Thursday, June 11, 2009

BSC #37: Dawn and the Older Boy

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At Kristy's house, Dawn meets Travis, a sixteen year old friend of Kristy's brother Charlie, who just moved to Connecticut from California. She falls for him and he hangs out with her a couple of times, buys her some presents, and gives her some fashion tips, which she follows to the letter. Dawn's mother and stepfather are understandably skeeved by this (thank you, some marginally responsible parenting at long last). Then one day, Dawn hears from Kristy that Travis has a new girlfriend, Sara, and she's devastated. She even follows Travis on one of his dates and tries to confront him, but ends up looking stupid. In the end, she phones Travis to tell him off. (And this, Travis, is why you don't pay any attention to your friend's little sister's friends.)

Sideplot. Eight year old James Hobart (of the Australian Hobarts) is putting on a play called Little Dog Lost with his two younger brothers, Matthew and Johnny, Myriah and Gabbie Perkins, and their dog Chewy. Chewy plays a lost dog and Myriah wanders through a shopping mall trying to find his owner. I'd say this was an abysmal failure of a play but then I realized that this can't be much worse than Pal Joey on Broadway. Zach, a douchey neighborhood boy, picks on James for putting on a play and hanging out with girls instead of doing cool American boy things like playing sports. James puts on his play despite Zach's teasing, but after the play is put on, Zach drags James off to play instead of letting him talk to his adoring fans.
  • The cover. Oh, the cover. Dawn stares adoringly at a scary looking man on the cover as children romp in the foreground. I peer closely at the man because despite his scariness he looks sort of familiar. ("Aaron Eckhart? Is that you? Get out of that Two-Face get-up and into my car away from the underage girl.") What illustrator Hodges Soileau forgot to draw in: Chris Hansen saying, "Why don't you take a seat right over there?" to Friend Travis.
  • Why does no one ever ask Travis, "What bring you to Stoneybrook?" Probably because the answer would be, "Oh, well, I wasn't very welcome there. You know. Since the incident." Of course most men hoping to escape extradition run away to France, not Connecticut, and most of them are smart enough not to re-establish relationships with thirteen year olds, but oh well.
  • Fashion alert. At the slumber party at Kristy's place, Claudia holds a white hoop earring up to her face and asks Dawn if she thinks it's too much. Since it's about the size of a doorknob, Dawn says yes. It's 1993, if anything, that's understated. Since the same conversation takes place later between Dawn and Sara, my theory is this is Ann M. Martin's way of showing how much she disapproves of gaudy earrings and how all girls should, if they have to, only wear plain gold studs. Or sheep, if they're in.
  • Dawn's uber excited because she feels like Travis is her soulmate. Why? Because Travis tells Dawn that he used to live on the ocean back in Sunny Cali and that he loved taking long walks on the beach. Dawn gapes, "'You did? We didn't live on the ocean, but I used to take long walks, too.'" Later, Travis and Dawn bond over a shared hatred of Mondays, an appreciation for Lite FM radio, and a love of "Everybody Loves Raymond" ("It's so...bland, so...inoffensive!" "I know!").
  • Dawn crushing on Travis: "...I have never met anyone whose feelings were so close to my own. We could have been twins." Who ghostwrote this one? The spirit of V.C. Andrews?
  • A few days after Dawn meets Travis, he shows up at her pad to hang out. There, he talks non stop about himself, constantly interrupting Dawn. Dawn: "So I guess you like Stoneybrook High-" Travis: "You bet!...The first day I was there, I was invited to join five clubs. Five!...And once they found out I play soccer and tennis...they drafted me on the spot." Dawn says something, but Travis doesn't seem to listen. Speak up, Dawn, he can't hear you! He's too awesome.

