If I can get hyperbolic for a moment here, there are few things sadder to me in the world than the knowledge that little girls are growing up without the friendly companionship of Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, Stacey, Dawn, Mallory and Jessi – collectively, the Baby-Sitters Club, the subject of Anne M. Martin’s iconic 80s and 90s children’s book series. (And no, I haven’t forgotten about Abby, I’m just a purist.)
Sure, the BSC is still on book store shelves and available in libraries (and the 1990 BSC TV series was recently added to Netflix!) but little girls these days are more concerned with what’s happening to Harry Potter than whether Kristy Thomas can keep those darn Rodowsky boys under control. And it’s a shame, since the Baby-Sitters Club books were full of valuable life information which I have never forgotten since first picking up the books in 1992. Here are just a few memorable highlights.
Clothes are an important tool for expressing your personality.
BSC books were notorious for going into great detail about the girls’ outfits, describing each specific item of clothing and explaining how it was suitable for that character’s personality. For example:
“On Claudia, with the long black hair, dark eyes, and creamy skin, every look is a great one. Today she was wearing pink jellies, white ankle socks with pink hearts around the edges, and majorly baggy white overalls, cut off just below the knee, over a tie-dyed pink, green, and yellow T-shirt with the sleeves rolled up. She had a ring on every finger and one on each thumb, including a heart-shaped mood ring, a ring with a little bell on it, a ring that looked like a cat winding around her finger a baby ring with her birthstone in it, and a ring she’d made herself out of clay and beads. Her hair was pulled back into three braids, which were tied together at the bottom with a pink and green ribbon. She had on her peace symbol earrings, too, and a button that said ‘Jerry Garcia Lives’ in black script against a tie-dyed background that matched her T-shirt. She’d made the button herself in art class.”
This OCD attention to outfit detail is probably the reason I gravitate toward the mall today, and why I don’t worry too much about wearing something mildly bizarre as long as I think it’s cute. It’s also definitely the reason all my 4th grade writing assignments included very fashionable groups of girls stranded on desert islands wearing coordinated “paint-splattered” outfits (because paint splatters were the coolest. Especially in neon colors like wild watermelon.)
Diabetes is the worst, and you should really worry if you’re thirstier than usual.
Poor Stacey. She may have been a gorgeous, sophisticated NYC girl, but she also had Type I Diabetes. That meant that, while junk food junkie Claudia presented everyone with Ho-Hos and M&Ms and Twizzlers during club meetings, Stacey had to munch on Wheat Thins or rice cakes. She also ended up in the hospital if she lost her self-control and binged on fudge and candy bars. We also got a lesson on Stacey’s symptoms leading up to her diagnosis: she was super thirsty all the time. Legions of 4th grade BSC readers were terrified they were diabetic after they found themselves slurping down several glasses of water following a salty meal. That aside, Stacey’s diabetes, however inaccurate the portrayal, gave little girls some understanding of self-control and sacrifice, what it’s like to be different, and the importance of talking to a parent if something doesn’t feel right. (Oh, and lifelong hypochondria aided by the development of WebMD, but that’s beside the point.)
Cars will keep you safe from lightning.
In Kristy and the Haunted Mansion, Kristy’s softball team, the Krushers, gets caught in a storm on the way home to Stoneybrook from a game. The kids are freaked out by the lightning, but Kristy (or possibly her dutiful older brother/chauffeur, Charlie) informs them that cars are protected from lightning because of their rubber tires. So sure, they might blow off the road or drown trying to drive over a washed out bridge, but they most definitely do not need to worry about getting struck by lightning. This is a factoid that comforts me to this day when driving in thunderstorms.
Don’t change yourself to get a boy’s attention. A true gentleman will appreciate the real you.
Despite being arguably the prettiest and most personable original member of the BSC, Stacey was not the first of the girls to get a steady boyfriend. Why? Well, Stacey had a tendency to alter her personality to impress a cute guy. When she was crushing on the hot Sea City lifeguard, Scott, she started coveting skimpy clothes and acting like a vapid personal assistant to try to get his attention, only to find out he had no interest in her whatsoever and she was totally ignoring actual nice guys who liked her before her transformation. Meanwhile timid Mary Anne, who still dressed like an American Girl doll, scored a hottie with an accent when she caught the eye of new kid Logan just by being herself.
Use caution when ordering at a restaurant where the menu is not in English. Escargot is totally snails.
In Super Special #5 California Girls, Claudia goes on a date with a smart, worldly California dude who (unintentionally) makes her feel like a fumbling idiot. They go to a French restaurant and Claudia, not wanting to appear stupid, doesn’t ask for a translation of the French menu. She randomly selects escargot and finds herself slurping down snails when her entrée arrives. Not only does this reinforce my previous point about not changing yourself to please a boy, it’s also a cautionary tale for anyone ordering off a menu at an ethnic restaurant. ASK QUESTIONS, people!
I could go on – Baby-Sitters Club books taught me endless other life lessons, including which rides are the most exciting at Disney World, what kismet and decorum mean, and how to apply a tourniquet. Not only were they fun to read, the Baby-Sitters Club books were like a tween dictionary for impressionable young readers, teaching little girls how to survive middle school and be generally decent people – with a good vocabulary and well-developed sense of personal style!