I Let The Cub Scouts Down. Twice.


I only have a little more than a month until the Erma Bombeck conference. The anticipation is killing me.

When I went two years ago, I grew super anxious because I’d be meeting a lot of people. I wanted to meet them, but still, you know. People.

This year is different. I got that shit behind me and all I have to look forward to is reconnecting with a group of women I love in a way which borders on creepy.

I entered the essay contest.

You guys, I spent months on this. I wrote and rewrote the essay and felt pretty good about submitting it.

So, the essay didn’t win.

I was unreasonably disappointed.

I have pretty thick skin. You can’t do this shit and take rejection to heart. Rejection eats you alive. I don’t like being turned down, but  disappointment is always fleeting.

Maybe, always is too strong of a word.

Sometimes, not often, I get really bummed out by rejection.

It occurred to me that sometimes writers have to go through the stages of writer grief.

  • Melodramatic self-flagellation: I suck and I’m never writing again. I’m going to goddamn learn how to knit. Only I will probably suck at that, too. And then what? I wasted a fuck ton of money on yarn. God, I am such a loser. 
  • Envy/Horror: 95% of me is elated when my writer friend’s are successful. You know, like getting an honorable mention in thewriting 2018 Erma Bombeck workshop essay contest. 95% of me is jumping up and down and doing a happy dance. The other 5%? Yeah, that 5% is just nothing, but a writhing ball of envy. Ugly, stupid envy. Which is where the horror comes in. I hate envy, but it does exist. Fortunately, as with the stages of regular grief, envy passes.
  • Questioning everything you’ve ever written: Should I be embarrassed by shit I’ve put out there? Well, of course. I mean, anyone who shares the way I do has definitely overshared. But maybe more than I thought. Whatever you do, don’t fucking go back and re-read everything you’ve ever written on this blog. It’s terribly self-indulgent. Cut it out. Now is not the time for cringing.  
  • Apathy: Whatever. I mean, I guess I could add up a few successes, but they aren’t that impressive. But who cares. I have Netflix to binge. The Defenders isn’t going to watch itself, you know. 
  • Contemplation: What can I think of to do that is better than writing? What? Nothing. Nothing else is as good as this, so stop being a goddamn baby. 

Circling back around: So, I lost. Shit happens. It sucks and I hate trying to process these negative emotions. But here I am and…hey….yeah, just blog about it. Hell yes. Monday is covered. We haven’t dried up yet. 

Anyway, I worked through my feelings.

Here’s my entry about being a terrible cub scout leader. I’m not going to lie, I am disappointed as fuck to lose, but am happy I get to share it with you guys.

There Are No Bad Cub Scouts, Only Bad Cub Scout Leaders

I’ve never successfully organized a handbag. I have no idea why I thought I could organize activities for young boys.

Volunteering as a cub scout leader wasn’t my worst decision in life. Buying a hermit crab habitat and marrying my second husband were worse decisions, but still, being a cub scout leader wasn’t a good decision.

I didn’t inherit the craft gene.

I got the “binge watch vampire shows” gene, which isn’t a helpful skill for being a scout leader.

For our meetings, I would buy a lame craft kit. The kids spent 10 minutes complaining about it and another 50 minutes running around shouting until their parents picked them up.

As the season wound down, I was told each troop would create a project of their choice for the  “See How We’ve Grown” gala.

My idea was to get a poster board with markers and let them draw what they wanted.

It looked as well thought out as one might imagine.

My favorite was the picture of a dog taking a crap.

The week before the gala, we looked at our contribution and collectively agreed that the poster sucked.

So, I did what I do with all my failed craft projects.

I covered it in glitter.

Here are some of the other troop’s projects:

Marjorie Wilhelm’s group invented bubble gum that not only provides an entire day’s vitamin C, but can also be stretched into a makeshift shelter.

Rex Mayer’s group built a portable water filtration system that is now used by Sherpas for Mt. Everest expeditions.

Jill Hauck’s group raised money and built a community miniature golf course complete with a working volcano and a self-serve sugar-free cotton candy machine which spins tasty cotton candy from kale.