  • Travis convinces Dawn that she should cut a few inches off her hair to give it more "lift." He brings her some haircombs and a blue necklace, and also tells her that she should wear blue a lot to bring out her eyes. Then Travis rips off his face mask to reveal the heads of both Clinton Kelly and Stacey London, and doesn't Dawn know that she should buy mom-jeans that fit the widest part of her and get them tailored where necessary and wear plenty of A-line blouses to emphasize her waist?
  • Instead of going, "Don't call me baby!" Dawn waits demerely until Travis has left. Time to go rewrite the SCUM Manifesto? The minute he's gone, Dawn runs inside and screams, "'Mary Anne!...Get a brush and some scissors. We have work to do!'"
  • Then after school one day, Claudia invites the other girls over for ice cream and homemade applesauce (something sugarless for Stacey). Stacey says no because she has to go study so Claudia turns to Dawn, asking her if she wants to come. Dawn is thinking about lying because she doesn't want to be rude about turning down the ice cream. (The fuck? You can just have the old-person food!) Besides, Claudia knows you want to marry a carrot. It's not like she offered you baby veal heads on a stick and cackled about how there was literally nothing "healthy" for you to eat. (Okay, I know Claud would never do that--it's a personal fantasy of my own.) Crisis averted: Travis shows up and asks her if she'd like to go shopping with him downtown for a present for his dad. And by dad you mean probation officer, right, sir Skeevesalot?
  • Later, they go to Burger Bite. Travis takes away Dawn's menu, putting his hands over hers to indicate he knows what they'll both have. I expect Dawn to break out into a resounding chorus of You Don't Own Me but instead, Dawn worries over what he'll order for her. She's afraid that he'll order burgers and that she'll have to choke down red meat and then vomit it up later in the bathroom to avoid displeasing him. Dawn further revokes her feminist card by being so relieved that Travis only orders grilled cheese sandwiches that she practically hurls her hemp jockey shorts at him. Oh, so you only make rude remarks about disgusting processed cheese and cow carcasses to lowly waitstaff, not to skeevey blond pedos.
  • When Dawn gets home, she's busted. Mary Anne told Sharon and Richard about her date with Travis. They think the whole thing is creepy. Sharon softens when Dawn tells her that Travis is from California, saying, "''Maybe we're making too big a deal out of this.'" Oh, well, that's all right. Because if he were from Iowa, that would be weird. Richard (along with Sadako) just stares at them, like, the hell? Come on, guys, listen to the only person in the room likely to know the statutory rape laws for Connecticut.
  • Okay, so, according to Dawn, guys from Cali rule. Here's a list of guys Dawn would therefore find awesome:

Oh, sorry. You want the more stereotypical California boy.

