the best friends you’ll never have

Browsing in Dawn Schafer

My favorite part of playing Life was when you got to pick your house. I’ve always had a strange fascination with real estate, even as a small child. Anyway, so today I got to thinking about the different houses that the BSC lived in, and which one was my favorite.

Kristy’s mansion holds an obvious appeal, although I wouldn’t want a family big enough to use all that space. Maybe I could turn part of the house into my own three-story closet. It also just seems like a lot to take care of. You’d need to be way more than a millionaire nowadays to take care of a house like that.

For my personal tastes, I think the Schafers are the winners here. I love description of Dawn’s dad’s California house, with its skylights and courtyard. I think it sounds really cool, and I wish there would have been some scenes that took place in that courtyard so we could have gotten an idea of what it was like. Maybe something like this?

I also like the Schafers’ (and later Schafers/Spiers’) farmhouse in Stoneybrook. I love old houses in general. It does seem like it would be small and dark, though, and not all that convenient.

But it did have a barn. This is the part where the mega-purists of the fandom are going to get a little upset with me, because I think the best house in the series is the renovated barn. While Randy Zak from Girl Talk also lived in a renovated barn, hers seemed much less pleasant, like a barn that they just added insulation and electricty to. They didn’t have rooms, just screens dividing rooms.

The Schafer-Spier barn/house, on the other hand, is light and airy. They have actual bedrooms on the second floor, and the whole place just seemed so lovely and comfortable. I love the idea of a barn/house because it’s like a loft apartment, but you don’t have to live in an apartment building. In my head, there’s a ton of white and windows everywhere. Mary Anne’s books in FF basically double as house porn.

Here’s an idea of what it might look like:


Now, with the conversion of the barn into a living space, the BSC lost one of their most important assets, which was a place to hold events. Perhaps this should have been a sign for Kristy that the end is near when Mary Anne didn’t freak out about the loss of the BSC’s event space.

What is your favorite house in BSC?

Inspired by this series.

KRISTY is a very successful entrepreneur. I see her being a serial entrepreneur, always with the next great big idea. Social media, innovative new ideas for charity start ups, whatever, she’s into it. Watson probably gave her some seed money for her first venture, but she made it back ten fold and now gets her funding like anyone else. I have never had a clear read on Kristy’s sexuality as an adult, but whoever she marries would probably end up being a stay-at-home parent, and Kristy has four kids and tries to make it to as many of their softball games as she can.

CLAUDIA is a high school art teacher. New York was too expensive, and the practical Kishis wouldn’t support her art career financially. So she came back to Stoneybrook, and teaches art while taking care of her superbly dressed son with Alan Gray.

STACEY is like Lauren Santo Domingo, only insanely good at math. Worked for LVMH before starting her own fashion-related company. Has one kid, a husband in finance, a nanny, a housekeeper, an apartment in New York, and a house in the Hamptons.

MARY ANNE is a high school guidance counselor. She lives in a small seaside town in Maine, not far from Reese, with her husband, who is a chef at a restaurant frequented by wealthy tourists. Basically, she’s Susan Branch without the cookbooks.

DAWN lives in California and works for an environmental non-profit. Her husband was a lawyer, but they fought a lot, and now she’s divorced with two kids.

MALLORY lives in New York City and is a writer. I secretly think Mallory=Ann, even if Ann says Mary Anne was based on her. So just picture Ann’s life, and give her red hair.

JESSI went to Dance New York soon after the series ended. After a stint dancing professionally, she now teaches dance and is married to a fellow dancer with a daughter named Mary Rose.

ABBY decided she wanted to be on SNL. She didn’t make it, but turned her hilarious LA experiences into a successful blog, which landed her a position on the staff of a ladyblog. She is too independent for a partner of either sex, and prefers shorter affairs. She is thinking of adopting at a later date.

SHANNON used her facility with languages and general all-around brains to get a job with the State Department. She is still looking for Mr. Right, but her experiences with her family growing up have deep down soured her on the idea of marriage and family in general.

