scouts inside a Baltimore mall from Friday 7 p.m. to Saturday 7 a.m. hopping around stations to earn badges in one night. If you’re having trouble picturing this, just imagine being a 10-year-old locked in your favorite mall, but none of the stores are open and you’re being forced to learn FOR 12 HOURS. Did they think they were playing a Jedi mind trick by holding it in a mall? Because I could CLEARLY see that the K-B Toys wasn’t open. The only thing that was open was the food court, where shift workers were swarmed by hundreds of preteens and their troop leaders buying 12 buckets of Boardwalk french fries to shut them up. Also my apologies to any 1996 Hunt Valley Mall lock in attendee who ended up with ketchup and fries in her hair, as two girls in my troop decided to drop those greasy bombs from the second floor.
You always arrived to the mall bearing swaps. Swaps were these small art projects (think boondoggle) you made with your troop and you gave them to girls you befriended at the lock in. Somewhere on the swap was the troop number so you could remember who gave it to you. If I had to think twice about what your swap it was, it probably wasn’t a good one. You could tell from the swap whether a troop leader spent at least 15 minutes in a Jo-Ann Fabric to drop a dime on some pipe cleaners and googly eyes, or if she was inspired by a canister of tongue depressors she saw in her doctor’s office that week.
SOPHIE L. JOHNSON
Girl Scouts was the best possible experience for me because (1) cookies, and (2) people who would not ordinarily be willing to spend time with me were forced to spend 45 minutes with me every week. I was a friendless child, so nothing brought me more joy than when our scout leader forced Mary Salee (the most popular girl at school) to tell me what kind of tree she would be if she would be a tree. Mary Salee dropped out of Girl Scouts after like three weeks, because there was no reason for her to be there. She didn’t eat cookies (this was pre-gluten allergies, so I guess she was just delusional), and she already HAD a bunch of friends. I stayed on, though, and won every merit badge. The other girls in Girl Scouts openly disliked me, but the leaders thought I was AMAZING, and when you’re a kid, you’ll take any validation you can get. Also, there was a horse-riding badge, and I thought I was a horse whisperer. As in, I thought I was a person who could whisper to horses and they would understand me. I literally whispered at horses. I whispered things like, “You’re a magnificent creature and no one understands you. PRANCE ANYWAY.” Honestly, I got a lot off my chest doing that.
Being a Girl Scout was definitely something I looked forward to every summer. I made friends and it really taught me at a young age about the importance of girls sticking together. It broke me out of my shy shell and really gave me confidence I needed at the time, which soon helped me to be the awesome young woman I am today!
JENN DE LA VEGA
I was a Brownie Scout in Hercules, CA (which is totally offensive for a Filipino person, looking back on it now). I stumbled upon my sash with all the badges on it recently and I barely remember doing the projects. However, the most vivid memory was the time our troop went camping. In the middle of a ghost story, someone told my mom to jump out of the bushes and scare us. But she completely lost it, hiding there. She stumbled out, cry-laughing and half-heartedly waving her arms, trying to choke out a “Boogah boogah.” It wasn’t really embarrassing because even by 8 years old, I had come to terms with having an immigrant mom who was only trying to give me the best opportunities. It can get silly trying to assimilate in a small town, but I think I turned out ok in the end.
I really wanted to eat those Samoas, but I’m allergic to coconut. What a travesty, huh? I’ll eat them Tagalongs all day, tho. ALL DAY.
BONUS PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE:
I still have no idea what fuck the point of signing me up for Girl Scouts was, unless it was just a very obvious attempt by my parents to spend less time with me. We didn’t learn much. I guess I learned how to build a fire (if I had to describe it, it’s like a triangle with littler triangles of flammable stuff inside of it which I realizes seems like a really inept explanation, but trust me: I look adept as shit lighting bonfires in front of new boyfriends and casually roasting a hot dog over it). I learned how to crochet, a useless life skill that has resulted in many failed potholders. And I learned how to embezzle money the correct way. There’s no badge for it, and I got kicked out because of it, but guess what Troop 64: it was worth it.
