Look, let’s be honest, I’m not joining the Junior League because I love volunteering. My major takeaway from the few times I’ve volunteered is “there are too many people here being artificially jolly and the recipients of the charity look intensely uncomfortable about this. Actually, everyone looks uncomfortable.” So basically “this is awful.” That’s what I’ve learned from volunteering. That it’s awful.
This is, incidentally, not a thing to say to members of the Junior League, a nearly 100 year old volunteer institution for women. When I wrote that I was pretty interested but HAHAHA HATED HELPING PEOPLE a member wrote back explaining to me that all the members were joined by their passion for volunteer activities.
This is like when I was asked in a group what made me happiest in life and I said “buying three Lindt truffles – peanut butter, hazelnut and stracciatella (whose spelling I just had to look up) – and eating them as I walk home from my Pilates class.” Seriously. I do that every Sunday afternoon. It’s one of the few things that makes me reliably happy.
Turns out the correct answer was “friends and family.” Which really killed my cool conversation starter on how I was thinking about swapping out hazelnut for almond (don’t. It’s a bad life choice. Though I’m toying with the idea of trading that one that’s hard to spell for the vanilla flavor, which is new and comes in a wrapper I would call “mauve”).
So that’s why I’m joining the Junior League. Because they have delicious pastries. And a running club.
No, not really. Although, come to think of it, they do. So, I guess, partly that. Those do strike me as really strong selling points.
But, in greater part, I suppose I’m joining because I’m tired of trying to define my identity around being the kind of person who does not join the Junior League. Really. I’ve been telling my mother for years that I wasn’t going to join. Because I’m an intellectual in a bikini. Or something. Something like that.
Regular readers of TheGloss probably know that I came from a pretty conservative town. I spent most of my childhood wandering around a country club gnawing on peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Like an animal. A monkey, I guess? Look, let me stress: my family is amazing, and there are far, far worse hardships than being forced to take a lot of tennis lessons as a kid. I think knowing how to make a martini is a life skill, and I stand by that. But, suffice to say, the Junior League was a big thing. So was being a republican. In high school.
So, when not working on my backhand, all I did was watch Daria, read Jane, and dream about a day when I’d move to New York and be around all these smart, forward thinking democrats who also spent their childhood watching Daria and reading Jane.
I don’t think that was a bad thing. I think being open to and interested in people with lifestyles different than your own is pretty much always a good, eye-opening thing. And that did actually happen, so it worked out.
But in aggressively labeling myself a Daria type, and in my haste to be a cool, evolved person, I think I forgot that some of the things that people from my hometown tended to love actually seem pretty fun. I… kind of maybe would have liked to join a sorority. In college. I might have liked to go to a college where sororities existed. A little bit. I think I actually would have loved that in college. I would have liked the excuses to dress up and the planning and the ceremonies. I mean, they all sit in circles and light candles, and I don’t know what that’s about, but I loved The Craft! Prior to that I kind of would have liked to do the debutante thing, even though I was reading Betty Friedan and Andrea Dworkin and had decided it was a really outmoded institution.
I also decided that I was never going to cook, because I wouldn’t be in the kitchen, so I think I took some of that a little too literally.
It’s not bad that I was so aggressively inclined to reject those things – I think all of us want to rebel against our upbringings a little bit – but I also think that there’s a certain point where you’ve grown up to an extent that doesn’t seem as necessary as it once did. You get to a point where you know who you are, and you’ve figured out which things you value, and you don’t need to grip to your identity as say a “Daria reading Democrat” to the exclusion of things that might be fun for you.
Maybe. Does everyone feel that way? Do you?
As I get older, I think more and more, that, providing your parents weren’t awful, what’s so bad about turning into your parents?
Maybe not that much.
And, you know, it’s a nice feeling. It’s a nice feeling when you feel like you’ve gotten far enough along in your life that you don’t have to spend a good quarter of your energy trying to prove that you are different from everyone you grew up with.
So, I like the idea of the Junior League. I do. I like the idea of women getting together to do good. I like the idea of a group. I like the notion of the sorority I could never bring myself to join. I’m probably not going to be great at working at Senior Citizen’s homes (really: if I was 100 the last thing I would want to do is hang out with someone as uncomfortably awkward as me) but I figure I can call people on the phone and strongly suggest that it would be a good idea to give money. I can hold a tennis racket in a really menacing, club-like fashion while I do. And pastries. I could probably help make pastries for events. In a kitchen. I’ll be in a kitchen while I prepare them. That seems like it will work.
And you know, perhaps some of them will be Daria watchers, too.