  • Well, Dawn, you SAID you liked older California dudes. And to be fair, judging by the cover of Dawn and the Older Boy, it looks a lot like Dawn would go for the above pictured gentlemen. The guy on the book cover looks slightly more mummified. I have to confess (no, NOT that I have a thing for poor old Brian Wilson, bless his uber talented but mentally unstable soul), that I thought Richard was being a douchebag when I first read this. (I was nine, man!) Now I can't help thinking how he seems to be the only thing preventing Dawn and Mary Anne from being sold into white slavery. Ted Bundy himself could get his hands on any kids in Sharon's custody by saying, "It's cool, it's cool. I'm from Californy! Also, I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night."
  • Kristy mentions at a BSC meeting that Travis is seeing a high school girl. "'I don't know her name, but she's this fantastic looking girl who's captain of the swim team...'" There go any lingering doubts I had about Kristy's heterosexuality.
  • Dawn gets upset about Travis dating a new girl. Kristy points out that Travis never took Dawn on an actual date, so why is she going all Amy Fisher on him and his new girlfriend? Claudia points out, "'If somebody visits you at your house and brings you presents, it's like a date. And if they take you shopping after school, that's like a date, too.'" First off, don't feed Dawn's delusions after midnight. Second, really? So that means I've been on dates with my Uncle Richard, Aunt Miriam, and Santa Claus?
  • Dawn wonders what the new girl has that she doesn't have, since Travis must have found Dawn attractive, too. Gee, maybe the peace of mind that comes from not pulling an Erroll Flynn?
  • When Dawn stalks Travis and Sara (the new girlfriend) and then confronts them, Travis is pretty relaxed about it. He introduces Dawn to Sara and Sara goes, "Dawn Schafer...the little girl you told me about...I'm sure you've turned her into a real beauty, Travis.'" So Travis told his girlfriend about how he tried to make over a thirteen year old girl, and she thinks it's awesome? Either she's just come from a lobotomy appointment or Travis is dating the Marquise de Mertreuil (that's the Glenn Close character in Dangerous Liaisons for you non-literary folks, and the Sarah Michelle Gellar character from Cruel Intentions for you younger folks).
  • I'm sure most of you remember the part where Dawn responds, "'I was already a beauty!'" Slow down there, Schafer. Take a deep breath, put down the bunny, and walk away.
  • At the end of the James Hobart subplot, James lets Zachary pull him away after the play. Mary Anne makes a comparison in the club notebook between James's situation and the Dawn/Travis thing (Zach trying to change James like Travis with Dawn). There's no satisfying conclusion where James tells Zach off. Odd, because the BSC isn't known for its David Chase-esque lack of closure. My theory is that Ann M. really wanted to put in a "Karen being all imaginative chapter," and there just wasn't enough space for a chapter where James Learns an Important Lesson. So I like to imagine that at some point, not shown in the book, Zachary's all, "Comb the sweet tarts out of your beard and lose the accent, Croc," and James responds, "Don't try to change me, baby!"
  • Mary Anne explains that Travis is no good for Dawn, asking Dawn if she remembers My Fair Lady. "I saw it a long time ago. We rented it once." "Then I guess you remember the story. You know how proper Professor Higgins turns Eliza Doolittle...into his 'fair lady'?" Mary Anne says she hated that, and it dawns on Dawn that she's become a mini Stepford gal. Let's make this SLIGHTLY more realistic.
Mary Anne: "Dawn, do remember Grease?"

Dawn: "Sure, we rented it when Peter Lerangis was ghostwriting and Ann M. was away at a knitting convention so she couldn't disapprove."

Mary Anne: "Then I guess you remember the story. You know how John Travolta prefers Olivia Newton-John when she's an overly made up skank with black leather spray on pants?"

Dawn: "Not really. I was eyeing Jeff Conaway's package the whole time. Wait, are you saying Travis would like me better if I wore leather pants? To the mall!"
  • Towards the end, the BSC members discuss how Dawn told Travis off. Dawn starts to smile while Kristy says something and they ask her what's up. She says that Travis needs a few fashion tips of his own--like she should have told Travis to lose the stonewashed jeans (Dawn, you hussy!). Stacey says that Dawn would have been wasting her breath, as she makes a mental note to hide her own stonewashed denim dresses before the next sleepover party at her house. Sidenote, these aren't stonewashed, but can't you totally see Stacey wearing them?

  • At the end, Mary Anne and Logan play matchmaker and try to get Dawn to write to Lewis, Logan's hayseed cousin from Louisville. They correspond to each other, and Dawn concludes that Lewis isn't so bad. Hmmm. He's a Southern bumpkin with a heart of gold. She's an insecure vegan wannabe. They fight crime. There's actually a follow up to this book, Dawn's Big Date, where Dawn meets Lewis and makes an ass out of herself. Yes, an even bigger ass than she was in this book. I really want to recap it now.
In conclusion, I don't blame Dawn for dropping everything for a guy. However, what pisses me off is that Ann M. markets her as being the Individual BSC member, the one who's not afraid to take a stand and eat some tofu, when in actuality, she has about as much individuality and feminist spirit as a Spice Girl. And not one of the marginally talented ones like Geri Halliwell. I'm thinking more like Baby Spice.