Fifth grade was my fifth and final year of Girl Scouts, which I found to be a trying pre-adolescent experience, filled with weekend meet-ups with other troops and their frumpy mom scout leaders. I walked around my neighborhood, like I did ever year, and filled out the form for cookies for my smiling neighbors. Cookie Week is a holiday for suburbanites. Suburbanites are the worst for this reason, among others such as giving out toothpaste for Halloween and eating at Panera.
But behind my sweet smile and green, be-badgeled (a word I just made up) sash, lay a dark, sinister secret.
“I’m gonna take your money. And I’m gonna keep these cookies.”
And so two months later, upon arrival of my sweet product, I hid box upon box of cookies in my family’s shed. I would daily go and pick one out after school, and if it remained unfinished, I hid it in the drop ceiling in the basement.
They caught on pretty quick. I was de-sashed and I turned in the cookies, and my gun. I never had to sit in a church basement, growing crystals in a jar and talking about the steps for CPR ever again.
Girl Scouts. Worthless.
I was a member of Troop 186 in Saline, Michigan. I started as a Daisy, and I almost quit after a few short weeks, ironically, due to an incident during a field trip to a florist.
The one thing you need to know about my childhood is that I had the ego of Kanye West in the body of a six-year-old blonde girl. I took myself super seriously, and I expected everyone (including adults) to do the same. My troop was given a tour of the florist’s shop, where we admired the colorful flower arrangements. I saw a particularly amazing purple orchid, and said to the florist, “That reminds me of my makeup at home.
The florist thought this was the most hilarious thing she ever heard, and she, my troop leader, and all the chaperones started laughing. They laughed for a long time. A really long time. I was incensed, since I was just stating facts: I did have a makeup kit with those shades of purple. (A makeup kit that horrified my hippie-ish mother, who didn’t even want me to play with Barbies. Sorry, mom.) I refused to speak for the rest of the field trip.
I refused to go back to Girl Scouts for two weeks, until my mother called the troop leader. “She feels you didn’t take her seriously about her makeup kit. No, I know. She would really like an apology.” (Thanks, mom, for doing that.) I got an apology and happily returned to Girl Scouts. Eventually, our troop disbanded (probably due to the constant attention-seeking antics of our troop leader’s unmedicated ADHD daughter) and I had no interest in continuing.
So thanks, Troop 186, for accepting me. I’m really happy for you, and I’m gonna let you finish, but I was the best Girl Scout of all time.
BONUS PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE:
My troop leader, Mrs. E., her daughter Ashley, and me. Reppin 186 with American Girl dolls in uniform.
Some people look forward to spring. I look forward to Girl Scout cookie season. Samoas are my end-all, be-all, all-time favorite cookies, although I didn’t buy any this year because last year I housed three boxes in 72 hours. (I may or may not have been intoxicated when eating the third box but the first two I legitimately ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner). Samoas can be characterized as having the 4 C’s, which is what makes them so damn good: crunchy, chewy, chocolaty, and coconutty. They may also be crack-laced, which is why they are so addictive, but I have not been able to prove that yet. It would be the ultimate ploy though: cute little 10 year olds selling addictive goods to cookie-crazed adults, frothing at the mouth for their fix. (Ok, maybe that is just me). When Breyer’s invented Samoa ice cream, I basically died and went to heaven. I have heard of a Samoa cocktail but that may or may not be an urban legend. In sum, if you want to bribe me, coerce me, or convince me to do anything illegal, just tempt me with a box of Samoas and consider me sold. On that note, I am off to go door to door in my neighborhood to see if I can buy out someone’s Samoa stash to satisfy my craving and tide me over until next year.
