On My Honor


By: Lavinia Plonka

As a girl, I had three female role models. Joanie was my cousin’s ex-girlfriend who somehow remained connected to my family. Three-inch spiked pumps accented her fantastic dresses revealing spectacular cleavage and tightly hugging her ribs before exploding into a swirl of silk taffeta. Joanie was a wonder as she rustled above me before settling on the couch with her Manhattan. I loved to stare at her fantastically teased black, black hair and cherry-painted lips as she leaned back to take a drag off her Lucky Strikes. Joanie was glamour.


Miss Shirley, my dance teacher, defined iconoclasm. She stepped off the New York bus in her beatnik black turtleneck leotard, platform sandals, black lipstick and nail polish and, of course, black eye liner sliding out to the sides. Our class of chubby ten-year-olds learned to slink and to do high kicks to songs like Shot in the Dark and to warm-up doing something called yoga .


Both of these women inspired me to imagine a life beyond the hopelessly homogeneous existence of white, suburban America where I stuck out like a square wheel on a car. But Mrs. Sauer, as all American as Ozzie and Harriet, taught me life’s most valuable lessons: 1) For anything to have value, it must be earned.


2) Nothing is more important than the courage of your convictions.


I forgot about Mrs. Sauer until her daughter recently friended me on Facebook. (I had forgotten she had a daughter as well). Mrs. Sauer is long dead, but something is still floating out there and influencing young girls as they struggle to find their identities if this Tibetan saying is correct:, You are not dead until no one on earth speaks of you.


In an era when most girls felt that being a Girl Scout was some form of hideous torture, I belonged to an elite, secret sect of Girl Scouts who remained together until, I now confess, I was eighteen-years old. No one in my school knew, and the other regional high school girls kept this sacred silence. To be revealed as a Girl Scout was tantamount to publicly announcing that you were the queen of geeks, a pathetic loser, and an outcast. We knew better, thanks to Mrs. Sauer.


It began with the badges. For every skill you attained, you earned a badge for your sash. As Juniors and Caddetts , it was a joyous competition. Each of us learned to sew, cook, bake, swim (in a fashion), volunteer and more. I used to sit around and admire my sash, a concrete validation of my abilities that comforted me each time I was called a useless good-for-nothing.


Mrs. Sauer recommended me for a campership to a Girl Scout Camp, because my parents couldn’t afford to send me. At camp, to my delight and surprise, I discovered that people thought I was funny, not strange. They liked my ideas instead of calling me weird. I blossomed from a misfit to the most popular girl in camp. I didn’t want to go home; this was my home.


When Mrs. Sauer suggested that our troop camp in a Valley Forge snowstorm, I was right there with her. The car got stuck (long before four-wheel drive) and we hiked in the dark, through the snow, singing our way to the cabin she had rented in the woods. When she heard that some church had chosen a boy who barely played the guitar instead of a talented girl for the “Folk Mass Band,” she said, “Ladies, this is where the Girl Scouts standup for their sisters or, in this case, sit down. Grab your sit-upons!” Sit-upons were vinyl cushions that we all made and carried anywhere – into the woods, to a sporting event – to always have something to sit on. This time, our troop sat upon the steps of the church as parishioners approached. We silently handed out flyers about women’s rights. I honestly can’t remember if it made a difference in that church. However, I do remember that I eventually became one of the girl guitarists at my own church. Wouldn’t have happened without Mrs. Sauer!


When we ran out of badges, she created new ones. (I think the above was her Civil Disobedience badge .) By the time we were Senior Scouts, she was creating new badges faster than I could earn them. We learned to make and sell Christmas Wreaths for money to donate. To this day, I celebrate Mrs. Sauer by trying to make my own wreaths. We marched in anti-war protests, visited veterans, and wrote articles for newspapers.


When I visited the Girl Scouts’ website, I was touched to see that badges had evolved beyond the old standard. With categories like It’s Your World, Change It! and It’s Your Story, Tell It! and badges like Reach Out! or Speak Out!, I almost wanted to join again. After all, I am really a Senior now.


Lavinia tries to abide by the Girl Scout Law to this day as she directs Asheville Movement Center, teaching the Feldenkrais Method. Have a comment for CosmiComedy? visit and share your Girl Scout secrets!


The Girl Scout Law


I will do my best to be honest and fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong,
and responsible for what I say and do,
and to respect myself and others,
respect authority,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place,
and be a sister to every
Girl Scout.


“The best mind-altering drug is truth”  
~Lily Tomlin


This entry was posted in zArchive. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.