Friday, July 20, 2012

Scout's Honor

When I was a girl, I joined the Brownies. Despite the embarrassment of having to wear a puke brown, polyester jumper to school on Brownie days, I remember being excited about "doing" Brownies.

Really, what were they thinking?

It turned out that being a Brownie in 1981 did not mean "doing" much of anything. We made little crafts and got patches and pins for our sash. I was a way-serious little kid. I had this idea that I was going to be doing something exciting and meaningful; instead I was gluing macaroni into the shape of a flower. And singing songs for old people at Christmas like so many ornaments hung on a tree. I think I also sold some cookies. Even at the tender age of six I remember thinking: Wow, this is stupid. 

(Full disclosure: I love Girl Scout cookies. Do not leave me in the room with a box of your Girl Scout cookies, because within minutes I will turn them into butt-fat. The last time Rayne bought some from work colleagues, he hid a couple of boxes in the back of the freezer to save me from myself. True story.)

I dropped out of the Brownies before I could even don the green, polyester jumper of the Girl Scout. I wasn't going to sit around coloring pictures while the boys went camping, learned archery and had pinewood car derbies. The Boy Scouts had the right idea, I thought.

Pinewood derby cars: far superior to macaroni art.

Alas. What is there left to say about the recent Boy Scouts of America announcement that it will continue to exclude openly gay leaders and scouts from its organization? It is despicable, cowardly and clearly on the wrong side of history. I might even go as far as to say that the BSA has rendered itself irrelevant. Go ahead, Boy Scouts, cling tight to the last gasps of an outdated hegemony. Let us know how that works out for you.

When I read about the decision, my first thought was, There is no way I'm letting Henry become a Boy Scout, even though Rayne loved it as a child.

My second thought: Hopefully, in six years, I won't have to worry about it because the organization will have changed its policy.

My third: What if it doesn't, and Henry really, really, really wants to join the Boy Scouts? Would I really say no?  

I'm the type of person who sticks to her principles to a fault. I've cut my nose off 100 ways to Sunday to the eternal chagrin of my poor face: I shun great restaurants after one bad customer service experience. After reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, I drove Rayne to the edge of insanity trying to avoid all corn and corn derivatives (it's impossible, just take my word for it). I haven't gotten a manicure in over a year and a half because I don't feel right spending the money, even though it is a relatively inexpensive way to pamper myself a bit. I buy organic ketchup, because I can afford to and others can't. And much to my husband's dismay, I have decided that we will never own an Audi because of the way one (totally shit) salesman treated me, one time.

In a word, I am infuriating.

So, I'd like to say that on no uncertain terms would I let Henry join the Boy Scouts, but if the past seven months have taught me anything, it's that sweeping proclamations are, at best, foolhardy. Like when I was sure I didn't want an epidural because I wanted Henry's birth to be painful natural. Or when I said I was definitely going back to work and only going to cook the baby fresh food. Or that I would one-hundred-percent stick to Weight Watchers.

From the outside looking in, it's easy to be strident and black-and-white. But when you are looking into the questioning eyes of your sweet little boy, it's a good deal more complex. You have to pick your battles.

So is this the battle I'm going to fight? I honestly don't know. More than anything, I want to imbue Henry with the understanding that he has been born into privilege -- privilege that carries with it a responsibility to make good, thoughtful, kind decisions, no matter how difficult or unpopular they might be. And the Boy Scouts of America categorically does not deserve our support, at least not with its current policies.

On the other hand, I want to teach my son a lesson that eluded me for far too long -- that rigidity can be counterproductive and damaging, that a little flexibility can help us withstand the gale forces as they blow through our life.

Sweet Henry, when the time comes, I promise to do my best to strike the right balance and be open-minded about where that balance lies. Scout's honor.

[Update 7/26/12: Check out this amazing stand taken by several Eagle Scouts who returned their medals in protest of the BSA's recent decision. Truly inspiring.]