LOGAN stayed in Stoneybrook and married Dorianne Wallingford after she got pregnant at 19. He manages a sporting goods store. They have two boys and a girl. Dorianne writes an aspirational lifestyle/mommy blog, and she makes more money than Logan does with her sponsorships and whatnot.

Over at The Billfold, Nicole Dieker has started a series called “How the Baby-Sitters Club Does Money.” So it’s basically BSC fanfiction, only she’s probably getting paid for it. She is imagining what the BSC will be like as adults, and what their financial/work situations will be like.

Now, as you might imagine, and as you probably do too, since you’re reading this blog, I always get a little protective whenever I see things written about the BSC outside of the fandom. Most of the BSC articles on BuzzFeed or Jezebel are going to be written by people who, at one point, “grew out of” the BSC, and probably haven’t thought about it in fifteen years or so. These articles frequently spell “Mary Anne” with a hyphen and “Jessi” as “Jessie.”

So far, this series contains no such mistakes. I can see that the author at least has a lot of BSC info floating around in her brain, although perhaps she has devoted less real estate to this information than the average Stoneybrookite reader. After two parts of this series have been published, I can say that she is batting 500, in Krusher parlance.

Her Mallory is enjoyable. Mallory has gained some prominence as a writer, even if she is self-publishing. I like any vision of Mallory in the future where she is not a loser. I bet that most of us relate way more to Mallory than we would ever admit. Also, she has Mallory be a part of a poly triad, and while it had never crossed my mind before, I can see that happening.

The Kristy one, though, I was not so fond of. Kristy is a mommyblogger after having a bunch of kids and a bunch of failed businesses. I don’t see Kristy as the mommyblogging type. Starting something like Babble and then somehow convincing Disney to buy it? Sure. But blogging, and just sitting there and not bossing anyone around, just typing her thoughts and dealing with photographs and design? Take a look at her first journal entry from Friends Forever:

First day with this new journal. Am inspired by Mary Anne and all she’s been through. Can’t imagine losing nearly everything I own in a fire. Can’t imagine losing nearly everything I own no matter how it happened. MA is being very brave. She managed to rescue her current diary (the little leather one with the lined, dated pages and the lock and key), which is about her only source of memories these days. Am going to start keeping journals and saving them somewhat fireproof. Think I’ll ask Watson if I can put them in his safe.

Kristy never writes her journal entires in complete sentences. She doesn’t want to spend the time. And working part time in a bank? No way. I also can’t see her ever accepting handouts from Watson. Kristy has always been a hardworker and very ambitious.

Now, I can see Dawn becoming a mommyblogger in the healthy living niche easily. She could use her blog as a platform to make herself feel better than everyone else, and her Vista diaries have been good practice for blogging. Mary Anne could get in with the Mormon mommybloggers with perfect houses and children, since she is so domestically inclined. But Kristy? Not enough power in just having a mommyblog.

Over at the BSC Boards, user bookwormv1 has come up with a 30 Day BSC Challenge. Play along there, in the comments here, on tumblr, wherever! If you want to play along somewhere other than here in the comments or in the original post, put a link in the comments!

So the first day asks the classic question of which Sitter is your favorite. I think that everyone who has read this blog for a while or interacted with me in the fandom knows my answer to this question. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Stacey McGill girl. I will defend her through all sorts of criticism: being a crappy friend/bitch (have you interacted with a middle school girl lately? Stacey’s pretty darn nice, comparatively!), sluttiness (girl can’t help it if she has game), whatever.

Stacey is super smart, and not afraid to show off her brains. She is stylish. She is independent. I can relate to her more than any of the other sitters.

It is interesting, though, how my favorite sitter has changed over the years. When I first started reading the series, I liked Kristy, because I fancied myself quite the tomboy and very much wished to be athletic, and admired her leadership qualities/bossiness. There was a Dawn stage, where I, too, was interested in the environment and wanted very very long hair. Claudia appeals to my artistic side, although frankly, her spelling is just too bad for me to justify removing Stacey from the top spot.

