May 16, 2005

Why I can't communicate with the male sex

I don't understand boys. I realize I'm not the first woman to point this out, but at least I know why I don't understand boys: Even boys with seemingly normal upbringings, boys who went to elementary school and watched Snick and listened to Nirvana—even these boys never read the Baby-sitters Club or Sweet Valley series. And that is why I am incapable of carrying on conversations with them.

This might sound like an overstatement until you consider the stats. During her childhood, the average girl born in the mid-'80s read at least one Baby-sitters Club or Sweet Valley book every day. (Or at least this is true of the average girl born in the mid-'80s who had no friends in middle school.) I challenge you to find me a young woman who cannot describe the Sweet Valley twins more accurately than she can describe her own grandmother. "When Jessica looked at Elizabeth, it was like looking into a mirror. Same long blonde hair, same sparkling aqua-blue eyes, same dimple on their left cheeks. But inside, they were as different as two girls can be."

Now, all the guys reading this are going, "Whatever," or possibly, "Blond twins? Hot." But you girls are saying, "Oh my God, I read exactly that paragraph every afternoon for like five years." Sometimes the Sweet Valley authors would change a word or two. Sometimes the twins' aqua-blue eyes were "gleaming" instead of "sparkling." But trust me: They were the same damn eyes.

There was also copious description of every member of the Baby-sitters Club. A good chunk of any Baby-sitters Club book was devoted to describing Claudia's funky apparel. I even turned up to my first day of middle school wearing three pairs of colored socks and a gigantic beaded scrunchie. Why? Because Claudia did it! Claudia was so cool!

Meanwhile, Claudia's best friend, Stacey, had that permed hair, which may have seemed normal when the books were first released, but by the time I was reading them, in 1996, it was just bizarre. Why would a 13-year-old perm her hair? I understand that society places real pressure on young girls to be beautiful. But do perms really help you attain that goal? Yes? I should give this a try some time.

On top of fashion advice, the Baby-sitters Club books occasionally included plotlines, which were generally about how Mary Anne's father was an asshole who didn't believe in newfangled things like jeans or slang, or about how every babysitting charge in the town of Stoneybrook had some handicap like dyslexia or autism or Down's Syndrome. Really. Every one. I like to think that I majored in psychology because of a genuine interest in the human condition and not just because abnormal psych was the only topic I read about as a preteen, but I might be deluding myself here.

When it comes to implausible plotlines, though, I've got to give Sweet Valley the edge. By the time the girls reached high school, they knew more people who had been molested, kidnapped, or turned into famous rock stars than I hope to meet in my entire life. If you doubt me, I bring to your attention the Regina Morrow plotline. Regina was a minor character who, over the course of maybe 40 books, falls in love with Bruce Patten (Sweet Valley's resident millionaire badass), gets cured of the blindness that has afflicted her since birth, gets held hostage, and gets murdered. Seriously.

Or what about those three books during which Elizabeth gets into a motorcycle accident, develops amnesia that turns her into a total slut, and is nearly raped by Bruce Patten? (This is before he and Regina get together, obviously.) Those were intense. Yet every book begins anew with the twins looking sprightly and flashing their sparkling aqua-blue eyes. They don't spend any time moping about how their previously blind friend got murdered last book. No siree. They have stuff to do, like going to Malibu for spring break.

You see why I can't talk to boys? None of this information lingers in boys' consciousnesses. Trying to have a conversation with them, I'll say something normal and intelligent, like, "Yeah, that reminds me of this game called Let's All Come In that Kristy used to play with her babysitting charges," and then the guys just look at me. Like I'm the weird one! Dude, it's not my fault if you didn't read literature as a child.