Going into a store recently, I saw people who appeared to be soliciting for some youth organization -- a few of them little kids, some wearing T-shirts that said "Young Republicans." The skill of throwing up on command is underrated, and it would have come in handy then. The idea of kids being indoctrinated so young was depressing until I remembered that I was running around in a Catholic-school uniform at that age. Suddenly I knew that by the time those Young Republicans were 18 they'd be joining petition drives to make Roe vs. Wade a constitutional amendment or to prevent drilling for oil in Jefferson's nose on Mount Rushmore. Then I felt better.
Outside of Catholic school, the other alleged character education I was forced into that didn't amount to much was Girl Scouts. When I think about this as an adult, I wonder if sending kids into Scouts isn't so much an attempt to help them learn as it is to send them into the woods hoping they'll get lost and adopted by a pack of wolves, enabling their human parents to start over with a new kid, one who wouldn't require so many uniforms. The plan backfired on my mother when I refused to go camping. But I did eat a lot of cookies.
Tykes on hikes
So while my own time in Girl Scouts was spent being as listless as an old cat, I can't help being intrigued by the current drama over the Boy Scouts, specifically their ban on gay men and boys. On one hand it's clearly discriminatory. On the other hand, knowing what we know about priests, how do you trust your kid alone with any adult male who actively seeks to be alone with kids?
Really, it's none of my business. I don't have a son. If I did, I'd bet my driver's license that he'd vogue his way out of the womb (unable to get away from female genitalia quick enough), cry if I didn't dress him like Chairman Kaga from Iron Chef and soon become the biggest nellie the world has laid eyes on since Boy George. It makes perfect sense to me that, along with eye color or height, he'd inherit my sense of wardrobe and strong preference for the company of men. That's all I'm saying.
Would I send this hypothetical child off to Camp Camp with my Close Gay Male Friends? Sure I would. One, they've all seen me mad and would be crazy to provoke that again. Two, they've been good influences on me and I think their tips for survival would go a long way to help impressionable youngsters. Here's how I imagine their advice would go:
- Camping. "What, camping? Get yourself a good job so you can stay in a nice hotel instead of sleeping on the ground like an idiot. Repeat after me: 'You look fabulous, Professor Winfrey! Have you lost weight?'"
- Hiking in the forest. "Forest, feh. Who decorates with natural wood anymore? If you want to go somewhere, just make friends with someone who works at an airline. Before you know it you're on a 777 to Italy, first class, cheap! Now, if you'd prefer to traipse around the Ocala National Forest peeing on trees, that's fine. I'll just remind you that that's where Danny Rolling lived during his Gainesville murder spree and that the beaches in Europe are topless." Added, with a condescending smile, "I'm sure whatever you decide will be fine."
- Crafts. "The kits they sell for these things are fine, kids, but if you want a war bonnet that's going to knock their eyes out at the Jamboree, I'm thinking Vegas. I know the Indians didn't have sequins, Timmy, but if they had, don't you think they'd have worn them? Fergodsake, use your imagination. When you're a big designer and Jennifer Lopez is begging you to dress her for the Oscars, I just hope you'll invite me to a party once in awhile. Now get pinning."
- Cooking over an open fire: "Listen. If God had intended us to cook over open fires he wouldn't have given us enough brains to invent the dutch oven. You believe in God, don't you? Good. Go turn on The Food Network. We'll make a pan-seared mahi mahi with tomato chutney that will give your mother hot flashes."
- Navigating by the stars: "I don't see the point of this, so instead, we're going to learn how to build a koi pond."
See? Everyone has something to offer and I think this blend of common sense and sophistication would do anyone some good. Besides, consider those Scouts who vandalized those multimillion-year-old dinosaur tracks in Colorado. Would they have done so if they'd had a role model who could teach them the difference in value between something that's just old and something that's vintage?