I don’t know why it seems I always get the ideas for my deep thinking posts on Fridays, which is my lowest traffic day (seems to be the case everywhere on the internet, actually.) But I have a few thoughts today. Let’s see if I can make a coherent post out of them.
Oh, but first, the Romantic Times review of Personal Demons is out! FOUR STARS! Here’s what they said (apparently, as RT is unavailable here, but Anna J. typed it in an email for me):
“Kane’s clever story is packed with supernatural action and unique characters. The heroine has made some powerful enemies in the past, and they return with a vengeance. She also has a nice love interest going, and it zings with sexual tension. Surprises throughout keep tension and high and the pages turning as it all comes to a satisfying conclusion.”
So here’s what I’m thinking. This post at Karen Scott’s almost inspired me to comment, but as my comment would have been so convoluted and long-winded I decided to do it over here instead.
In a nutshell, she’s linked to a new story about the upcoming reissue of the Sweet Valley High books, and a column about how many girls were apparently driven to eating disorders by the Wakefield twins’ “perfect size 6” figures, and how that might be even worse now that the scummy decision has been made to make them size 4s for the reissues.
Now, anorexia is A Bad Thing. And I’m not going to say or even imply that the superthin standards of today don’t create problems for young girls (or young men. I knew a bulemic guy; it’s not like this is a girl-only problem).
But for some reason, perhaps because I was such an avid SVH reader in my preteen/very early teen years (I’d moved on by the time I hit fourteen or so, if memory serves), this struck a bit of a chord with me.
The thing is, I guess the SVH books made me feel bad about myself, too. Not because they were so thin, but because they weren’t. At the time I read those books, I was a size zero. I was a late bloomer, see, so I was reading about girls with curvy figures, with lots of friends and boyfriends, when I was wearing a training bra just because people would make fun of me (even more than they already did) if I didn’t have a strap across my back. I didn’t need it. I was something like 4 feet 8 inches tall; I looked like a seven-year-old. And it was painful. But there was nothing I could do about it.
And given that I think most girls reading those books were probably about the same age as me (who ever saw an actualy seventeen-year-old reading them?), I’m willing to bet the self-esteem issues they might cause would be more on that side of the fence.
It’s one reason why I lost interest in the books. It’s why I never liked the other series that came out around that time, about an extremely rich girl named Caitlin. Why would I want to read about her? A rich girl who was beautiful and got everything she wanted, and had a gorgeous rich boyfriend and horses and cars? When I sat around listening to records in my room every night while my parents argued in the living room, I wanted to read books about girls like me. But it seemed girls like me weren’t interesting enough to write about, unless it was a really depressing book where family members died or something. I wasn’t a heroine. I wasn’t even a Loyal Best Friend in those books. I was invisible. And I got tired of reading about fun it seemed everyone was having except me, and about people whose lives were so perfect it might as well have been happening on a different planet.
So I gave up. And I found other things to read. And I’ve been interrupted so many times while writing this (Princess is home sick today) that I no longer remember what my point was supposed to be, sadly.
I guess I just wonder where those books are. I wonder why we’re focusing so much on worrying normal girls might become anorexic that we stop worrying about those kids who have no reason to be. Or on those who try to get fat so at least they’ll be normal on some level; it’s easier to be fat than to be scrawny, I think, or at least I did when I fuitlessly tried to gain weight.
So I guess my overall point is that we’re always going to feel bad about something. We’re always going to feel not pretty enough, not thin enough, not curvy enough, not smart enough, not popular enough, whatever. And those feelings are human, and important. I don’t think I would want to know someone who’d never for a minute felt bad about themselves; they would be insufferable.
And I guess what bothers me about the article Karen quotes is it assumes the books and their intended readers exist in a vacuum, that teenage girls won’t bring their own thoughts and experiences to the books as much as I did, and have their own feelings about them. That it’s impossible for a girl to read them and not want to be just like the Wakefield twins, instead of reaching a point, as I did, where they were just a couple of vapid princesses whose perfect lives no longer interested me. In order to believe you can be perfect simply by losing weight you have to first believe the rest of perfection is possible, and I never did. I bet a lot of people never did.
So the article strikes me as rather disrespectful to teenagers, in its bland assumption that they will be so cowed by the SVH zeitgeist that they will lose any perspective. That they will instantly see the characters as people they want to be just like in every way, instead of a rather irritating collection of snobs doing pointless things in their zippy cars.
I enjoyed some of the books, sure. There was a time when I waited breathlessly for the next one to come out. And sure, I wished my life could be more like theirs. But I was never moved to attempt to make it so.
Perhaps I was just lazy?