Renee Mellor’s group used interpretive dance to depict the unwavering spirit of scouts throughout the years. There wasn’t a dry eye in the audience. Especially the boys in my group, but that was because they rubbed glitter into their eyeballs.

Our project was last.

Muffy Talbot, the MC, paused for a moment and said, “Troop C has provided the sparkle for the evening! Good job, boys!”

I still feel like I owe her a gift basket.

We walked off stage and I could feel the boys’ reproachful eyes boring into me. I rifled through my purse for tic tacs, gum, or something to give them as a peace offering, but I could only find grocery receipts and pennies.

I’m reasonably sure none of them went on to become Eagle Scouts. I’m not sure though. We didn’t keep in touch.


Photos courtesy of Francesco Paggiaro and Raw Pixel.


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  • Well. You successfully captured how I felt when I didn’t win, except missing the part where you don’t want to read the other essays that won because you don’t know those writers. And you’re only happy for the friend who got an honorable mention…and actually you’re mad she didn’t win the whole enchilada because her essay was fucking good and she wasn’t competing with you anyway. Just me? Well. I think I’m going to go read the winners to see how I can improve. Because write or die.

  • OMG hysterical. I had a similar experience with the Brownies. One petty bitch mom called us out for being the “Slacker Troop” and I offered her my spot as co-leader on the spot. She moved 6 months later – 2,000 miles away. I’m not saying I was the inspiration for that move but the timing is suspect.

  • I rationalize a lot regarding my writing my convincing myself that I appeal to a limited, highly elite audience. I’m like a cult band. Not everyone is going to get it.

  • Maybe it was ‘too soon’ for a Cub/Boy Scout essay? They just received their own fuck-ton of scathing political scrutiny, so may not have been the ‘comfortable’ topic the judges were ‘ready’ for?
    I dunno. I’m not a good judge of ‘competitive writing’ as I like to pick my friends <3
    It helps that my friend writes the best shit out there… 😉
    I can also be happy for your blogger friends that did win while berating the process that didn't pick you – were they blind AND humorless??
    Seriously… :/
    On another note, my writing professor got on the 'Shitty Women of Literature List' 🙂
    *grabs remote from hubby*

  • Sorry you didn’t win. This essay is a winner to me as are you! My Mother was the my brownie leader and she taught us how to make a switch blade out of popsicle sticks and rubber bands. She was asked to not be troop leader again.

  • Man I suck at crafts. For Thanksgiving I bout some small pumpkins and gourds then Ingot home and was like wtf do I do with these. I set them on the mantle until 2 months later Inrealized they had turned into a moldy mess !

  • As an Eagle Scout (really!) I can say the chances are pretty good that at least some of those kids went on to great things. Or at least they became Eagle Scouts. Spending ten minutes complaining and fifty minutes running around yelling would describe pretty much my entire first year in Cub Scouts, and probably the second and third years too. My Webelos year the troop was run by two guys, one of whom was always disappointed in me even though I feel I showed great skill in my drawings of dogs taking a crap.
    More importantly that was extremely funny and I hope you’ll manage to work your way around to the “I am good at this shit” phase.

  • Every painting I work on, I start out thinking that “it will be the best painting I have ever done and it will break open a whole new world for me and everyone will love it and I will change the art world FOREVER!” About 10% of the way through, I start thinking “this sucks this sucks thissucksucksucksucksucks! I go through the cycle several times, depending on the piece. It takes about a year after it’s done before I can start to be objective. The last show I entered, I had one painting rejected and one accepted. I knew before they said it which one was rejected — the one which had won an award at a different show the month before. I’m trying to work on an attitude where my response is “eh!”
    Your writing is definitely better than your cub scout leading. 🙂

  • Those Cub Scouts didn’t know how good they had it! My hunch is you would have eventually taught them way more essential life skills than mere crafts–like the appropriate use of vocabulary words such as “fuck ton” and how to express, without inhibition, their unique creative skills (and how cathartic this could be!). I’m with you on the disappointment about the essay contest, but I’m rationalizing that many of us are just a bit too edgy for Erma (I wrote about mistakenly wiping my butt, post-colonoscopy, with antiseptic wipes meant for hard surfaces…FIRE IN THE HOLE!). Looking forward to meeting you in person at the conference…

