Sweet Valley Narrow

So, remember how when you were younger you used to read Sweet Valley High books and feel kind of terrible about yourself because of the constant insistence on how Jessica and Elizabeth were a “perfect size 6″?

Well, I guess Random House felt bad that size 6 teenagers were being denied the profound sense of failure that comes with seeing “perfect” juxtaposed with a size you can’t achieve. So in their re-released versions, the twins are a “perfect size 4.” After all, you’ve got to up the ante sometimes or girls get complacent. We can’t have the size sixes thinking they’ve achieved perfection — you can’t even get a modeling gig at that size, you cow!

Can’t wait to read about how they write down everything they eat and leave themselves notes saying “what will the scale say in the morning?” Gotta combat that there CHILDHOOD OBESITY!

132 thoughts on “Sweet Valley Narrow

  1. Right, because shaming people is SUCH an effective way of changing people- which is ironic because you can’t change your weight.

    What is it? I would have much rather read about real girls who weren’t all tan and blonde and looked like ME. Dealth with issues more like I did (although that might not have made for the world’s most exciting reading…)

    I read SVH and the size 6 girls didn’t make me thin, or tan, or blonde. Maybe size 4 would have made a difference. (j/k)

  2. I used to work in a used toy/clothing store for children, and when my work was all used up, and the boss was away, I’d sit in the book section (at the tiny plastic table) and read something ANYTHING to pass the time. While I found a few gems (like Coraline) it was mostly discarded drivel such as the Babysitter’s Club and yep.. Sweet Valley High. The emphasis on the twin’s perfection just killed me- I would have loved to throw them all away, just to stop some other poor kid from being warped into thinking they were so much less than fictional twin starlets.

    See, in my experience, girls have a particularly thick-skin when they’re VERY young when it comes to media “perfection”. When I was six years old, I didn’t yearn to have Ariel’s tiny waist and perky teen breasts. Sure, I wanted to be her, but she was SO PRETTY! A princess, you know? And at that point I had all the confidence that I would be that magically perfect some day. But by the time kids are reading these trashy, simple novels of dippy kid romance, they’ve probably come to the conclusion that this really isn’t achievable. That short of some chemicals, they won’t have silky blonde hair. That they’re not built to be a slender little whisp of a girl with sparking eyes and a dazzling smile.

    That was rambling, and nothing that hasn’t been said before. Uh- to sum it up: SWEET VALLEY HIGH BAAAAAD.

  3. Maybe they’re correcting for Vanity Sizing. How old are those books? A Size 6 has probably grown a couple sizes since then and would be equivalent to maybe a 2 now.

    Still, that doesn’t mean they should promote such vanity in pre-teen kids.

  4. Seriously, isn’t “they were blonde and slender” enough detail? It’s just asking for size 6, 8, and 10 (and up) girls to wonder if they’re not slim enough.

  5. Midsize Lurker, FJ and I were talking about that possibility, but then, you know, why not just not describe their damn weight altogether? Despite knowing just about everything that Claudia Kishi ever wore, for instance, I have no idea how much she weighed.

    *grumble*

    (Totally ranting at the books, not at you, btw.)

  6. This is weird…last weekend I helped my parents clean out their attic, and found a giant box of books, with my SVH (ok, and when I was in elementary school I read the Twins), and just looking at the covers made me remember how I used to wish I could look like them.

    Seriously, I am pathetic for remembering this, but there was one book where a fat girl that always got made fun of started running five miles a morning and lost a bunch of weight and was voted the homecoming queen. (she started out the year wearing “tent dresses”…I always wondered what those were). Anyway, I wanted to be her, too…

  7. SM: it’s true! I can describe all the Baby-Sitters in vivid detail (Claudia with a high side ponytail, mismatched tights and earrings, eating stashed candy … wait a minute, why didn’t she ever stash doughnuts?!), with no mention of their weight – although I think Stacey was always very thin, but this was often mentioned as a concern (due to her diabetes), not a virtue.

  8. OMG, I just remember the slogan that some boys in the book had for the fat girl once she was “hot”: “Robin has us throbbin”. Which, now that I am older, is pretty gross.