Interestingly, despite a lifelong affinity for writing and reading, Mallory has never even cracked the top five.

I know, I know–this blog is basically turning into “Greer Bitches About How Dumb Mysteries Are” dot com. BUT THEY REALLY ARE DUMB.

Today I read Dawn and the Disappearing Dogs. The premise is that one of the wealthiest men in Stoneybrook is no longer so wealthy, so he’s taken to stealing purebred dogs to maintain his lavish lifestyle. This is dumb for many reasons:

  • People usually don’t spend tons of money on adult dogs.
    People who buy dogs, which can be very expensive, usually get puppies. Why would you pay hundreds of dollars for a purebred adult dog from a pet store when you can get a purebred puppy from a breeder for the same price? People who are fine with having an adult dog usually get one from a shelter. Stealing adult dogs to sell through a pet store does not seem lucrative to me.

  • Why bother with dogs when you can just sell drugs?
    Obviously Karl Tate is prepared to break the law and take beloved pets away from their loving families. Instead of the dog scheme, why didn’t he just do something with a little Bolivian Marching Powder, or get involved with the mafia? He does seem like kind of a wuss in the Super Mystery he appears in, though, so maybe that’s why. And it is a BSC book, I guess. Woody Tate, though, seemed to me like he might have had a few grow lights in his closet or something along those lines. But yeah, drugs are probably more lucrative than dogs. Or maybe he could have laundered some money. If you’re going to do illegal stuff, do it BALLS OUT, Karl!

    A lot of this book was really stupid. OH LOOK, a green car that drives slowly! It must be connected with the dog-napping case! And of COURSE the lady who stole Cheryl showed up to the park just as the Krashers were playing their game. Coincidence is hard to pull off in fiction without it seeming lazy and unrealisitic. This book just left me with feeling of, “That’s it?”

    Are there any Mystery books that AREN’T full of fail? I tend to like Claudia mysteries, I think–the museum one, the stolen painting one, the Janine gets a boyfriend one–they were always some of my favorites. What do you think of the Mysteries in general? What struck you as particularly unrealistic or lame?

  • 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)
    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.

    One of the indicators that The Powers That Be at Scholastic were sometimes a little lazy in regard to the BSC books is the amazing coincidence of so many of the sitters’ parents being named “John” in some form. We have John Kishi, John Philip Ramsey (who has a brother named just plain John, apparently, according to BSC in the USA), Jonathan Pike (who was also sometimes called “John”), Jonathan Stevenson, and Jack Schafer.

    Now, you’d think this would be easy enough to remember while writing about the BSC. Just remember that Stacey’s dad is Ed, Kristy’s bio dad is Patrick and her stepdad is Watson, Logan’s dad is Lyman, and Mary Anne’s dad is Richard. Then you can feel confident calling every other dad with a child in the Club “John.”

    Except that Nola Thacker misread the memo. Here is a quote from Dawn and Whitney, Friends Forever:

    Barbara looked downright disapproving as she walked up to the table and sat down. But all she said was, “What an interesting place, Richard,” in a cool, polite voice that said, NOT.

    What, exactly, is Richard Spier doing on a family fun date with Dawn, Jeff, and some woman named Barbara??

    Writing this entry took a lot longer than I planned. It was hard, very hard, to form a cohesive statement on Dawn Schafer’s positive points. This was actually surprising to me, since Dawn did have a run as my favorite BSC character. I decided that instead of trying to make a cohesive, essay-type entry, a list would suffice.

    Why I kind of like Dawn sometimes:

  • Recipe ideas.
    My natural eating inclination is closer to Claudia’s, but sometimes a girl needs to lose some weight or lower her cholesterol or whatever. I wouldn’t really know where to begin on my own, if I ever actually was serious about eating better. But I could go to my Dawn books and get some recipe ideas! Plus, she made sure that a generation of girls knew what babaganoush was, and what hummus was made out of (garlic, chickpeas, and tahini!). Even though the other girls in the BSC had the same reaction to Dawn’s diet as they did to Stacey giving herself shots of insulin, most of the stuff she ate, in retrospect, sounds pretty yummy.