  • OK, first, I got kicked out of the Cub Scouts for throwing a baseball bat at another scout. He hit me with a pitch and I knew who Juan Marichal was, so I threw my bat at him. I doubt they would have kicked me out if I had missed.
    Second, don’t be too hard on yourself for not being the best scout leader. That shit is hard. Blue Gal says one of the reasons we’re gonna win the midterms is because there are so many moms/grade school teachers/scout leaders organizing the campaigns, and if you want something organized down to the individual activities of each distracted participant over a barely manageable length of time, that’s who you get to do it.
    Third, not winning can be a drag, but that’s what competition is all about. One person wins. Lots of people compete. As a motorcycle racer, I learned that although the wins were awesome, the actual competition and camaraderie were the best part. Just standing there in my boots and leathers with the rest of the racers made me feel like I was the real thing, and I haven’t found too many other things in life that did that.
    And finally, the only Eagle Scout I’ve ever known (I think) is James Griffin, the son of the Secretary of the Hell’s Angels. The cops always had it in for him, and I think he’s in jail now, although I never knew him to do anything any more felonious than the rest of the crowd in East Oakland where I met him.
    So I certainly hope that you have fun at the conference and tell us all about it when you get home.

  • Well, for what it’s worth, I enjoyed your essay a ton. I wish I was going to the Erma conference. I like to think I can write -even have plans to finish my book . . . until I walk into a library. Then I encounter a moment of ‘I suck – only real writers get published.’ Oh how I love to write, but damn it is tough.

  • I got kicked out of Girl scouts, after I stole a canoe and went across the lake to join the Boy scouts. They were having more fun. I was pissed they wouldn’t give me my canoe badge before they made me leave….

  • Well, I, for one, loved your essay. I totally understand your frustration at not winning. And I appreciate your putting all your feelings about losing out there. It tells me how much stronger I could be, if only I was stronger…. I used to write essays. I wanted to do that more than anything. Then I poured my heart and soul into one for a contest, and lost. And, well, rejection sucks. Especially after all that work. But, you’re right, I need to stop being a baby about it. I need to start putting pen to paper again. So, thank you for the boost.

    • Please do. Rejection is a part of this. It just is. It’s not YOU..it’s probably ONE other person who didn’t connect with what you wrote. You can’t connect with everyone, it’s just not possible.

  • I LOVED your essay, and LITERALLY laughed out loud regarding the “other” troops’ projects. I get that you didn’t win, and it bummed you out, but you ARE a (teensy?) bit “edgy” for the Erma Bombeck crowd, amirite? I mean, I love me some Erma Bombeck (who doesn’t?), but I also love me some YOU, so as far as I’m concerned, you’re definitely in the, what? Top 50? of the competition. I dunno how it works, but I’d totally give you a gold star. Covered in glitter, of course.
    I am not what anyone would call competitive. If I’m taking a test, I want to do as well as I can, of course. But when I was learning ballroom dance, I competed a grand total of ONCE. Because the “putting my skills out there for judgement against the skills of others” was just Not Fun. The DANCING was fun. Let’s just all DANCE, shall we? Who gives a fuck about ribbons? Why does one person have to WIN? Let’s just fucking DANCE.
    Short anecdote about pride/joy in the accomplishments of others: In 2003, I was “standing in/photo-doubling” for Elisha Cuthbert on “24”. She was pretty shy and would go home early, so I didn’t form much of a friendship/relationship with her. But I DID get to work with (well, not really, but that ONE brief conversation went a long way) the “rising star” Zachary Quinto on the show. When he went on to the role of Syler on Heroes, I was impressed. When he got cast as Spock in the Star Trek reboot, I felt like It Was Because He’d Worked With Me. Like, I was proud of him in the way only a mother or agent can be proud.
    He doesn’t have a fucking clue who I am. I don’t care. I’m genuinely happy for his success. 😛

    • Thank you so much! I LOVE the Elisha/Zachary story. I am really thrilled for the success of others, I am so proud when my writer friends succeed. I do have to work through a teensy bit of envy, but even that has gotten better by most.

By Michelle


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