  9. Thanks for taking this one, FJ.

    Seriously, isn’t “they were blonde and slender” enough detail? It’s just asking for size 6, 8, and 10 (and up) girls to wonder if they’re not slim enough.

    Word.

  10. Robin! I remember her. Whenever she ran into the twins, she was always eating a candy bar or stuffing her face, until she started working out and suddenly became beautiful and popular (and a cheerleader, if I recall correctly. The trifecta!) I remember one book where she developed an eating disorder for fear of re-gaining the weight, and I remember as a fat kid, not really getting the message that eating disorders were bad, but that it really was true that being thin would get you what you wanted. The fact that they’re now changing the sister’s sizes from 6 to 4 is just…saddening and infuriating. So many asses in need of kicking for this.

  11. I think why they’re supposed to be slender is becuase they represent a fantasy of looking “perfect,” and that kids are maybe supposed to identify with them and imagine themselves being the twins and having that perfect fantasy beauty, rather than dwell on their own miserable lives and their own flaws. But not all kids will think in such a positive way. And it only serves to reinforce a very narrow, culturally defined, cosmetic-product-selling standard of what perfect fantasy beauty is – extremely Eurocentric and Skinny-centric. Fat kids, average-sized kids, dark-haired kids, dark-eyed kids and (genetically) dark-skinned kids all get the message that their fantasy selves should be these skinny suntanned blue-eyed blonde white 16-year-olds, rather than, say, anything remotely resembling their real selves.

    I’m reminded of when a friend told me about this video game where all the girls make their character avatars these tiny little 5-foot 80-pound waifs. I told the friend that if I played that video game, I’d like to go in with a 5 foot 7, 200-pound (i.e., proportioned like my older sister) avatar just to spite them all.

  12. SM: omg, I have never seen that site before. I now have a new procrastinating tool (as if I didn’t have enough before, and finals in a week to boot!).

  13. I usually never comment here, but this just is too much. We are shrinking the size of our fictional role models??? WTF. Seriously. No wonder as a teen I beat myself up for being the tall, thick, naturally beautiful, woman I was (and am).

    This infuriates me.

  14. aaaaaaaa another thing to worry about….

    I read Trixie Belden, I don’t remember much about weight, just freckles, and the Nancy Drew books were extreamly interesting when I found old ones at a flea market that had the spunkier Nancy in em I plan on getting those for my daughter to read first before she reads the watered down modern ones. But I never even thought of the danger in the eating weight body issue realm in the fluffy books AAAAAAAAAAAAA

  15. Aren’t junior sizes odd numbers? Isn’t it weird that high school girls would wear even numbered clothing? I’d think they would shop in the junior section. I was at Target today and saw cute shorts in the junior section as I was passing from pharmacy to checkout. But then I remembered that junior sizes are made for girls who haven’t yet developed hips. Or am I completely off on that one? I remember wearing 9 and 11 through high school, and switching to even numbered sizes when those sizes started to creep up to 14 and 16 my freshman year of college.

    But on topic – even if 20 years ago a size 6 is today’s size 2, why can’t they leave it alone? What’s wrong with having a story about girls who are size 6? Or 16? or 26? I know, I’m preaching to the choir here.

  16. Amazing. You On our girls’ quests to conquer perfect, it’s “good” to know that they’ve put it just a little bit more out of reach.

    I think it’s particularly hilarious that the Sweet Valley High MySpace (I know, don’t ask) has this to say in the “about me” section: “Elizabeth: I tend to play down my looks. I’m most comfortable in khaki shorts and a polo shirt, with my long blond hair pulled back in a barrette or practical ponytail. Maybe it is because I think who a person is inside and what she does is more important than how she looks.”

    BTW- They have “312 My Space Friends” :)

    http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=19803555

    How do you think Miss Elizabeth feels about loosing a size?

