Most Amish young people look forward to one of the most important days in their lives, the day they turn sixteen. They might have a “sidekick,” a very close friend of the same gender who turns sixteen close to the same time. This “sidekick” will support them as they get to know the unfamiliar world of Amish gangs and buddy bunches, and they will do everything together.
Just for the record, Amish gangs have almost nothing in common with the violent, gun-clutching gangs that roam our American cities. Amish gangs are really just groups of young people that spend Sunday afternoons playing volleyball or Sunday evenings singing.
They give themselves names like Dominoes or Avalanches or Seahawks or Swans or Cougars. Only a few of the groups have vehicles and tend to have wilder parties: the Dominoes, Checkers, Cougars, Avalanches, and Sharks. The majority of Amish gangs get around with horses and buggies and are chaperoned quite well.
Years ago, when Mom and Dad were young, the young people were not chaperoned. In fact, to have parents at a young people’s gathering was not considered appropriate. This obviously led to problems, and wild parties were common.
In the last several years, concerned parents decided that this nonsense has to stop. Some of them got their heads together and decided to chaperone their young people’s gatherings. As a result, most of the Amish gangs today are a lot more supervised than they were years ago. Parents form committees and make curfews and other rules. A young person discovered drunk might even be expelled from the group. One of the minor problems facing the gangs today is that the parents do not always agree on which rules are necessary!
Within the gangs are smaller groups called “buddy bunches.” A buddy bunch might be eight to ten girls about the same age and roughly the same amount of guys that stick together and do things together. It’s a clique, really. During the week the buddy bunch might get together at someone’s house and play volleyball. Years ago, all the girls from a particular buddy bunch would wear the same color dress. Each weekend, they would have to plan what color they were going to wear the next weekend.
If a young person gets to the age of twenty-five, they are no longer considered young. Years ago, a girl past the age of 25 would have stopped going with the young people. She would very likely never have gotten married, unless she married a widower. Today some of these “older young people” from age 25-40 years old have gotten together to form a gang, called the Dogwoods. An even older group called the Drifters range in age from 30 to 50 years old. Thankfully, these groups give older Amish girls more options, and romance in these groups often results in weddings.