Thursday, July 2, 2009

BSC #65: Stacey's Big Crush

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Brief Synopsis:

Stacey's fallen for yet another older man. (I make a mental note to tell her mother to get her into therapy now because at the rate she's going, she's going to bring home a mummified Michael Douglas by the time she's in college.) This one's 22 year old Wesley Ellenburg, a student at Stoneybrook Community College's master program (I know...either the best community college in the country or the worst masters program) who's going to be teaching Mr. Zizmore's math class for three weeks. He's really sexy and Stacey falls for him, helping him organize papers after class a couple of times and fantasizing a LOT (t-t-t-teacher's gonna show her how to get an A!). After she writes him a poem and makes an ass out of herself at the school dance, he lets her down and she's heartbroken. And there's a babysitting subplot involving a baby goat!
  • The tagline on the book cover reads: "He's smart. He's handsome. He's 22!" Why am I imagining Jessi saying that to Stacey a la Matchmaker from Fiddler on the Roof? (Because they don't let you into Stoneybrook unless you know every song from that musical, including how to do the bottle dance.)
  • Stacey thinks that Wesley Ellenburg is a weird name. But then she thinks to herself that when she first heard her math teacher would be Mr. Zizmore, she thought of someone who had too many zits. Like Zit-More. Funny, that's the same thing I thought of when I was riding the subway one day and first saw this guy:
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Please, please, PLEASE tell me that Lerangis (this book's ghostwriter) got the idea from this. Every single time I ride the subway, I think of this guy, and I have for years, and I've wanted to tell someone, and I just have to let it out. Lerangis, are you a patient of Dr. Z? You can tell me, I promise I won't laugh. Much.
  • Stacey walks into class one morning and thinks Tom Cruise is standing in her classroom and nearly swoons. And I, rereading, also swoon with anticipation because maybe instead of a chapter about math, we'll get a chapter where Tom yells at Brooke Shields for taking psychiatric drugs and hands out free copies of Battlefield Earth (hey, I don't just snark chick lit). But it turns out that the hottie in the classroom is really Wes.
  • Now that Stacey's seen Wes, she thinks that Wesley Ellenburg is a noble name. Wesley reminds her of Wesleyan where her dad went to college. (Ooh. Opportunity to make a joke about Stacey having dad issues. No, wait. Too easy.) And Ellenburg makes her think of an old Victorian town. 'Cause the only thing sexier than an old timey colonial town is an old timey Victorian town. But I know why Lerangis put that in--I get the feeling that nothing gets Ann M.'s juices flowing so much as references to old timey things. (Well. That and tea cosy collections.)
  • Wes tells the kids to call him Wes. Way to reach out to the rebels without causes, futures, or taste. What next, are you going to sit in a backward chair while talking about how much you love current music, and wear sneakers with a suit and tie? Then Wes says, "'This is something I've always wanted to do. Teaching, I mean--not sweating nervously.'" After that, the girls are practically standing in their desks (no, NOT hurling undergarments--screaming, "O Captain! My Captain!" you pervs). Finally, when one of the class clowns, Irv, puts on a fake accent and pretends not to be able to understand a concept, Wes goes, "'South of France...And not too bad. Can you do German?'" And then the boys are also on their desks. (No, this time they are hurling undergarments. What? He is a Tom Cruise look alike!)
  • Stacey takes special pains doing her math homework for Wes. They're word problems and she write out the answers in full sentences. She even puts some jokes in so he won't think she's a total nerd. Yeah, Stacey, no one who manages to make math jokes could possibly be considered nerdy. (Somewhere, Randall Munroe is deciding whether or not to track you down, rip up your little math jokes, and co-opt them for himself.)
  • After one class, Wes looks overwhelmed by the paperwork on Mr. Z's desk. Stacey commiserates, and then Wes smiles all charming-like and asks Stacey to stay and help him organize and she's ecstatic. Then Ted Bundy pulled up looking all puppy doggish and Stacey melted and said, okay, she'd help him hide all the heads that have been accumulating in his apartment, but only if he gives her a ride to the next BSC meeting.
