the best friends you’ll never have

Browsing in Money

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.

Before we start discussing Missing Since Monday, I’d like to direct your attention to someone’s school project. They made a film version of the book. If you don’t feel like reading it, you can just watch this.

Missing Since Monday, as you may have guessed, is a book about what happens when a child goes missing. It came out in 1986. This movie starring Pam Grier was apparently based on it. (I would be interested in the thoughts of anyone who has both seen this movie and read the book.) I am not sure how to handle this post, since it is a mystery, basically, and I would feel bad about spoiling it, even though my general policy would be that once something has been out for twenty or thirty years, “spoiling” isn’t really a thing. I do think, however, that going through the plot is perhaps not the most interesting way to discuss this book, and I’d rather talk about the things that bugged me. This is basically just going to be compilation of random thoughts.

Okay, so sixteen-year-old Maggie and seventeen-year-old Mike are left in charge of their four-year-old sister, Courtie, while their father and stepmother go on their long-delayed honeymoon. Things go well until Courtie doesn’t come home from school one day, and they find out that she went missing.

First, Courtenay goes missing when she is snatched in between getting off the van at preschool (and I’m sorry, a bunch of three- and four-year-olds in a van without car seats? VERY DANGEROUS. I am only four years older than Courtie would have been, and we had booster seats in the car until at least kindergarten) and making it into her classroom. At the end of the book, the preschool says that they will now have the teachers supervise pick up and drop off. What the fuck. Why weren’t they ALREADY doing that?

Second, once again, everyone in this book, like in most Ann books, is loaded, but insists they’re not real, live millionaires. When the detectives bring up kidnapping-for-money, Maggie’s dad says that they’re not rich. Nope, they’re not rich at all. He is just the publisher of the “hardcover children’s book division” of a major publishing house who just got off the PRIVATE PLANE from his St. Bart’s honeymoon that was cut short. Also, when the police suggest a reward, the dad immediately goes, “$25,000,” which is around $50,000 dollars in today’s money, so basically, more than the median income for a family of four.

At least Ann finally set a book in Princeton. I am sure that the properitors of PJ’s Pancake House are super glad that the Creepy Guy is a busboy at their establishment. The places in this book are all real, I think, and it includes familiar names like Rosedale Road and Mr. Fiske. Yay, Ann.

The Creepy Guy is Brad, who is more or less David from Dazed and Confused. Only creepier.
He spies on Maggie and calls her “Baby” and makes obscene phone calls to her house. He also is creepy around Courtie, and ugh, eww. He is older brother of some of Maggie and Mike’s friends, and I understand that he was in the book to be there as a potential suspect, but he is just so gross. Oh, and Maggie doesn’t bother to tell anyone about these creepy calls until way late in the game, even after HER SISTER GOES MISSING. Very reminiscent of the BSC not bothering to tell their parents when completely panic-inducing things happen to them.

This is really random, but it stuck out to me. Maggie mentions that Leigh, her stepmother, who is an illustrator, has a studio in their house that is in what used to be “the sewing room.” Now, I understand that Ann would totally have a sewing room. Mrs. Towne, I can buy it. Future Mary Anne? Sure. But why do sewing rooms seem to be such a common room to have in books by Ann? The Arnolds had one until Marilyn turned it into her bedroom. And now these people have one, but WHY. Was there ever a time when a sewing room was a common use for a extra bedroom after the advent of mass-produced fashion? Hell, I think that even back when people bought fabric and made clothes for their families more often than not, I think only the very wealthy would be able to dedicate a whole room to it, and then those people would probably buy their clothes in town anyway. I don’t think that big shot publisher dad, nor the OG Mom who lost custody were doing much sewing.

Another thing that bothered me about the book, one that I think is going to be familiar to BSC readers, is that the conflict between Maggie and her stepmother centers around the fact that Maggie thinks she knows more about raising Leigh’s daughter than Leigh does. Leigh doesn’t want Courtie to have candy, and wants her to go to bed at the same time every night. Maggie constantly tries to undermine Leigh’s authority. I’m sorry, but when it’s not your kid, even when it’s your sister, you roll with the parents’ decision, unless they’re legitimately hurting the kid. And then Ann basically justifies Maggie’s behavior at the end. Totally shades of the BSC thinking they’re the best parents in Stoneybrook.

Overall, the most interesting thing about this book, if you’ve never read it before and are a BSC fan, are all of the things that jump out as being “BSC!” to you. (Courtie is afraid of an imaginary red mitten that snores under her bed!) If you want to read a book about a missing child, however, I’d probably go with the Face on the Milk Carton series instead. Judging by the number of external links I found, and all of the things I found from schools who still use this book, it still seems to be more popular than some of Ann’s other books from this era.

External links:
Are You There, Youth? It’s Me, Nikki on Missing Since Monday
Kirkus Review (apparently With You and Without You was published first, oops)
Lost Classics of Teen Lit, 1939-1989
Red House Books

Next week, With You and Without You. I am probably going to pull a Mary Anne and cry the whole time I’m reading it.

One thing that the series is seriously lacking is economic diversity. In Stoneybrook, Kristy’s “poor,” before-Watson life was distinguished by living in a four-bedroom house where the fourth bedroom was tiny. The Sitters’ parents all had very good, white-collar jobs, even the parents who were going back to work after a divorce or staying home with the kids, save Mal’s mom’s temp work. When they decided to add another sitter in 1995, while they did add some religious diversity, they did not add any economic diveristy. In fact, Abby moved into Kristy’s ritzy neighborhood. Abby’s mom bought a house and filled it with all-new furniture. Not exactly cheap.

