Addie came home from school recently and announced that she would be joining the Girl Scouts. There was really no discussion– she had seen her friends in their uniforms and sashes, and was driven mad with jealousy. This isn’t the first time she’s come home from school announcing her intent to join an organization– there was a brief but torturous two-week period in which she was officially a member of the elementary school wrestling team– but it’s the first time I have seriously entertained the notion of her joining a club, mainly because this one doesn’t end with her getting cauliflower ear.
This is uncharted territory for me, as I myself was never a Girl Scout. Or, that is to say, I was one for exactly one day. The Day of the Sit-Upon.
I’m not really sure where I got the idea that I would enjoy joining a group that combined salesmanship and outdoorsy-ness, two things I hated more than almost anything. Maybe it was just the pressure to fit in with all the other girls in my class, or maybe I did it because an American Girl doll catalog told me to (I took a lot of life advice from the American Girl doll catalog, like always being myself and wearing a crown of ivy with flaming candles sticking out of it).
But for whatever reason, I begged my mom to let me join the Brownies, and, thrilled that I was actually opting to do something even remotely normal, she happily obliged.
When I got there, the room was already full of girls, most of whom I knew from school. They all looked so cool in their Brownie uniforms, like they were badass bitches who got things done and had the patches to prove it. I can do this, I thought to myself, already planning on which patch I would go for first (I hoped they had one for Endlessly Throwing a Pink Rubber Ball at a Brick Wall For Hours, because I already had that in the bag).
But then the troop leader announced that we would be going on a camp out in a few weeks, and because I was an expert at controlling my emotions, I immediately burst into tears. I had known there was an outdoor component to this, but I was hoping I’d be able to skirt it somehow, like maybe I could always be the one who stayed behind and guarded the patch closet against marauders while everyone else went outside and got covered in bugs and mud. And now this woman wanted me to camp out? Overnight? Away from my parents? Outside? Whoa, whoa, lady. I didn’t realize I had signed up for Army Ranger training.
Trying her hardest to ignore my barking walrus sobs, the troop leader raised her voice and explained that we would all be making sit-upons for the camping trip. In case you’re unfamiliar with this graceful piece of outdoor furniture, a sit-upon is a piece of vinyl fabric stuffed with packing peanuts and sewn shut. When fully assembled, one can sit upon it, keeping one’s butt marginally elevated from the ground. Out of pity, she gave me the materials needed to create a sit-upon, as well, even though I’m sure she knew it would never be sat upon.
Unaware, at the tender age of eight, that I was allowed to simply get up and leave situations that were unpleasant or uncomfortable, possibly flipping a table or two on my way out the door, I soldiered on and made my sit-upon, which for some reason I remember in great detail– it was neon orange, with thick twine holding it shut, and I wrote my name on it in black permanent marker. As soon as I was able, I booked it out of there and never returned.
For some reason, though, I held on to my sit-upon for far longer than was necessary. It’s lost to the ages now, but I distinctly remember still having it in high school, where it lived in my closet, awaiting the day I could finally man up and get my Outdoor Camping patch. Considering I couldn’t even attend band camp without displaying histrionics usually only seen in families torn apart by war, I am sad to say that my sit-upon went un-sat-upon for the duration of its sad life.
I hope Addie will fare a little bit better than me. At the age of five, she has already camped out more times than I have in my entire life (once), and is generally much more brave and badass than I could ever hope to be. But when it comes time to make that sit-upon, I’ll be ready to help. Through my instinctive, terrified tears.