Wednesday, November 02, 2011

I've been obsessed with all things Masonic for a while. I had great fantasies of becoming a Freemason. I thought I'd make new friends,contribute to my community, participate in bizarre rituals involving trowels and embroidered aprons. And eventually, when I made it to the 33rd Degree, I'd participate in a ceremony of car crashes, painful dentistry, and drink Guinness on the top of the Chrysler Building as it bloomed with green and orange streamers. Oh wait, that last bit would only happen if I stumbled into the Masonic Temple of Matthew Barney. (Actually, I suspect that Cremaster 3 is an extended commercial for Guinness. All that Guinness drinking, all those Irish harps. Think about it. Okay, I criticize Le Barney because I'm jealous of his success, I loved every bit of the Cremaster Cycle. All 20 hours or so of it.)

Of course, women can't be Freemasons, so there are women's auxiliaries to join which frankly look like no fun at all. Bereft of deliberately obtuse ceremony, secret handshakes, fez hats, and conventions, women's auxiliary looks at least 80% less fun. Does anyone out there belong to Job's Daughters? Eastern Star? The Rebekas? The Lions? The Rotary Club? Do you get to wear interesting badges and do rituals? Are you having fun?

I thought to assuage this Masonic-sized hole in my heart by getting myself a Masonic tie tack, and sticking it on my winter coat. But why advertise for a club that wouldn't have me? So I thought that instead of going forward, I'll go back (my unfortunate strategy for everything) and return (the eternal return) to early childhood and the first organization I ever joined: The Brownies. I thought I'd clap a vintage Brownie pin on my lapel and leave it at that. After all, I've got a Girl Scouts handkerchief that I love.

I had high hopes when I joined the Brownies as a wee lass. I had a thrifted vintage 1950's Brownie's uniform with a brown beanie that I adored. I thought I'd make new friends and learn new skills. The meetings of our troop, however, where not as fun as I had hoped. They took place in a classroom after school, and involved mass production of macrame for hanging plants. Our den mother ran a plant store and we were essentially her sweat shop to make the macrame sold in her store. Our one nature walk was a long schlep down a major urban thoroughfare to a McDonald's. Sadly, I am not exaggerating.

Ironically, my father was a co-architect of this dysfunctional Brownie troop, as he was one of the den mothers, something he was always proud of. He felt that his role as a den mother was to add discipline. He did this by sitting in the back of the classroom and yelling at us if we got too loud. Though we were hardly doing rowdy or extreme macrame, he felt that Plant-Store Den Mother could not control us on her own. (Which is of course a rather sexist assumption. Plant-Store Den Mother could break our little spirits all on her own.) My father's other main task was to stand outside smoking Pall Malls. There was talk of a camping trip that would literally take place on the school's playground, but that was nixed for some reason. No hiking, no campfires, I don't think we even did any group singing. Just knot tying. Lots of knot tying. Just 1970s sweat shop Brownies. I don't remember how it happened, but apparently I called Plant-Store Den Mother a fascist and hung up my beanie for good. I took my father with me, so she could exploit the other Brownies on her own.

But here is a lovely tea towel showing some happy vintage Brownies apparently worshipping an owl (or maybe a mushroom). They have been taught to identify mythical creatures in the forest, such as sprites and kelpies. It is available here on ebay.














Funny, I remember that one of the macrame pieces I made was an owl. Did the Brownie sweat shop ruin me forever for group membership?

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3 Comments:

Blogger Lizzie, The Vintage Traveler said...

Oh, the joys of childhood! But I do love a good Brownie drop-out story. And somehow I can't picture you as a member of the Eastern Star!!

9:23 AM  
Blogger samsara said...

Dear Ms. Lizzie,

So nice to see you here. Your comments always make my day!

11:25 AM  
Blogger max lapel pins said...

The concept of lapel pins is a very interesting one...!!

3:59 AM  

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