Culture / Kids / News & Politics

The Boy Scouts Can Kiss My Seat Warmers


When I was a kid, I had no interest in becoming a Girl Scout.  My mother didn’t encourage or discourage membership either, but around the time that so many of the girls in my class began to show up at school in their patch-filled uniforms, my parents announced that Dad and I would be joining the Indian Princesses.  While I don’t remember the conversation verbatim, I am confident that the words hit me like a tomahawk in the nose.  I had no idea what to expect.

What in Tonto’s name were the Indian Princesses, and what had I done wrong to deserve a sentence of teepee time with my dad?  I am also confident that instead of voicing my … reservations… I most likely stared into their eyes blankly and nodded to let them know that I heard their words but that I had not fully understood their meaning.  What was in store for Dad and me?  Would we have to attend meetings in loincloths? Would Dad hunt while I gathered?  Would we trip on peyote and eat pop-maize for snack?  ‘Twas a mystery.

I can’t help but snicker a bit now when I imagine the scene; our living rooms filled with suburban, Jewish dads and daughters sporting feathered headbands and UPS brown, one-size-fits-all vests.  Each dad and daughter pair selected Indian names (because back in the late 70s/early 80s, we still said Indian to mean indigenous people).  Sleeping Bear and Baby Bear, Rain Cloud and Rainbow Flower.  Dad and I were Setting Sun and Rising Sun.  I have a newfound respect for the father of Swimming Otter who chose Diving Beaver as his name.  Today, I would have insisted that Dad and I be SackofJewWager and PokeMyHontus.


Every family took a turn hosting a meeting throughout the year.  We would catch up on the month’s goings on and participate in an activity to earn badges for our Indian Vests.  Most of the time, it was our mothers, our Indian Squaws (unofficial name as chosen by me), who waited for us in our kitchens and coordinated the crafts though technically, Indian Princesses was strictly Daddy/Daughter.  I distinctly remember passing around the talking stick and sharing accomplishments with our tribe, and we would end every meeting with a very pitchy rendition of Taps; Day is done. Gone the sun, etc.

When I look back on those meetings and overnight trips, I appreciate the girls who became my friends during a time in my life when I had few.  But even more than that, I am grateful for the time spent with my dad.   Dad was a pediatrician who worked many hours during the week and was often on-call when he was home.  Dinners were consistently interrupted with phone calls to parents to discuss high fevers and diarrhea.  But Indian Princess was sacred time, just Dad and me.  No diarrhea.  I couldn’t tell you which patches I earned or when, but I could tell you that I loved Indian Princess for bringing the two of us together.

I think about my tribal days, and I wonder what our boys are missing.  They have never expressed a desire to join the Boy Scouts, so we’ve dodged that bullet.  It’s possible that institutionalized homophobia in the Boy Scouts of America may become history in our lifetime, though the most recent policy revisions would hardly be considered a baby step towards acceptance.   And what of it, I ask myself?  Even if the BSA welcomed all with open arms, would we join?  Honestly, I’m not sure I can forgive and forget.  I take after my Jewish mother who would have chosen to put up a Christmas tree in our house every December before she would consider buying a German car.  Even I tend to note how well the seat warmers function in a Volkswagen and consider the quality of research.

I would get over myself, however, in order to give Gabriella the same kind of dedicated time with her boys.  It’s less about the knot tying, bugling and camping and more about nurturing the relationship between our resident working parent and our kids.  Of course, the boys are quite keen to learn how to start a fire.  The Boys Scouts do a lot of things very right to cultivate community, confidence and family bonding, but I am not convinced that we want to be a part of an organization that ever discriminated against our family much as my mother was never convinced that she could only warm her tushy in a German car.

Should the day come that our family is welcome in the BSA and we decline membership with our noses in the air, are we making good choices or are we cutting off those upturned noses to spite our face?  Not sure.  I hope to be faced with that conundrum sooner than later, however.


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  1. I can’t imagine the Indian Princesses still exist. The 70’s were epic in their cultural appropriation.

    I am still laughing about Diving Beaver.

    I was never in anything. I briefly considered Campfire Girls but my mom said Inhad to choose between that and volleyball and I chose volleyball. Unfortunately, my volleyball career was cut short by clumsiness and an aversion to the smell of sweaty knee pads.

    • You would have made an excellent Campfire Girl in the ‘Sliding Doors’ version of your life. Imagine! You might have become a guitar playing, folk-song singing, camping lesbian. Wait…

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