  • Actually, Stacey is a teensy bit disappointed that old Kotter didn't ask her for anything beyond just staying and helping out. "One step at a time. Let it build. First paper-sorting, then maybe a walk home, then a date for lunch at the mall. Then Acapulco." Cool, then maybe then you introduce him to your friends, you go for a few dates at the Rosebud Cafe, who knows? Few years down the line and you can come visit him at Sing Sing every weekend after the weekly brunch where you, Villi and the other brainwashed statutory rape victims out there petition the state to release your lovers.
  • The second time round, Wes apparently needs help because Mr. Kingbridge wants Wes's W4 form and he doesn't know where it is. Stacey stays behind to help him yet again. (The fuck? Where the hell is she going to help him find the W4? Down his pants?) Actually, she helps tabulate the grades of the other kids in the class (their names are covered, but can anyone say, inappropriate?) Stacey also learns Wes's social security number and his birthday. Okay, Wes, this sounds like a really great plan. Next let's go throw a tea party and invite Jodie Foster and specify that her plus one is John Hinckley. Honestly, the minute I start teaching How to Avoid Your Stalker 101, Mr. Ellenburg is my first student. (It's a great class. Both I Shot Andy Warhol and Eminem's Stan are on the syllabus--how pop culturally relevant can you get?)
  • Stacey thinks that Wes prefers dresses to pants and resolves to wear skirts to school when she has class with him. She also mentally celebrates Wes and her "one week anniversary" after the first week of his student teaching is up. Okay, instead of more snark, can you just picture me doing the Sideshow Bob shudder every time Stacey says or does something boneheaded or stupid? Please? Oh, fine, back to snark.
  • The girls seriously talk about the age difference and how much it'll affect the relationship when Stacey's, say, out of college and Wes is...I don't know, shopping for Life Alert. For someone so utterly wholesome, Ann M. Martin is really good at coming up with scenarios that most men usually get on the Internet.
  • Stacey mentions that she has a brief fantasy where she and Wes are Heidi and Peter in the Alps. (I'd say that Ann and Lerangis are officially out of touch with the thirteen year old psyche except that I had actual fantasies of a graphic nature involving the protagonists of The Shining and Rosemary's Baby.) Besides, I bet Stacey's not the only BSC member having that kind of fantasy. I bet Jessi is, too, only it's Heidi and Seal at a white trash wedding. Though thinking of Heidi Klum made me rethink my mockery of Stacey. Maybe I'm wrong. Can't lederhosen be sexy?

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No. No, it can't. Now I'm off to scrub my brain clean and go fantasize about Captain Von Trapp some more.
  • Stacey writes Wes a poem. Oh, the poem. The second stanza reads: "But Fortune moves in strangest ways/It lengthens night, it shortens days./May this night end, and day begin/And bring two young people back again." (Note: the original words in the last verse were, "And bring two lovers back again.") I have a feeling that this poem is the most frightening thing in the world for a male teacher to read from one of his students. Or, well, it would be if Wes were an English teacher and had to explain that "begin" and "again" don't technically rhyme. And this reminds me of my brief but memorable stint at helping underprivileged kids in Harlem back when I was in college. (Yeah...turns out? Photocopying 12 year old girls' love poems to Jay-Z and writing a MSTK line by line snarkmentary of it in the teachers' lounge? Not cool.)
  • After reading the poem, Wes looks freaked. He starts to shake and cough just like that old man in that book by Nabakov and heads out, mumbling that he has to go read up on the McMartin case go to a staff meeting. Aww. I'd like to take a minute here to say that when I was younger, I felt that way about a teacher, too, and I gave him a poem, only I didn't write it--I copied (as in photocopied) a poem from the library, and it was Sylvia Plath's Daddy, and I got yelled at for plagiarizing such a weird poem and was sent to the counselor's office. Well, as I said, I'd like to say that happened--it would make a great ice breaker at dinner parties.
