Observations by a PTO Misfit But Ever Hopeful Volunteer

Photo above by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

As I sat in the meeting for the 8th grade dance at my local PTO, I imagined the first PTO meeting; 6000 B.C., primitive Earth, a group of Neanderthal women sitting in a dankly lit cave. The president in her new panther sheath, shares her idea to have a dance for the graduating class of the How to Start A Fire school.

The cave woman, who disagrees with everything, speaks up and insists that this is not a good idea because a number of the cave boys are not fully erect yet. All the cave women roll their eyes. “Her husband has not been erect in a while,” one cave woman in the back whispers to another, and they both giggle under their breath. The oldest cave woman in the group insists that it will never work because they tried it many moons ago and someone got eaten by a saber-tooth tiger.

The Leader pounds her club on the rock and they take a vote. The dance is approved. The cave women PTO spends the rest of the meeting disagreeing if the theme should be “We will All Walk Erect One Day” or “Night at the Swamp.” The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I have been involved in quite a few volunteer groups that were comprised of mostly women. I have sat through countless meetings about seemingly meaningless topics. A person grows bored listening to the long winded discussions concerning the color of table cloths. I confess that I have made some observations from my metal folding chair while trying not to doze off.

One of my observations is this; there are “types” of women that you will find in every volunteer group. I don’t care if it is the League of Women Voters or the committee for the preschool Halloween party. No, I am not an expert, but read my list and you just might be able to spot some of these “types” from your own experiences. There are many groups that do not have all the characters, but every group will have some of them. I have played quite a few roles, if I don’t say so myself. So here goes.

The Leader

The Leader is attractive, well liked and is a great speaker. She is cool, collected and you will rarely see her flustered. If she is a good Leader, she will know how to talk circles around the Doom-Sayer, how to shut down the Gossip, take warnings from the Old Timer and control the Newbie. If the Leader does not do these things, there will be chaos. She is friends with the Agree-er although not best friends.

The Agree-er

The Agree-er is usually on the board. She might be the vice-president. This woman is attractive but usually not more so than the leader. She always agrees with the leader. Her main purpose is to agree. She shakes her head in the yes movement while the leader is making a point. She shakes her head in the no movement if the Leader is disagreeing with something. She thinks the Leader is her best friend and invites her out for drinks all the time.

The Doom-Sayer

The Doom-Sayer is the person who always says that it won’t work. What won’t work, you ask–everything and anything. If you are planning a party, she will say nobody will come. It you are planning a fund raiser, she will say nobody will donate. She is completely negative about anything and everything. She will suck the life out a meeting if she is given too much time to speak. A good Leader, will always cut off the Doom-Sayer before she makes everyone cry. The Doom-Sayer and the Old Timer are friends and will have coffee outside of the group.

The Gossip

The Gossip lives to talk about other people in the group. She will attend meetings just to find out more dirt on the other members. She is friends with the Drama Mama and hates the Do-er. She will never be on the board or in any position of leadership because she really doesn’t care about the cause of the group, she just needs a group of women to gossip about.

The Drama Mama

The Drama Mama always has a problem. She is always having some personal crisis that makes her late or not be able to complete a task she signed up for. She will tell you in great detail about the personal crisis going on in her life. She doesn’t really seem to care about the group although she regularly attends meetings.

The Observer

The Observer always sits in the back. She does not talk with anyone. You will wonder if she is in the wrong meeting. If she is welcomed, she will stay. If she is not welcomed, she will stop coming. Eventually a new observer will show up.

The Do-er

The Do-er is always super high energy with a ton of ideas. She will take on many volunteer positions and is a great worker. The Doom-Sayer is her arch enemy and annoys the heck out of her. If she is successful in her ideas and well liked she will become the Leader. If she is not successful and is rejected by the group, she will stop coming and try another volunteer group.

The Newbie

The Newbie is new to the group. She has a bunch of ideas, is young, talks in a high pitched voice and is friendly to everyone. If she is well liked, she will become the Do-er. If she is not well liked by the group or her ideas are not heard, she will probably quit. If this occurs, she will tell anyone that will listen, to not join the group.

The Old Timer

The Old Timer has been around forever. Her sole purpose is to tell the group how it has been done in the past and why the new ideas will never work. She knows where the bodies are buried and will share her information if you get a few drinks in her. She hates the Newbie and will role her eyes as she tells her new ideas. She is friends with the Doom-Sayer. She will eventually accept the Do-er but not fully until she becomes the Leader.

Then you have the bulk of the group. They are the woman that show up because they care about he cause at hand. They smile when the Doom-Sayer complains, take the Old Timer with a grain of salt, nod as the Gossip gossips, and accept the Newbie and her seemingly never ending excitement. They are the ones who get things done and balance out the group. In the end, the volunteer group persists despite and because of, the colorful array of characters.

Overall, I am thankful for the time I have spent with the groups I have been a part of. I am proud of the things we accomplished. I am ever hopeful for the future of groups that conquer obstacles and make great things happen. So, I guess, I will see you the next meeting.

You can find Melanie Gangolf on Facebook.

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