    Here’s Robin’s description: Robin Wilson, according to her description was the “overweight girl who later lost weight and became a cheerleading co-captain”

    - Dr. Robyn

  17. OJD: Yup, you’re right about the sizing: Women’s clothing is even numbered and juniors’ is odds. If I remember correctly, children’s clothing is generally even numbered, so perhaps that’s why they stuck with even numbers. But regardless, if you’re going to change everything for vanity sizing, why use the wrong sizing system?

  18. When I was a teenager , I found some teen stores carried odd numbered sizes, others carried even number sizes and some of them would just have 7/8 or 9/10 on the tags. I never noticed much difference between a 9, a 10 or a 9/10. Even now that I’m an adult, some of the more “grownup” shops I shop in carry odd numbered sizes – I think Reitman’s makes most clothes in odd numbers but some in even numbers. Once again, I haven’t noticed much difference between a 15 and a 16.

  19. onejewishdyke – yeah! I remember jr sizes being odd numbers too (5, 7, 9, 11, 13, etc.). I just assumed that numbering scheme had been dropped at some point when I wasn’t paying attention.

    I hate that they even thought of making ‘perfect size 6′ into ‘perfect size 4′. It made me think of ‘Devil Wears Prada,’ when perfect Anne Hathaway gets called a cow for wearing size 6. Granted, in ‘DWP’ we’re supposed to be appalled, but this tends to bear out the notion that people (especially girls and young women) really don’t think size 6 is quite perfect enough anymore.

    Just how much has vantiy sizing upped sizes? When I was little and my sister was in high school, I remember her being all proud of getting into size 7 jeans. She was anorexic at the time and weighed maybe 110 pounds.

  20. I’m starting to become glad I never these books. I was always too busy with, like, The American Girl books and Charles Dickens and whatever.

    I was a weird kid. I had a college reading level by age 9, and it’s only now that I’m starting to realise how screwed up that made me.

    ANYWAY – via mistletow: While I found a few gems (like Coraline)

    THEY’RE MAKING CORALINE INTO A MOVIE! WITH CLAYMATION!!! AND IN 3D!!! AND GUESS WHO’S DOING THE MUSIC?

    THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS! MY FAVOURITE BAND!

    *will never stop being excited*

  21. Karla, that is hilarious.

    Mindy, I remember a few years ago having a conversation with a friend about Nancy Drew, and suddenly lightbulbs went off in my head. Oh! Bess was fat and George was a dyke! I get it! It made me happy.

  22. Thanks for taking this one, FJ.

    To the extent that I took it; I figured most of the content would have to be in comments, since I didn’t read SVH. :)

    I think why they’re supposed to be slender is becuase they represent a fantasy of looking “perfect,” and that kids are maybe supposed to identify with them and imagine themselves being the twins and having that perfect fantasy beauty, rather than dwell on their own miserable lives and their own flaws.

    Has this ever in the history of teenagers ever happened anywhere ever in the world?

    Okay, maybe once or twice. But if I were writing young adult novels, I’d have to fucking drink myself into a stupor every night if this were my rationale.

  23. “I’m starting to become glad I never these books” —> “I’m starting to become glad I never read these books.”

    Feh. Proofreading is for losers.

  24. I don’t think I ever wanted to look like the SVH twins but for some reason, that “perfect size 6″ phrase has stuck in my head for the past .. what… 17 years or something? There’s just something so catchphrase-y and wrong about “perfect size 6.” Even then, I thought it was a weird way to describe someone.

  25. Just how much has vantiy sizing upped sizes?

    I hate, hate, hate the term vanity sizing. But to answer your question, 30 years ago my mom had a 28″ waist and wore a size 9/10 pant. 10 years ago I had a 28″ waist and wore a size 5/6 pant. Today, my sister has a 28″ waist and wears a size 3/4 pant. (Yeah, the genetic tendency in our family is to start out quite thin and get fatter as we get older). So, quite a bit. I remember when my mom saw my size 5 pants and said: “Size 5?! When I was a girl, nobody wore size 5!” Yeah, that’s because size 5 then was more like a size 0 today!

