Stoneybrookite

the best friends you’ll never have

Browsing in Ben Hobart

For girls who love mysteries so much, there are lot of puzzling things about Stoneybrook that they just blithely seem to ignore. There is, of course, the infamous Time Warp, and the Mystery of Sabrina Bouvier. Nobody ever brought up how they were able to go on so many vacations and celebrate holidays multiple times. They were in a Twilight Zone episode, but Rod Serling didn’t pop in at the end to hammer the point home to the viewer.

Rod Serling

“Seven middle school girls stuck in a world where no one ever ages and doomed to never enter the hallowed halls of Stoneybrook High School. This meeting will now to come to order… in the Twilight Zone.”

There is one major plot point of the Baby-Sitters Club that just seemed to fall off to the wayside, and it has always bothered me. Sure, we can chalk it up to “Ann Hates Mal,” but perhaps there is something more sinister afoot. I am talking about, of course, the death of Ben Hobart’s and Mallory’s relationship. I wrote about it briefly here, but I’d like to go into more detail today.

Now, Mallory and Ben had a rocky relationship. Who could forget their fight over the card catalog, or the Caroling Debacle in Here Come the Bridesmaids!? He did, however, play a Loganesque Supportive Boyfriend role in Mallory Hates Boys… and Gym. But Mallory and Ben were together, and he warranted the occasional Chapter 2 mention and visions of future redheaded children surely danced in Mallory’s head.

Look how cute they were at the dance!

Somewhere along the way, it all went sour. In Abby and the Secret Society, we see that Ben has now become a client of the BSC, and is participating in a bathing cap decoration content with the other clients. He makes a “shark attack” cap, which seems perfectly eleven-year-old boy to me, so I don’t think it was a ghostwriter/editing error in this case. They did not, say, mean to write “James Hobart.” Although frankly, if you can’t tell the Hobart boys apart, you have no business writing BSC books, amirite. He was also in Christmas Chiller, annoying Mallory and also seeming eleven-year-old boyish. Yet in neither book is their romantic history ever mentioned. No “Ugh, ex-boyfriends are SO LAME,” as would be appropriate in the case when a former flame does something totally embarrassing.

But in Stacey and the Stolen Hearts, Ben and Mallory write each other Valentine Grams! This book was published a mere three months after the release of Christmas Chiller. What happened in the interim? Was there some sort of Pike-Hobart melodrama that we never got to witness, and the other sitters weren’t even aware of it? Was it too painful to Mal herself to mention in various books and her chapters in Christmas Chiller? To me, it is a great oversight that Ben and Mallory’s relationship wasn’t given the attention it deserves. We knew about every fight Logan and Mary Anne had, every time Kristy was embarrassed by something involving Bart, Every Stacey Boyfriend Ever, Claudia’s problems finding a steady guy and later being torn between two men… Hell, even Jessi and Quint, her fellow eleven-year-olds, got a satisfying resolution to their story. But Ben? He was vaguely mentioned, I think, during the Spaz Girl era, but Mallory wasn’t in the mental state to deal with the issue.

This still doesn’t explain, however, how Ben was suddenly reverted to Sitting Charge. I want, nay, demand a satisifying explanation and resolution to Ben Hobart and Mallory Pike, Boyfriend and Girlfriend. For all the nerdy girls with wonky noses and glasses, who didn’t deserve to be given such short shrift in the books, we want an answer for the callous treatment of Nerd Love.

Second day of the Challenge! Remember, if you’d like to play along, you can do it in the comments, at the original thread, or on your own blog, like Donica at SMS Cafeteria.

And now, without further adieu: Least Favorite Sitter!

Much like with the “Favorite Sitter” question, anyone who reads this blog or is vaguely acquainted with me probably already knows the answer. Logan. Bruno. Shall I count the ways?

Logan is basically the opposite of my ideal guy. Jock, pushy, makes lame MAN JOKES. Logan is the kind of person who finds Two and a Half Men to be an example of a truly great sitcom.

Then there is the whole Mary Anne-and-Logan relationship, which was at its best in FF#3, when she finally got rid of his ass once and for all. Why does their relationship bug me so much? MA&L represent some kind of bizarre, unpopular quiet girl wish fulfillment. It was always believable for Stacey to have tons of boyfriends. Kristy and Bart were more like friends who played baseball and then sometimes also went to the movies and dances together, and when Bart wanted more, Kristy freaked out. Ben Hobart and Mallory had a cute, clandestine, redheaded relationship. Ok, maybe Quint was a creeper. But this isn’t “creepiest eleven-year-old horndog;” this is “least favorite sitter.”

MA&L had a very serious, adult relationship, in eighth grade. And it was just never believable to me that this popular jock also baby-sat and was into Mary Anne because she was shy and sensitive. What. Girl was barely out of braids when they got together. I also could never see strict Richard sanctioning something like that for Mary Anne. My parents would have been freaked out by the intensity, and they were nowhere near as strict as Richard.

I feel like that whole relationship gave the girls who read the series the idea that when they were in eighth grade, some hunky guy with a cute accent would transfer into their school and love them for their true selves. Let’s face it, those of us who obsessively read the BSC, no matter how awesome we are now, probably were not the most desired girls in our middle schools. We were not the Staceys. Most of us, myself included, probably see more of our middle school selves in Mallory’s “Spaz Girl” experience than Stacey being too pretty to be a part of the cheerleading squad. And that, besides his controlling jerkhead personality, is why I dislike that whole storyline/Logan Bruno so much.

