Sunday, December 19, 2010

talking 'bout my (sub)generation

If you know about the Babysitters Club books, you are probably a girl who was born between 1981 and 1985 or you had a sister who was born during that period. I cannot think of anything else that so accurately defines what I think of as my subgeneration (although Saved by the Bell and Newsies come pretty close). When I was in elementary school, I spent endless hours discussing my favorite Babysitter ("artsy", dyslexic, sweet-toothed Asian-American, Claudia Kishi) and imagining how exciting my life would be when I was thirteen and could have sort-of boyfriends and funny babysitting jobs and maybe go out for pizza with the gang. I had over a hundred of the books (which came out every month), the board game, some of the Bradlees clothing bearing the BSC logo and not one but two of the videos of the short lived cable series (the theme song to which STILL gets stuck in my head...."Say hello to your friends (Babysitters Club!) Say hello to the people who care!"). By the time I actually turned thirteen, of course, I had realized that the Babysitters were horrifyingly lame suburban assholes who didn't swear. This realization didn't hamper the fascination, though. Even in college, on long van rides (especially when driving to New York and passing through Stamford) or over dinner, inevitably, someone would pose the embarassed question " you guys remember the Babysitters Club?" In unison the whole van/dinner table would yell "YES!" and then proceed to name their favorite babysitter, laugh at the ridiculous plotlines and share dorky tales of elementary school idolization. When the series' author, Ann M. Martin (Smith College '77) came to an event at school, the book signing was mobbed.

A quick anecdote. Once I was very drunkenly making out with a boy who had diabetes. We were talking about his diabetes and he was explaining it to me politely in response to my (probably very rude) questions about whether he had to give himself shots, etc. He explained that he did have to give himself shots, but with a little EPI pen type thing, not a syringe. I interrupted, drunkenly: "Oh, see, I thought it was a syringe because....oh, this is dumb. When I was a kid, I used to read these books and this girl-" Him: "Wait. Oh my god. Every single girl I've ever talked to about my diabetes has brought this up. It's that fucking Stacey from the fucking Babysitters Team or some shit like that, right?" And indeed, it was. Everything I know about diabetes (and for that matter, everything I knew about dyslexia before coming to BAA) comes from the Babysitters Club. That, in and of itself, is not remarkable. I'm really not that smart sometimes. What is remarkable is that clearly, I'm not the only girl who hears the word "diabetes" and thinks "Stacey" (I mean, "diabetes" was one of her character traits for God's sake: the others being "fashionable", "boy crazy", and "from New York City"). Clearly, there are more than there should be.

I want to reread the Babysitters Club books now, in the same spirit that I watched Annie, my favorite movie as a five year old, last year. A good ten of us watched Annie for the first time in years and years last year and realized that a) Miss Hannigan was an alcoholic (just went right over my head as a little kid) and b) everyone from Annie to Grace (and several of the orphans in between, not to even mention Miss Hannigan) were BIG RAGING LESBOS! Oh, watch it again. You'll see. Anyways, I'm interested to see whether the Babysitters Club has any hidden subtext. Given my recent drunken conversation with Rose about feminism and the Babysitters Club (remember how on the night when everyone got snowed into Kristy's house, Kristy, the group's supposed "tomboy" woke up early to put on makeup and blow dry her hair because her sort of boyfriend Bart had slept over?), I kind of doubt it. But then again, Ann M. Martin was a Smithie, so you never know. There may have been some serious Sapphic subtext between, say, Dawn (character traits: blond, from California) and Mary-Anne (character traits: quiet, stupid as all get out, the only one with a "real boyfriend").

Who was your favorite Babysitter? Alternately, what's your subgeneration's equivalent of the BSC?

No comments:

Post a Comment