Abby’s mom is an executive editor at a publishing house. Now, this nets her a pretty good salary–generally in the low six figures. It is also mentioned that the move to the ‘Brook coincided with a hefty promotion/raise. The odd thing about Mrs. Stevenson’s job, though, is that she only started working after the death of her husband, when the girls were nine. [ETA: I checked, and my memory was wrong. She started working when the girls were in first grade.] They turn thirteen in Abby’s Lucky Thirteen, so she’s been working for three years. This is a rapid rise to the top of her profession. The article linked above mentions that the road to executive editor is a long haul, and probably wouldn’t be possible in such a short time period. I suppose, however, that this could be accounted for by the BSC time warp. Two years before the start of the Club would be 1984. 11 years is realistic.

But even with a, say, $105,000 salary, would someone be able to afford to move to Watson’s neighborhood–an area with high property values and taxes (whether you look to Southwestern Connecticut or Princeton as Stoneybrook’s inspiration, you’re dealing with a high-value, high-property tax area) and comfortably support two children? Abby seems to have no problem going on a shopping spree for herself and her twin in Abby’s Twin. I also recall her automatically knowing that she would be allowed to go on the school trips, whereas even some of the other BSC parents needed convincing.

I think the answer to this lies in Abby’s extended family. Her grandparents throw lavish annual anniversary parties at their house in the Hamptons. That’s basically code for “look for us on Rich Grandparents of Instagram.” But again, like with Stacey and Dawn (her dad has a full-time housekeeper!), no one ever makes a note about how the Stevensons are extremely well-off. Watson is the King of Millionaires, and no one else is rich. Ahh, to live in Stoneybrook (or Ann’s NYC or Palo City).

Going back to the fact that it seems that everyone in the Club came from well-off families, I was curious if anyone noticed this reading as a kid. Now, it seems quite obvious to me, but as a child I didn’t notice it at all. I was fooled by the sneaky “pay-for-half” schemes of the parents into ignoring the fact that everyone was a lawyer.

My question: did you notice that the girls were erring on the side of rich, or were you, like me, ignorant to the subtle indicators of richness–i.e., Stacey’s dad taking her to super-expensive restaurants all the time?

Did you know that Watson Brewer is a real, live millionaire? Of course you did–it’s mentioned in every book at least once. It’s not clear why, exactly, they decided to make such a big deal about Watson being a millionaire, as none of the other sitters’ families seemed to be really hurting for cash. Sure, they may have had to pay for half of the cost of their Hawaii/Europe trips, but the attempts to make the BSC appear more middle class, more average in terms of relative wealth fall flat when one examines the facts.

First, professions.

  • Claudia: Dad–investment banker; Mom–head librarian
  • Mary Anne: Dad–Lawyer
  • Stacey: Dad–sometimes executive, sometimes lawyer; Mom–SAHM/professional shopper then buyer for Bellairs
  • Dawn: Mom–some sort of business person; Dad–I think one time it is mentioned he is a lawyer but it’s never really clear
  • Abby: Mom–important person in publishing.
  • Mal: Dad–lawyer; Mom–SAHM then temp worker
  • Jessi: Dad–some sort of business guy Mom: Advertising executive

  • Shannon: Dad–lawyer, but we know that shannon’s also rich
  • Logan: Dad–sporting goods distributor. I have no idea how much sporting goods distributors make, but Addie’s dad on Unfabulous is also one and they have a really nice house.

    Much joking has been done about the proliferation of lawyers in the Stoneybrook area. Lawyers generally make a lot of money. So do investment bankers. And advertising executives. And executive-executives.

    It seems to me that so much emphasis was placed on Watson being a millionaire to distract from the pack that the BSC all seemed to be upper middle class. Abby lived in Kristy’s neighborhood, yet no one ever said, “Hey, Abby’s rich too!” Stacey’s dad took her to all the expensive restaurants in New York and her clothes all came from Bloomingdales, which as far as I know does not have a “juniors” section al a many other department stores–think Marc By Marc Jacobs/Theory/Diane Von Furstenburg prices. Adjusted for inflation, a dress like Stacey would have worn would be about 200$ in today’s prices. Mal’s dad’s salary, before he lost his job and Mrs. Pike also started to work, supported eight children and a wife. Kristy’s mom at first didn’t have a lot of money, but then she married Watson, so Kristy only wasn’t rich for the first five books of the series.

    So why so much emphasis on Watson Brewer’s millionaire status? I think Ann just didn’t really have any exposure to people with less money, and by putting so much emphasis on Watson’s wealth and having all the parents make their kids do stuff like pay half for school trips, it made it seem like the girls’ families weren’t that wealthy. But looking at the facts, especially when it comes to Stacey and Abby, it is obvious that Kristy wasn’t the only girl in the BSC from a wealthy family. I think that instead of just including some token minorities and a variety of family situations, they should have also done more to show economic diversity.

    ETA: Ashley has informed me that Kristy’s mom, like Jessi’s, works in advertising. I guess in Ann’s world, men are lawyers and women are advertisers.