Jeff Bland, an 18-year-old high school senior from Richmond, is 6 feet tall, weighs 195 pounds and has a black belt in karate.
So when people find out he also belongs to the Future Homemakers of America, the usual response is, "No way. I don't believe it."
As home and family have changed dramatically over the years, so has the Future Homemakers of America, a national organization for teen-agers. The group, with headquarters in Reston, will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year with various activities, including a national leadership meeting in Salt Lake City July 8-11 for 2,000 members.
Instead of worrying about planning dinner menus and making dress patterns, the nation's 325,000 teen-age FHA members now tackle such issues as teen pregnancy, drugs and the prevention of child sexual abuse.
"It's not the traditional woman who stays at home, cooks and sews and waits for her husband to come home," said Cheryl Davis, 16, of Parkdale High School in Riverdale, one of 1,500 Washington area FHA members.
"A lot of times, people will say 'Oh, you're going to be a homemaker!' and I say 'No, it's not like that at all,' " said Carrie Blackwell, 14, of William Wirt Middle School in Prince George's County.
Today, the focus in Teen Times, the organization's official magazine, is almost exclusively on contemporary topics, including drunk driving, battered women, missing children, careers and the handicapped.
In Idaho, according to the newsletter, one high school chapter raised money to buy a washer and dryer for a shelter for battered women and children.
In Florida, another chapter helped to fingerprint local elementary and preschoolers.
In suburban Maryland, FHA member Davis prepared an illustrated talk on teen stress and suicide, which she delivered at her school.
The FHA's 12,000 chapters are increasingly coed. Nine percent of the national membership is male. Four of this year's officers are men, and 11 males have served as officers since the first male officer was elected in 1973.
"I've encouraged a lot of guys to join," said Richmond's Bland. "I tell them: 'It's a lot more than you think it is.'
"And, hey . . . there are 20 girls in the room and I'm the only guy."
"It's for people who want to get out and do something in the community," said John Garrity, 14, a student at William Wirt who joined FHA so he could break-dance and model at FHA fashion shows.
"I think a 'homemaker' can be anybody who is living in a home, and I tell my boys all the time that it could be a trailer, a mobile home, an apartment or a condo -- it's just being able to survive," said Marian White-Hood, an FHA adviser who has 18 boys in her 85-member Prince George's County chapter at William Wirt.
When FHA started in 1945, it dealt with then-contemporary issues such as postwar relief efforts, but mostly it advised on such things as telephone etiquette ("We shouldn't belittle the importance of telephone manners," said one 1940s article in Teen Times, the organization's official magazine).
Teen Times stressed physical attractiveness and even published a checklist girls could consult before leaving for school each morning:
* Body clean?
* Clothes fresh?
* Nail polish perfect?
* Elbows presentable?
Careers, when discussed, often were couched in terms of food or the home. In a 1948 copy of Teen Times, a job counselor suggested: "The girl with an interest and ability in science will find openings in scientific research problems dealing with food and household materials . . . interests in architecture and mechanical drawing are a natural for the new field of kitchen planning centers . . . . "
Even in the late 1960s, when White-Hood was in high school, she remembers preparing endless luncheons. "The principal always came to us to do things for the banquets," she said. "You really felt like a maid."
Also, the organization wasn't integrated, as it is today. Black women had their own group, New Homemakers of America, and their own magazine.
Still, the FHA continues to lose members -- 65,000 over the last five years. Officials blame the explosion of girls' sports, the lack of interest in vocational education and the lingering image of the FHA as a finishing school for future housewives.
"Cooking?" asked Shelli Richards, an 18-year-old member from Fairfax County's Robinson Secondary School. "I know how to make toast. I mean, I do know how to cook, but I didn't learn that from FHA. I know how to sew, too, but I didn't learn that from FHA, either."
"People take the term 'homemaker' and associate it with 'waxy buildup' and 'ring-around-the-collar,' " said FHA spokeswoman Katrine Fitzgerald Ryan. "We're not the future 'housekeepers' of America. We're the future 'homemakers.' "