  • The California Diaries.
    The California Diaries are awesome, and without Dawn, there would have been no California Diaries series. Dawn is definitely the lamest character in the series, with her worrying and stressing about everything while all her friends have actual, real problems, but these books are SO GOOD! They can go places that the BSC can’t, since they are written for a slightly older audience, and have sly references to things like drugs (The Tea Shop sells more than just tea, if you know what I mean), and homosexuality (Ducky McCrae). You have to at least give Dawn points for this series.

  • Her bicoastalism.
    For some people, this is another negative for Dawn. Pick a state and stick with it! I like it, though, because I can relate. Only I am not bicoastal, but bicontinental. Suck on that, Schafer! Oh, wait. This is what I LIKE about Dawn.

  • Orange County California Dreamin’.
    Sometimes it is nice to get out of Connecticut for a while and read Dawn’s Cali books. They include stuff like beaches and Disneyland, and Disney theme parks are one of my weaknesses. Dawn’s CA house also sounds really cool.

    This is all I came up with, although I’m sure there’s more that have just escaped me at the moment, especially considering the fact that I, too, have double-pierced ears. So, tell me–what do you like about Dawn Read Schafer? Her birthday is coming in just a few days, so maybe I will put together another Dawn tribute post.

  • Many people believe that Dawn got extremely annoying as the series went on, constantly proselytizing about the environment and never being able to decide which side of the country she wanted to live on. I am torn, as Dawn was one of my favorite characters growing up and although it is hard to bring myself to read Dawn Saves the Planet, I love the California Diaries.

    There is an issue with Dawn, however, that as a notoriously picky eater I am unable to ignore. I was reminded of this problem yesterday, while I was rereading BSC in the USA. In this book, the Northern RV meets up with Mary Anne’s grandmother at the Mall of America, where Dawn forces everyone to eat at a health food restaurant. Now, Mary Anne’s grandmother traveled to come meet them. I feel like it should have been HER choice as to where people eat. Dawn can eat from the salad bar or something if she really wants to be picky. I myself am a picky eater, as I mentioned before, and if I’m with a bunch of people who all want to eat at a place that doesn’t have food that I like, I just go to McDonald’s afterward.

    I remember Dawn doing this sort of thing a lot, forcing everyone to kowtow to her special eating habits or environmental practices or whatever. Stacey didn’t do this, and girl had a legitimate medical reason for her diet. I think that this is a large part of Dawn’s bad reputation among older fans. She often displays this sort of selfishness. I believe it was largely responsible for her fight with Sunny in the California Diaries series. Sunny was going through the most traumatic event of her life, and Dawn couldn’t be bothered to empathize with her; she just was angry with Sunny for not reacting to it in what Dawn felt was an appropriate manner. Dawn just never seems to be able to think about anybody except Dawn Schafer.

    There are several character-memes in the BSC fandom, and one of them is “Stacey is a ho.” I.e., you will find Stacey underneath the bleachers sucking off the basketball team LOL. I have always found these meme to be unfair and distasteful. Yes, as we saw in Stacey and the Boyfriend Trap, Stacey sure has had a lot of boyfriends for an eighth grader. But to be fair, Stace was in eighth grade for a very long time. (Oooh, another fandom meme!) Really, is it so hard to believe that someone who is smart, attractive, and pretty damn nice would be attractive to the opposite sex? And wouldn’t have a hard time finding a boyfriend (or seven)?

    SOmeone on the BSC boards, however, pointed out that they didn’t really like the message that it sent that Stacey moved right on from one serious relationship (Robert Brewster) to another (Ethan Carroll). This criticism kind of threw me for a loop, because I’ve done the same thing. I am what a women’s magazine would call a serial monogamist. I don’t have one night stands. I date people for about two years, and enter into a relationship state known as being Brooklyn-married. The longest time since I’ve been seriously dating that I’ve gone without some sort of romantic attachment: two weeks. Shortest: twelve hours. So as you can see, for me Stacey’s serial monogamy that occurs later in the series doesn’t strike me as odd at all, and I never even thought to fret about the messages that Stacey’s boy-attachment sends to young, impressionable readers.

