Tuesday, April 22, 2008
In the fifth grade, I had some pretty awesome friends. They were fun, helped me kill time, stimulated me mentally, and were all quite unique.
Stacy was someone to look up to - what with her incredibly giving attitude and funky wardrobe to boot. Mary-Ann was sweet, gentle, and an incredible listener. Kristi could be a little rough around the edges, but I could always count on her honesty. Dawn was fun, down-to-Earth, and usually did her best to keep me on target with my goals - plus it was nice that she was, like me (at the time), a vegetarian. And then there was Claudia; that exotic beauty. An extremely talented artist and constant dreamer...
OK. I confess. I was a little hooked on "The Babysitters Club" for quite some time.
I was hooked and I was embarrassed about it. I read the books in secret and often refused to own them. My mother would buy them for me at the wholesale clubs, five at a time and I would quickly pass them on to a younger family friend, pretending that I had long since outgrown them and had no use for them any longer. I often preferred for them to just be rented from the library.
As much as I loved to hate these books, however, they had such a definite impression on my 11 and 12 year-old self. I loved the descriptions that Ann M. Martin felt it necessary to include. No meeting of the Babysitter's Club could begin before Ms. Martin's complete and (very) detailed rundown on what the ever trendy Stacy and Claudia were wearing. Rest assured that whatever it was, it seemed always to involve over-sized sweaters or ballet slippers. Day-glo anything was frequently on the list along with dangled earrings shaped like every-day objects (think random office supplies and food type items).
I'd like to pretend that I was knee deep in classic literature when I was 12. I'd like to pretend - but I won't.
I'll spare you the sugary grit details of the series and leave it what I've already divulge. Suffice it to say that the books left a bit of an impression on me. They built a very strong image in my mind and while I mostly knew that it was a ridiculous image, it existed nonetheless.
Perhaps their ingenuity impressed me.
Perhaps I took delight in the fact that a grown woman (the author) was being downright indulgent with these books; her life career. For all intents and purposes, Ann M. Martin was but a 12 year-old girl herself, living out her childhood dreams through 138 some odd quick-read books.
Who could know, really?
Regardless, I do know that in comparison to their fairy-tale liberties and self-employed 12 year-old trendy selves, I felt a little (just a little) uncool.
My clothes were hand-me-downs. My haircut usually influenced by my mother. Make-up was not a reality in my life just yet and neither was music (which at least, even with the absence of a kickass wardrobe and a relevant haircut, could have made me volumes cooler).
This was not for lack me trying.
My efforts were somewhat wimpy.
I recall one time in particular - I was walking through a shopping mall with my mother. I remember that I was wearing a red Hanes sweatshirt - I most likely at some point considered this a very good wardrobe purchase; you know, versatile.
The pants I was wearing were hand-me-downs from someone in our church. They were too big for me and the waist was elastic. They were black with small white birds printed all over them - small enough that it just kind of looked like an organized white spatter across black fabric. I'm fairly certain I was wearing sneakers. I probably had a perm.
Walking through the mall, my brain was quite a distance away (I think it should be evident by now that I didn't take much of an interest in shopping) and eventually I found it appropriate to ask my mother exactly what was burning on my mind:
"Mom, do you think I look... exotic?"
She had become at least somewhat accustomed to absurd questions from me, her middle child, but even this threw her off kilter a bit.
She stopped, laughed, and with one look-over responded, "Right now you certainly don't".
Sometimes it takes the words of a mother to shake reality back into you.
I swiftly dropped my dirty reading habits and bought myself a pair of lace trimmed leggings. Eventually the perm grew out and it didn't take too long for me to outgrow the hand-me-downs. And clearly, I've not too quickly forgotten myself and my mother's words at what could have very well been the height of my absurdity...