  26. To Fillyjonk: I don’t know how common it is for teenagers to enjoy fantasizing about being conventionally beautiful rather than feel bitter about how “ugly” they are, but I know one young woman who said that she had a tendency to fantasize about herself being beautiful and having passionate relationships, based on her youthful habit of reading romance novels. Of course, she also went on to complain about and try to change and control what she thought were her bodily flaws. So, perhaps young women do a little of both when they read these things. (I almost never read novels except for school. And I can’t remember any where the weights or body sizes of the heroines were mentioned in those school novels. Usually the focus was on hair color, hair texture, and skin color.)

  27. Ah, yes, the twins. I mostly read the “SVT” series as a kid, but later started into the “High’ series before abandoning them all together. In every book there had to be at least a paragraph-long description of their long blonde hair (with different styling choices), peaches and cream skin, slim bodies, aqua eyes, and golden tans. The thing that always made me jealous was that they were two of the most popular kids in school, even the supposedly geeky Elizabeth. I always identified with Elizabeth’s kindness, goals, and intelligence, but could never figure out why she had so many friends and I didn’t (possibly because she was fictional?). ;)

    Along the fat-girl-losing-weight-turning-cheerleader thing, there was another book in the “Twins” series which featured a very unpopular boy–forget the name right now. Throughout the book, he gets a haircut, starts wearing designer clothes, and by the end is completely unrecognizable and super-popular. The description pays particular attention to all the attention he was now getting from the ladies. The message: just wear expensive clothes and conform to cultural norms, and everybody will like you!

    The whole Elizabeth/Jessica thing also reminds me of some of the recent discussion going on about privilege and choice. There was always the dichotomy to where Jessica was stuck-up and snobby (although, of course, “good at heart”), while Elizabeth was practically the Jesus of the school, befriending all the poor, the ugly, the unpopular, etc., despite her own popularity.

    Although of course it was nice that Elizabeth would always deign to hang out with the outcasts, it never was at any risk to herself–she was already popular and well-liked, “perfect” and sized 8/6/4 as she was. The high school discrimination was always indirect and passive, experienced by someone else, an opportunity to paint black and white “Elizabeth gooood”, “Jessica baaaad” scenarios, without the girls ever having to experience it themselves. Therefore it could be ignored for chapters or even books at a time, brought forward briefly whenever there was a point to be made, and then forgotten again so that we could focus on the perfect girls and their superficial problems again.

    Occasionally the girls (usually Elizabeth) would actually “solve” the problem, and make the person popular, which as we all know is the end to all problems, right? It was the perfect example of the smug attitude that all discrimination issues can end once a benevolent whitey/man/hetero, etc. puts their mind to the task. All the oppressed has to do is sit around and suffer until they are gotten to.

    And seriously, five miles *every morning*? No teenage girl should be doing that to herself.

  28. For me, the Brady Bunch (SVH for geezers) was my form of “you’re not cute and blonde enough” subteen torture. But I remember tormenting myself more about never getting to have their OMG hair or their little snub noses or their wispy girly voices and perky personalities than about being as skinny as they were. I don’t remember being that body conscious below the neck until I was maybe 11. Probably even if Marcia or Jan had said they were a size whatever, it wouldn’t have registered with me at age 8 or 9. I had no idea what “size” anyone wore. But I already had enough to dislike myself for without knowing that.

    Which is my way of saying that it’s not so much about the books or TV shows themselves, but about how they reinforce the greater culture. Presumably by the time these books were out, girls ages 8 and 9 DID know what sizes everyone wore, and therefore had something to freak out about if their adult-sized clothing exceeded the SVH numbers. OTOH, just being blonde and perfect and popular is enough to beat yourself up about just by itself, if you know you can never be that.

  29. I’m almost 41, so the Sweet Valley High books were after my time, for which I’m glad. I have always been taller than average and fairly big framed, even though I wasn’t fat. By the time I was 14 I was already 5’8″, and I felt terribly self-conscious that my clothing size was larger and my weight was higher than the other girls. Never mind that I was 5 or 6 inches taller than most of my classmates, I longed to be petite and willowy (I still feel that way sometimes). A book series where the cool popular heroines were so explicitly small would have just made me feel worse.