When I was a kid I was a Brownie for a little while. Too old for the Daisies, too young for the big leagues. I remember the meetings, gatherings of excited girls and authority-hungry uber mothers. My mother was too annoyed with the whole business to ever chaperone a meeting, but I’m pretty sure it was her idea that I join at all. I remember the colorful crafts, markers, glitter, music, singing “rounds.” That was my favorite thing for a while, singing in groups. I’d unabashedly belt out the words and let the others follow along. Until one time I unabashedly belted out “Make new friends, a teepee old,” and everyone laughed at me and I never led a round again. I did love getting those cute little badges though so I stuck it out through the embarrassment. Later on, the troop was supposed to meet at an ice-skating rink to earn our ice-skating badges. My mom brought me to the rink at the requested time, but there were no other Brownies or Troop Mothers to be found. After waiting twenty or so minutes, my mom called it quits. I cried and whined for her to wait because I wanted that damn badge. This was before cell phones were a thing so we weren’t able to contact anyone to figure out WTF. To this day I still don’t know what happened, all I know is that I was refused my ice-skating badge and made a pariah after that. My mom called BS on the whole thing, I was pissed too, but still I wanted to stay in the troop. I needed that glitter in my life. Third strike was when I totally fucked up the whole Girl Scout cookies thing. I took payment and never delivered to some people, I screwed up orders, I gave people free cookies. I think my mom ended up having to shell out the dough to cover the discrepancies. After that we’d both had enough. I wasn’t Girl Scout material. I can pitch a tent, start a fire, tell which direction I’m going by which side of the tree moss grows on. Real scouting stuff, like no one’s business. But I still can’t ice skate.
In a Thin Mint-obsessed world it is hard being the perceived outsider, a Thin Mint hater. But there are rare signs of hope showing that I’m not alone. One of my housemates came home the other day with a box of the awful cookies and offered them to the rest of us. We refused. On Facebook the other day another friend posted “I think I’m one of the six people on Earth who doesn’t like Thin Mints.”
I don’t get it. Why would anyone ever choose a Thin Mint when they could have a Tagalong? Thin Mints are dry and crumbly, with neither enough chocolate nor enough mint. Some people say that freezing them makes them better. I say it just highlights their worst qualities. Thin Mints are the Girl Scout cookie equivalent of sheet cake.
Tagalongs on the other hand are fantastic. Peanut butter and chocolate are the perfect pair, and there is just enough cookie crunch that it feels substantial. I’ll be honest I would rather just eat spoonfuls of peanut butter and Nutella, but in Girl Scout cookie world a Tagalong is the next best thing. What’s confusing is that others don’t feel this way. One of my friends bought 10 boxes of cookies a few weeks ago and only one box of Tagalongs. Like, seriously? You would buy Lemonades over Tagalongs? What kind of a monster are you?
Other cookies? Samoas are cool too, I guess.
The thing that depresses me most about how much I fucking hated Girl Scouts is that it had the potential to be INCREDIBLE. Like, s’mores? Check. Interactions with animals? Also check. Survival gadgets? SO MUCH YES. But what the experience ended up being was a series of shitty meetings that were weirdly not unlike CCD (which, for the non-raised-Catholics of you, stands for Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, or in layman’s terms, Sunday school); they consisted of opening and closing ceremonies, which were like, basically all of us singing fucking “Taps” in the school gymnasium while designated responsible people folded a flag or something (like, what is this, Bunker Hill?!), and in between that bullshit we made crappy crafts and drank like, Tang and/or powdered fruit beverage equivalent, punctuated by the occasional trust exercise.
The things we learned were never like, how to murder a mountain lion with your bare hands or how to build a makeshift tree house out of pine cones; instead, we focused on how we could do our part to save the goddamn environment via recycling and water conservation, or how we could be better people, or some other generally boring stuff that I did NOT sign up for.
You may be wondering how I lasted a whopping two years in this shit hole of an organization, then, because clearly my dreams of having a good old fashioned Swiss Family Robinson-style time were dashed fairly immediately. And I will tell you: I owe it all to having been (and still being, I guess) a very sugar and prize-motivated individual. Girl Scout cookie season was legitimately the only thing I gave a shit about, solely because you could win cool things (which would have cost like a nickel in reality) for selling obscene amounts of cookie boxes to the neighbors and my parents’ coworkers.
But even that wasn’t enough to make me a lifer, you guys. And that is because we embarked upon a “camping trip” from hell in the fall of my second year, which basically consisted of us spending a weekend at some derelict horse farm where we slept in some abandoned military barracks that had zero electricity. (It was fucking freezing AND rainy, by the way.) Even if the climate had been more temperate, or the disgusting living conditions had been slightly more up to par, the fear of being unconsciously pranked (thanks a real fucking lot for spawning a generation of copycat dickheads, The Parent Trap) prevented me from falling into an even remotely comfortable sleep, and so I just stayed up all night until breakfast time. (Did I mention that all of our meals were cooked by the older Girl Scouts via Sterno stoves? Because they were, and everything was as inedible as you would imagine.)
