Joanne Palmer: I owe it all to Thin Mints

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Tonight, millions of women will sit in front of their televisions sipping a chilled cosmo, chardonnay or champagne as the 79th Academy Awards unfold. There will be the usual glitz, glamour and grandstanding. The usual parade of impossibly thin women wearing beautiful dresses and Harry Winston jewelry. Jack Nicholson, sporting his trademark dark sunglasses and devilish grin will be front and center in the audience as history is made. My fantasy is that tonight, one woman will make the most memorable speech in the history of the awards. After she thanks her agent, the Academy and her archangel, she will say:

"I owe it all to Thin Mints."

In case you haven't noticed, it's Girl Scout cookie time. And in case you haven't visited www.girlscouts.org, many successful women like Barbara Walters, Carrie Fisher and Mary Tyler Moore were Girl Scouts and probably sold cookies. "Selling cookies," the Web site proclaims, "gives girls valuable life skills like goal setting, money management and customer service."

They're right. Once you've mastered door-to-door sales, anything is easy. Even Hollywood. As a former member of Troop 141 in Evanston, Ill., I can speak from experience that twisting the arms of my parents' friends and going door-to-door to sell neighbors on the merits of Thin Mints was hard work. I can remember lying on the living room floor surrounded by towers of boxes, order forms and money, fighting back tears because I had more orders than cash. Selling Girl Scout cookies taught me that I was not cut out for a career in sales or accounting, green is definitely not my color, and my recent decision to hire a bookkeeper for my business was exactly the right thing to do.

I discovered right away that I am a right-brain girl. That I am independent, a self starter and terrible at arts and crafts projects. To remind myself of this, I keep a paperweight I made during my scouting career. It has a black and white picture of scrawny me in my uniform. Since I'm tall, I look more like the gangly green bean than a scout. The photo is off centered, the edges are jagged and it is a thing that only my mother appreciated.

I still have my Girl Scout sash in my closet. How could I throw it out? It would be like burning the American flag. I worked really, really hard for every one of those 16 badges. Harder still, apparently, was sewing them on. They are lopsided, sewn on with uneven stitches and big knots.

Although it is the 79th Academy Awards, Girl Scout cookies are celebrating their 90th anniversary. In the early days, girls baked sugar cookies with their mothers, packaged them in wax paper bags, sealed them with a sticker and sold them door-to-door for 30 cents a dozen.

Today, Girl Scout cookies sell for $3.25 a box and there are nine different varieties. Tagalongs. Thin Mints. Do-Si-Dos. Samoas. All Abouts. Thanks-A-Lot. Cafe. Little Brownies. Cartwheels. Lemonades. Wouldn't it be cool if they added two more flavors to reflect popular culture? I propose: Blog-A-Lots or iEat.

Thank goodness, girls don't have to go door-to-door anymore. They can set up a table at the mall or in the grocery store and stand behind their colorful cookie boxes. I don't pinch their cheeks and say, "Dearie, when I was a Girl Scout I sold cookies for 50 cents a box." I simply look at their hopeful young faces, buy as many boxes as I can afford and hope they are better at money management than I was.

I'll be one of the millions watching the Academy Awards. I hope that whoever wins will encourage young women to be true to themselves. That it's okay to color outside of the lines. And it's really, really important to think outside of the box.

Unless it is a box of Thin Mints.

Joanne Palmer's column appears Sundays in the Steamboat Pilot & Today. Contact her at jpalmer@springsips.com

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