Sara Amis – God of the Marching Teddy Bears


I went to the second most expensive school in the state of Georgia, on a scholarship. I left two years later with a failing grade in Calculus, a lifelong revulsion for the taste of Jack and Coke, and a habit of arranging stuffed toys.

It was a private women’s college, you can figure out which one. It’s in Decatur. I had been a feminist from the age of twelve, when some idiot told me he was automatically smarter than me because he was a boy. This was obviously ridiculous but I decked him anyway just to make a point. By eighteen I had read Simone de Beauvoir, Mary Wollstonecraft, Gloria Steinem, and _The New Our Bodies, Ourselves_, and I decided to find the closest women’s college and go there.

When I arrived I found myself in the middle of a culture war between the lesbians and the Southern belles. This was not the sisterhood of women I had imagined. I refused to declare allegiance to either side and withdrew to my dorm room to write terrible poetry and discover alcohol.

When I say that I did not like it there, an example of the sort of thing I mean is that every year there was a Christmas tree decorating contest. The people who won that year made a manger scene with teddy bears dressed as Mary and Joseph and the shepherds. There was a baby bear Jesus. There were Wise Bears.

My dorm, the smallest and closest to the railroad tracks, was full of reprobates, outcasts, and other artistic persons. We decided that the theme for our tree should be “Safe Sex.” We hung condoms on the tree with care, and the foil wreaths out of used birth control packs tied up with red and green bows. We fluffed tampons and made Santa Clauses out of them. They already come with strings and all you have to do is add eyes, a mouth, and a little hat. For the top of the tree, we had an Alabama license plate.

We did not win, even though we had a constant stream of people coming into our dorm to look at our tree. Taking exception to the obvious bias and bourgeois sensibility of the award committee, we snuck into the winning dorm at 3 am where, drawing upon our expensive liberal arts education, we rearranged Baby Jesus Bear, the Wise Bears and the rest of them to portray our own vision of _The Rape of the Sabine Bears_.

The years have passed and I heard that it has become a tradition to hang condoms on the Christmas tree there. I can’t say I am surprised, it’s a very Southern place and making a tradition out of it is how all Southerners deal with trauma. I haven’t been back myself.

I wonder if the lesbians and the Southern belles ever resolved their differences. I could have told them they were not as different as they might believe. Sisterhood is powerful.