Monday, March 11, 2013

"I hated the Wakefield twins like I hated my Barbies: blonde, perfect, zero relatability."

Once again, the inimitable Sarah Brown said something that made me think (that's her in the post title). Her tumblr links to a (rad!) piece by a Sweet Valley High ghostwriter, and Sarah says she never really liked these books, although women around her (our) age are supposed to bond over the love of them. Which is true, except -- for me, it's never been about loving them, just about having read them.

Any nostalgia, or any fondness, I feel for SVH (about which I have written a few times here on this blog) is just the generalized nostalgic/fond way you remember pretty much anything you used to do all of a damn hot summer afternoon when you were eleven.

Mostly what I remember was that it was important to read them; everyone else was, so you had to, to be in the know. We'd trade them back and forth -- me, the Sociopath, Lab Partner, Berwie, half a dozen others. We'd rank the male characters by boyfriendworthiness (Sociopath always liked Bruce Patman and the Wakefield dad the best; she was, of course, the only one to think of including somebody's f'ing dad), the cars by which one we wanted most when we turned 16 (surprisingly, my eventual ride -- the 1980 Buick Skylark -- was not on the list), we'd take personality quizzes to find out which female character we were, we'd con somebody into taking us to the Golden Triangle Mall to buy the new ones at B. Dalton as soon as they came out.

So I participated, you know, and not unwillingly; that shit was pretty fun as a shared experience. But the feelings the actual books produced in me were almost entirely negative. I knew that I would never look like the Wakefield twins, but I learned that theirs was the only desirable kind of beauty. I knew they came from money, and learned that not having money was shameful and a thing to hide from your peers. I knew what boys were like and what boys liked, and learned that the first was "alien" and the second amounted to "not me." I learned that there was always supposed to be drama and scheming going on amongst one's friends and that your sister would always be your rival.

These things are mental handicaps, and part of the baggage that I've been busting open and sorting through all the years of this blog -- talk about power! Whoa. And to me, that's the bond most of my generation of women shares -- we were all a little warped by SVH, or at least it's impossible to have avoided them completely, so love/hate/meh/puke/whatever, you have some kind of opinion about them one way or another.

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Anonymous Jane Ann said...

I do this thing in my head where I imagine all the characters of my childhood all grown up, kind of like a "Where are they Now"...anyway, the Sweet Valley High version plays out like a Lifetime movie.

5:43 AM  
Blogger francine said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:27 AM  
Blogger francine said...

Love this post. I think I enjoyed the books because back then my parents were watching Dallas or Dynasty or whatever, and I just figured that at some point, you turned into an adult, went to high school, and then got the ball rolling with all the drama. That that was just how you acted when you were older. Lots of fights and fast cars and rich people parading around. Not that the beloved John Hughes did much to dispel those untruths in his films either, but I cut him way more slack.

Probably one of the best parts of growing up is finding out life is not, in fact, like any of those books or movies when you grow up. I mean, sure, it's a big disappointment in some sense too, but it's an enormous relief that that is never (probably) going to be any sort of truthful representation of your real life.

6:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is one of the (many?) things I seem to have entirely avoided at the pertinent ages, and I didn't even know it was such a _thing_ until recently. I'm in the relevent age group (very early thirties), and I never once read or even really had any awareness at all of the Sweet Valley High books. I mean, I've heard of them, and I certainly saw them at the library and in bookstores and such, but I never even thumbed through one, or checked out a back cover or anything when I was that age, and I had (and still pretty much have) no real notion of what they were all about. And I was a constant book devourer, so it isn't like I just didn't read much and that's why I never read any of them... I suspect that maybe just the name of the series and/or the covers were enough to make me file them away as things I probably preferred to avoid, and as soon as my brain did that little bit of internal filing, they basically just ceased to exist.

5:17 AM  
Blogger Gleemonex said...

Jane Ann: Ha! Yeah, I don't imagine any of their lives really went the way they thought they were headed ...

Francine: GOD what a relief, right?

Anon: Lucky! ;-) I am 39, so I was reading these trash pustules right when they were new -- it probably wasn't a thing at all, really, by the time you got to the same age. I mean, they existed and people still read them, but not in the same way it was for people within a few years of my age -- I was really in the demographic ground zero for it, I think. So what did you and your friends get all jazzed about instead? I'd be interested to know!

11:12 AM  

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