When I heard the news that the Girl Guides of Canada have lost 40 percent of their members in the last ten years, I felt kind of sad. It’s slightly hypocritical of me to mourn the death of this 100-year-old citizen building organization though. I followed my older sister into Brownies (they didn’t have Sparks then) and quickly moved up the ranks from Seconder to Sixer. Both proud moments. How I loved that little brown change pouch on my belt, although I don’t recall what the hell it was for. I took pride in tying my scarf correctly, standing in line while our Guider checked our knots. This was as far as our camping skills went. We mostly just hung in the church basement with our “Brown Owl and a toadstool made of cloth. We sat in a circle, sang songs, told stories. On Halloween the leaders turned the whole thing into a Haunted House – we put blindfolds on and stuck our hands in bowls of eyeballs (the hours one mother must have spent peeling those grapes).
When it came time to become a Girl Guide, I was bored. I wanted out. But my mom went and signed me up anyway. I was pissed. My older sister, who loved Guiding, was smug. After that, for a reason I still can’t quite fathom, I stuck with it. Yes. I was a Girl Guide (OK technically a Ranger) until I was 18. I wasn’t a particularly good one. I never won a trip or a scholarship. Our troop won second in a singing contest once I think. I even coaxed my best friend to join. My first boyfriend was a Scout. We went camping in the winter, spring, summer and fall. I won a bronze in the cross-country ski race at the Jamboree and then danced with pimply-faced Boy Scouts to Stairway to Heaven and first heard the swear chant to AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long. My older sister and I were in cahoots when it came to the rest of our group – a rare time of sister solidarity among the hormonal teenage infighting at home. I did my first backpacking trip and sold flowers for cancer at the mall. Most of the time I was pretty bored.
The whole thing feels a little grey. So why then do I feel sad at what looks to be the slow death of Guiding? I suppose my patriotic, community-oriented, girl-needing-guidance-outside-of-Teen-Magazine-and-Barbie is upset that there aren’t many spaces for girls to hang out together without hating on each other, to do stuff that doesn’t involve tube tops and bikini waxes in your pre-teens; to work toward a shitty little badge in cooking, volunteering or even bird-watching. Life should slow down when it comes to growing up. Guiding helps.