    (Also, in the department stores around here in SoCal, the junior sizes are always odd numbers, while the misses sizes are evens. Maybe the Sweet Valley girls dress maturely for their age?)

  30. I am way too old for the SVH books, but my daughters read them.

    Were we the only ones who called the series “Silly Valley High?”

  31. I was a huge fan of these books when I was in elementary and middle school, but when they started doing the special editions where Elizabeth got kidnapped by Carl, the psycho-obsessed orderly, and Elizabeth and Jessica learned they had twin ancestors from the pioneer days, and they started getting Nancy Drew on me, I totally lost interest. I think the books were more interesting when they focused on other characters and the sisters were in the background.

    Also, I kept getting tired of Jessica being the Mary Sue of the series. She could have become a serial killer and she still would have been Miss Popular.

    Oh, and a size 6 is NOT FAT PEOPLE! UGH!!!!!!!

  32. Just stumbled onto your site. Love it!

    Thank goodness I have a son who (hopefully) won’t care what size he is when he’s older. Which brings up another point: Men’s sizes! Can you just picture a couple of guys talking about how they wish they could fit into their size 4′s?

  33. OK, so we’re all annoyed, a whole buncha’ mad people! So what are we gonna’ do about it?

    Isn’t this a perfect opportunity for a letter writing campaign? Let’s write to the publisher and say EXACTLY what you’ve all said above!

    Contact info:

    Random House
    Children’s Publishing
    1745 Broadway, 10th Floor
    New York, NY 10019

  34. I knew there was a reason why I hated SVH as a kid. I preferred the Baby-Sitter’s Club.

    I guess they have to start teaching self-loathing while their audience is young.
    *headdesk*

  35. Yet another reason why nobody should be buying that gender-oriented, mind-rotting pap for their kids in the first place, With or with a ‘perfect size4′ those books are just shit and always have been. Go buy some Philip Pullman or some Alan Garner instead.

  36. Granted, in ‘DWP’ we’re supposed to be appalled

    I don’t think we’re supposed to be ‘appalled’ in Devil Wears Prada . . . if we were, then why are we supposed to be so happy for her when she starves herself to a size 4 by the end of the movie?

    Sorry. I hated that movie.

    I’m also really bothered by vanity sizing, since I know someone who defines her entire self-image by the fact that she wears pants that say size 0, but when I look at her, I see about a size 4. What’s going to happen to her when she DOESN’T wear size 0 anymore? — oh, right, she’ll slip back into her anorexia and bulimia. :(

  37. I thank goodness that SVH didn’t exist when I was a kid. Of course, like Time-Machine I was reading victorian novels for fun and probably wouldn’t have read them if they’d been around, but I’m glad that the girls’ books I was reading for the most part were the Anne of Green Gables books. One of the things I’ve always loved was that Anne and her best friend Diana were both presented as extremely pretty, but in very different ways. Anne was tall and slender with red hair and grey eyes and seven freckles on her nose while Diana was shorter and ‘plump’ according to her ‘dimpled’ according to Anne with curly dark hair.

    Each thought the other prettier than herself which taught me early on that just because you think someone else is pretty doesn’t mean you aren’t. I think that’s a lesson we could all use now and again.

    Bah humbug to explicitly telling what size the heroine wears.

    Oh, and Anne and Diana both had much more to offer than being pretty. They were also flawed in ways that I could recognize as believable. I loved them dearly.

    But I also was reading War and Peace and loving Natasha in all her flighty glory, and reading Jane Eyre and learning that nice but not especially pretty women can also come out on top, and reading Pride and Prejudice and learning not to judge people by first impressions, no matter how much money they may have.

  38. I read the Sweet Valley books when I was a kid, before I found the awesomeness that is RL Stine and Christopher Pike. I was always just as irritated at the glowing descriptions of the twins’ long blonde hair and sea-green eyes as I was with their thinness.

  39. Twistie, my favorite part about the Anne books is how she always laments being skinny, and wishes she were chubby, like Diana.