One of the major themes of the series is thirteen as a turning point, the age where one is Grown Up. You can baby-sit at night. You can go steady. You don’t ask your parents for help in 95% of the cases where you really, really should. Mallory and Jessi see thirteen as the magic age where they will get sparkly sweatshirts, contacts, and nose jobs. Shannon Kilbourne even titles the essay that frames her portion of the The Baby-Sitters Remember “Thirteen,” which is a sort-of coming of age story.

Apart from the whole “no sitting at night” thing, Mallory and Jessi actually have a fair amount of autonomy for eleven year olds, especially by today’s Helicopter Parents standard. How many eleven year olds do you know, for instance, who go to New York City to visit a boyfriend? How many eleven year olds are allowed to spend a weekend baby-sitting their siblings? (Sorry, Jessi, but I have to agree with Aunt Cecelia on that one. That’s just plain illegal.)

So one would assume that, despite all the whining from Mal and Jessi, that being eleven in Stoneybrook doesn’t really suck that much. Parents are more than lenient. Despite the fact that the Pikes have nixed the nose job idea, Mallory has more independence than would be considered prudent by commentors on parenting blogs, even the “hip” ones. But the same cannot be said for Mallory and Jessi’s peers. It is, in fact, one of the great mysteries of the BSC.

When we are first introduced to their characters, Tiffany Kilbourne is a sitter and Ben Hobart is Mallory’s Australian doppelganger/boyfriend. (Kind of creepy, if you ask me.) Yet somehow, over the course of the series, they are both on the receiving end of maturity downgrades. Rather than being pissed that the BSC has stolen her and Shannon’s sitting “territory,” Tiffany becomes part of the territory and becomes a BSC client. And Ben shows up at events that the BSC are running/involved with, and there is no mention of the fact that Ben and Mallory go out sometimes.

Sometime after December 1994 (Ben and Mallory have a fight about carolling in SS12), Ben and Mal’s relationship fizzles out. Perhaps all of the fighting about carolling and card catalog usage got to him. He shows up at the Greenbrook Club bathing cap contest. He plays an innkeeper in the church Christmas pageant and pisses off Mallory because he adlibs some Faux-stralian flavor into his lines. There is never any mention that hey, at one time, Ben and Mallory might have looked deeply into each other’s glasses and held each other’s sweaty palms. No, all has been forgotten–the scars from those card catalog/carolling fights go too deep. He is excised from Mal’s Chapter Two segments. The first cut is the deepest, indeed.

Ben has a chance to redeem himself after Mal’s Spaz Girl nervous breakdown, however. He is seen saying that he has tried to reach out to Mallory, but she doesn’t seem very receptive. No, Ben, your flames of love died out long ago. It happened while you were decorating your bathing cap to look like a shark attack.

Tiffany Kilbourne never gets a similar shot of redemption. She becomes a client and stays a client. Sometimes, I think, her age is even downgraded to ten. She’s eleven in The Complete Guide, but I swear she’s mentioned as ten in some places. Anyone with a citation, hit me up in the comments.

Then, in Claudia and the Recipe for Danger, we actually have a twelve-year-old pretty much being sat for by the eleven and thirteen-year-old sitters. He is the second Tyler in the Kids Kitchen thing, and no one ever really notes WHY there’s a twelve-year-old there, and he doesn’t do much. But it’s still alarming.

My conclusion is that really, Mal and Jessi seem to be the only eleven-year-olds in Stoneybrook who are afforded such responsibility. Perhaps if Ben had been smart like Logan (never thought I’d type the phrase “smart like Logan,” BUT SEE WHAT YOU’VE DONE TO ME, GHOSTWRITERS?!), and become an associate member, he could have kept his lady and his adult-ish status. It seems like being in the BSC is the ticket to maturity, and will help you avoid all of the potential pitfalls of adolescence, like acne, gum-chewing, trying cigarettes, and hiding those tiny bottles of wine in your flop socks. Look at what happened to Stacey and Dawn once they leave the comforting bosom of the BSC for Bad Girl-ism and California! Would Dawn have gone to a restaurant that served “more than just tea” (AKA HEAD SHOP IN THE BACK, DUDES) if she were still living with Mary Anne? Of course not.

The time warp works in mysterious ways. It can make you age so that you seem ahead of your years (everyone in the BSC). It can make you age backwards (Tiffany and Ben). Stoneybrook, Connecticut. An idyllic suburb of Stamford, a convenient train ride away from New York City straight into the heart of… THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

UPDATE: Not even bodily injury can stop Ashley from sharing her vast BSC knowledge. Thank you, Ashley!:

From #70, Stacey and the Cheerleaders:
Shannon nodded. “She missed the Terrible Twos. Instead she’s having the Terrible Tens. Even her teachers are complaining.” (p.23)
AND
Tiffany is a ten-year-old version of Shannon – physically, at least. (p.60)

But in #112, Kristy and the Sister War, Tiffany is 11 again, though she is still getting sat for.