The last BOY scout

Last month the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) opened its tent flaps to girls. My phone exploded.

“Your dream finally came true,” said one brother.

“Are you celebrating?” asked another.

“It’s what you always wanted,” said my mother.

It was—when I was eight. 

My family had not forgotten how my childhood self mourned when she could not go off with Dad and the boys to Boy Scout camp. 

I have not forgotten my disappointment when I learned our family would no longer spend summers living in the cabin on the hill at Camp Chief Logan. Instead, my mother and I were relegated to our house on Mulberry Street.

It was all my fault, but I didn’t know why.

I knew the Scout Oath by heart. I recited the Scout Law–“a Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous…”—before I mastered cursive writing.

I paddled a canoe with nary a splash. I outshot my brothers at the rifle range. 

I sang, “Softly falls the light of day…,” at campfires. I was intent on keeping my “honor bright” and having “guiltless sleep at night.”

But I was—still am—a girl.

My scouting professional father, the man who ran the camp, would have never considered looking for a loophole for me. There was a reason for the “Boy” in “Boy Scouts.”

The pressure on the Boy Scouts to admit girls has been cooking for decades. They actually extended a limited invitation in 1969. Girls aged 14-20 could join a special interest branch of Scouting called “Explorer” and, later, “Venturing.”

The BSA is venturing alright—into uncharted territory. They say their new policy will lighten the shuttle burden for parents. Yet, with single-gender Cub Scout dens, how can executives guarantee that meetings for Johnny and Suzy will be held at the same time and place? 

They won’t camp at the same time. No mixed-gender overnight trips allowed (the reason for my ban).

Finances play a bigger role than the upper echelon cares to admit. The organization that boasted over six million members in 1972 has seen its numbers drop to around two million.

Why girls want to be Boy Scouts when boys don’t appear interested in joining Girl Scouts is easily answered. The Boy Scout program is by far the superior of the two. 

Other than one short-term leader who took us on outdoor adventures, my Girl Scout experience paled in comparison to the cool things my brothers did. And no Girl Scout accomplishment is as prestigious as the boys’ Eagle Scout ranking.

Still, I did not rejoice after last month’s announcement. The Boy and Girl Scout organizations were not launched to discriminate against anyone, but rather to carve out time for valuable and separate (but equal) male and female bonding. 

The primary goal of both is to cultivate future leaders.

My brothers witnessed my fire-filled tantrums as they packed their duffel bags, but they didn’t see how quickly the red faded from my cheeks once they drove away.

My brothers bonded at camp with each other and our dad, while my mother and I formed an alliance on the home front. 

We stayed up late watching old Sherlock Holmes’ movies—just mom and me. I stood on a kitchen stool as she directed me in the art of making fudge and pies and cookies—treasures we took to our men on visitors’ night.

I wasn’t a Boy Scout, but that didn’t keep me from camping, hiking, canoeing, and fishing.

My one-on-one time with my mother taught me the value of girl-time. When I plan a girls’ night out or a girls’ trip, I don’t ask my brothers, husband, or son to join us.

Even if I did, they would too busy to answer—busy planning their own boys-only excursion.


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