    Then, like in Beavis and Butt-head when their very small and ineffectual brains begin working, a dim, small lightbulb appeared above my head. Out of all the BSC members, Stacey is the one whose family situation most resembles my own. My dad has always worked a lot, my parents got divorced, and he found his own Samantha Young while my mother is still single. I can say, easily, that things that are easy for my friends with parents in loving stable relationships (getting over things, breaking up with someone), are very difficult or near impossible for me. I then began to think about some of the other members of the BSC, and their attitudes toward men and relationship.

    Mary Anne, Jessi, and Claudia are probably the healthiest. Jessi’s parents seem to have a really great relationship, and Squirt is still a toddler so you know their marriage is still Hot. Jessi is usually pretty level-headed, and she tells Quint where to go when he wants to take their relationship further and more serious than she is comfortable with at age eleven.

    As far as Mary Anne goes, well, my hatred for Logan is still strong. Despite her meekness, Mary Anne is able to stand up for herself and dump the dead weight and bossiness to rival Kristy Thomas that is Logan Bruno. Yeah, she takes him back a few books later, after he promises to smother her less, but she finally realizes that Logan is not the guy for her in Mary Anne’s Big Breakup. She knows that she needs to be her own person, and having Logan Bruno around will hinder that. It is easy to criticize Richard Spier for being nerdy and over-protective, but I think that Richard, especially later Richard, is one of the BSC parents who is actually the most tuned-in and active in their kid’s life. It was Richard’s help, after all, that Mary Anne recognized that she needed to dump Logan–for good this time. Even her friends in the BSC blew her off, but Richard recognized that the relationship wasn’t really working for Mary Anne anymore.

    Claudia is someone who should be on the same boy-attractiveness plain as Stacey, but she doesn’t even have a boyfriend who’s not a Vacation Boyfriend until Mark Jaffe. Janine dumps her Hottie Boyfriend Jerry and have her pine after her for the rest of the series. Go Janine! The Kishis, like the Ramseys, have a really strong marriage.

    On the divorce side, we also have Kristy and Dawn. While many pin Kristy as a lesbian, I don’t think that not caring about clothes and a love for sports automatically defines someone as a lesbian. Kristy manages to keep Bart as her sort-of boyfriend until Kristy + Bart = ?. Bart gets fresh (Peter Lerangis’s memorable makeout scene!), Kristy freaks out. Kristy realizes that she is not ready for that kind of action yet. Some people read this as Kristy will NEVER be ready for this kind of action if a penis is attached, but I think that might not be necessarily true. I think it has far more to do with the fact that her father abandoned her. Kristy: probably should go to therapy now that she has a millionaire stepdad who can afford it.

    Finally, we have Dawn. Dawn is one of the more contradictory characters in the BSC, and perhaps in children’s literature as a whole. We are told over and over that Dawn is such an individual, but yet she often changes her California Casual self to satisfy what she perceives as what other people would like. The two most glaring examples of this involve boys: Travis and Lewis. Dawn did everything Travis told her, because she thought that Travis liked her and if she cut her hair and pierced her ears again that he would like her even more. And then she made that kind of psychotic-sounding phone call–”I was already a beauty!” And for Lewis, Dawn did that weird makeover/personality transplant, and then immediately went back to Old Dawn when he revealed that he liked Old Dawn more. Insecurity stemming from the fact that her parents, who for most of her life seemed to be happy and loving, very suddenly got divorced and her family was ripped in half? It’s the only explanation I can come up with that makes sense.

    I am sure that there are people with divorced parents who are OK with relationships, and people with happily-married parents who are messed up about them, for various life factors. But it sure does seem to be an explanation for a lot of what goes in BSC lovelife land.

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