  • Charlotte Johanssen has a crush on a boy, too. She tells him how she feels and then he starts following her around, bugging the crap out of her. Stacey sympathizes but thinks to herself that some girls have all the luck, since she isn't getting anywhere with Wes. And you know who else really has all the luck? Jodie Foster's character in The Accused, Ned Beatty in Deliverance, and Indiana Jones in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I hereby nominate Stacey to be a rape counselor when she gets to high school (hey, if Brenda "Kelly, you ignorant slut" Walsh could, sort of, do it, so can Stacey).
  • At the dance, Wes is chaperoning. Stacey asks him to dance, and he accepts. Turns out he's a great dancer--"His moves were natural but not super smooth. He had great rhythm but no fancy footwork." Yeah, yeah, he's got Ben Vereen's grace, but in the body of Brad Pitt, and he craps rainbows that taste like ice cream but won't send you into diabetic shock--we get it. Then he asks her for another dance. (Ugh.)
  • After, Wes wants to sit out the next dance and Stacey says, "'But the next dance might not be so...slow.'" Okay, and that line totally trumps, "Benjamin...will you unzip my dress" in my list of cringe-worthy come ons. Especially since that last one did work. (What? She got her dress unzipped!)
  • Then Stacey feels bad because Maverick tells her he's less into the Charlie Blackwood type and more into Goose...or, um, you know, that he doesn't like-like her. But according to Wes, she's a, "'brilliant, talented, attractive girl'" and it's not that he doesn't like her but she's way too young. Oh, Wes, you may be great at breaking up with girls, and I bet back in college (you know, your two year college with a Master's program?), you've got a whole slew of girls whom you've dumped carefully but who still hang around you hoping you'll bestow them the honor of a booty call at a later date, but you really suck at making your boundaries clear to your sort of students. How about not going all Hungry Eyes with girls who have sent you love poems, for starters?
  • Sam, Stacey's sort of kind of boyfriend, had asked Stacey to the (middle school) dance because he heard about it from Kristy and thought it would be fun. She told him no, saying that she was already going with another guy ('cause what if Wes asks her to dance!). After Wes lets her down, she sees Sam at the dance with another girl. (I'll remind the reader that Sam is 15 and in high school.) Is there an excised scene where Sam goes speed dating at Stoneybrook's maternity ward?
  • I like to imagine there's a touching little scene at the end, reminiscent of one of my favorite TV episodes of all time, where Stacey's walking away and Wes hands her a little note and says this is all she needs to know if she feels bad about herself. And she opens it and it says, "You are Stacey McGill" "Temporary Restraining Order."
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  • The subplot involves little Elvira. She's a baby goat that lives on a farm (owned by the Stones) in Stoneybrook. (I love that one minute Stoneybrook's a vibrant metropolis with a community dance program that according to Jessi is practically off Broadway, and the next minute we're humming Green Acres and wondering if we accidentally butchered Arnold.) Mr. and Mrs. Stone go out of town for three weeks and leave their pet kid with Mary Anne and Dawn. It's a lot more entertaining than when Dawn's relatives left their daughter Amy. Plus there's a lot more details about Elvira getting loose, eating garbage, and then vomiting it up. (Since this book was written post Jessi and the Awful Secret, I kept waiting for there to be some kind of intervention and a note at the end from Ann M. telling us about how bad bulimia is. But no dice.)
  • Speaking of the note from Ann at the end (you know, the note that's always about some experience she had that relates to the book), I was aching to see who it was that Ann was crushing on. Y'know, Lucy or Ethel? Ginger or Mary Anne? Jan or Marcia Marcia Marcia? But no, she just wrote about how she used to teach elementary school and that inspired her to go into children's book publishing and write books for kids.
Ye gods, this was one icky book to reread, and I say that as someone who's read both Teletubbie BDSM themed erotica and Full House slash.