“But the horses, Megan! Surely the horses were a blast!” I am sure in some alternate universe the horses WOULD HAVE BEEN a blast, but because good old Mike Burns (that’s my dad, guys…) was a HORSE DENTIST (for real, that was his occupation), good old MEGAN BURNS, THE MUST-BE MINI CLINT EASTWOOD HORSE EXPERT got stuck riding the psychotic dapple gray who had to ALWAYS be in the back of the caravan (for reasons that were never disclosed, though I suspect he at one point must have dropped the soap) or else he would rear up and freak the fuck out. (Do you remember that time on Full House where Michelle falls off a horse and gets amnesia? That episode was almost my real life about six times during that ride.)
So all in all, I got home from that trip and said FUCK THE GIRL SCOUTS, MOM. And then I quit and never looked back until just right now. (And I STILL say FUCK THE GIRL SCOUTS, MOM.)
I have extremely vague memories of being a Girl Scout to the point that I can’t remember my troop number. What I do remember though are the camping trips, trip to Savannah, the international dinner nights, some 95th Anniversary Celebration thing that happened on the Mall and of course, coercing every single person my family met into buying Girl Scout cookies. I rarely did go camping and when I did, it was for the father-daughter camping trips and by camping, I mean sleeping in glen shelters and having to use port-a-potties. I vaguely remember the trip to Savannah being anything more than some week-long trip to Georgia. The international nights were just nights where Girl Scouts learned about and pretended to be other cultures for a night and share what they learned. My trip never voted to be from the Philippines, but I remember we did some embarrassing South Korean dance at one of them. The yearly thing that I remember more clear than Girl Scout events was standing outside of Sutton Place, some gourmet grocery store, and my grandparents’ store trying to convince rich people in McLean, VA to buy all of the Girl Scout cookies my troop had at our stand.
With all of those mostly vague memories aside, there’s nothing like being a Girl Scout when your grandparents think you’re getting kidnapped at the Mall downtown during a Girl Scout celebration and then find you on stage with the President and Vice President of Girl Scouts. (It’s at least thirteen years later, but my grandparents still have a photo of this hanging in their condo.)
I am happy to say that I was a Girl Scout for 9 years. In that time I went camping once, my mom bought hundreds of dollars worth of cookies so I could be the top seller and I did a whole bunch of crafts that are still decorating my house. I remember standing outside of a local grocery store for hours in the rain holding a sign and hoping people would feel bad for me and by the rest of my cookies. Girl Scouts really helped with my community service as we helped a lot of local charities and looked great on a college application but other than that I didn’t really get much out of it other than socializing with my friends after school and expressing my creativity through clay hands and macaroni necklaces and other wearable art.
While Girl Scouts didn’t exactly help hone my leadership skills as it probably should have, I still had a good time.
I never had the drive to be a girl scout, it seemed very time consuming (and I think I hated some of my troop?), so I quit while I was a Brownie. My favorite part of being a Brownie was the five minutes of playtime before the actual “meetings” (or whatever you call them) started. I don’t remember being interested in many of the activities (I feel like we sewed a lot? Like pillowcases and quilts and stuff), but I was a big fan of playtime. The only things I remember being really psyched about was having a sash (I was not at all interested in the vest) and participating in a long, drawn out secret santa where we wrote each other letters filled with clues about who we were matched up with. I was not very good at these letters. I would write clues like “I’ll be wearing pink tonight!” and then I would end up being the only person wearing pink. I don’t even remember what I gave or received, but I do 100% remember feeling dumb and ashamed once my giftee discovered I was their gifter because of my dumb clues. I stopped being a Brownie because I was more focused on ballet and piano, which sounds embarrassingly bougie (and it is). Funny enough, I dropped both piano and ballet very soon after that. I guess I just don’t like doing things. I still love girl scout cookies though! Tagalongs forever!!!