    I read SVH when I was a kid, mostly because I read everything I could get my hands on when I was a kid, and mostly I just remember how Bruce Patman was the biggest douche in the history of douchedom, yet was still popular because he was rich. Also, Lila Fowler was a total asshole to Jessica, yet was still her best friend, because (you guessed it) she was rich! True though it may be, is it really necessary to teach children that you can do whatever you want and people will still like you as long as you are rich?

  40. Embarassingly, I once read part of a SVU book — Sweet Valley University, the sequel to the SVH books. The only thing that I remember about it is that Elizabeth “lets herself go” and becomes fat…. Sigh.

  41. Maybe the Sweet Valley girls dress maturely for their age

    Their age in the SVH (as opposed to SVT) series is 16, so I don’t have a problem with them wearing adult sizes. I sure was by then. (And I still occasionally wear a junior 2X at 33, so I don’t think there’s really a direct correlation between age and shopping in either the juniors’ or adults’ section.)

    And I love Anne of Green Gables. But I also loved SVH back in the day. Like Colleen said, I read everything.

  42. Anne of Green Gables was my role model. I had a freakin’ Anne of Green Gables themed bedroom for a while there.

    And I read basically everything as well – I just didn’t necessarily keep reading. I read all of one Babysitter’s Club book, and half of a SVH book before getting distracted by all the other books in the world – the ones that got me in trouble when I tried to give reports on them.

    I guess I was so advanced in reading (though I wasn’t aware of it at the time) that when I reached a reading level where I could read SVH-type books, I was too young to be interested in that sort of thing, and by the time I was old enough to start to get interested in clothes and boys (as boys, and not tree-climbing partners [only to get over that and then start being interested in them as people - because they are people, surprise, surprise]), SVH-style books seemed really easy and and I was all blasé about it.

    I did (and still do) read the Princess Diaries books, though. So I don’t know what that says about me. (And every time I read them I’m like OMG MIA! THIS IS SO INTENSE! WHAT WILL HER BOYFRIEND SAY AND WILL SHE EVER MAKE UP WITH WHOEVER SHE HAD AN ARGUMENT WITH THIS TIME?)

    And I didn’t stop reading Junie B. Jones until, like, 10th grade. Because then she went into first grade, and it was more fun when she was in kindergarten.

    …yeah.

    *shuffles away*

  43. I feel like I should quickly clarify that I think that all women, thin and fat, should love the bodies they were intended to have. I like it that Anne wishes she were chubby like Diana because it represents such a completely different attitude from what we see today. It totally gives the lie to the argument that “dude, evolution like totally made me only want to bang skinny chicks, okay? It’s a sign of health and fertility” when a hundred years ago (and even more recently), being chubby was seen as a sign of health and vitality.

  44. Stephanie, I felt like in the DWP book the message conveyed by the main character losing weight and conforming to Runway standards was a lot “darker” than it was in the movie. YMMV though. And I doubt if the author is 100% opposed to the size-0 and smaller “standard” in the plot; her attitude seems to be “what are you gonna do, it sucks to be a woman but these are the standards we have to conform to if we want to look good in our [whatever] jeans and our [whatever] shoes, which naturally everyone does want.”

    I bet it is the vanity sizing issue that caused them to drop the size to a 4. The SVH writers clearly have an ironclad picture of these characters in their heads and it is so depressing that this picture is so wedded to their size (as if it would mar the writers’ vision to have readers picturing the twins as “average-sized” vs. “unquestionably thin”). I agree with previous posters, the “perfect size 6″ description seemed sort of jarring even when I read the books as a kid. Come to think of it, everything about the twins’ description sounded a little stilted and weird–as an 11-year-old, do I really care that they drive a “Fiat Spider” or have “aqua” eyes? What a strange person the original writer of the series must be.

    I love Anne of Green Gables inordinately (every few years I reread the books) but even as a young girl, it was clear to me that Anne’s brand of beauty was supposed to be preferable to Diana’s. Like Diana was run-of-the-mill pretty, but Anne was the thinking man’s classic beauty, made all the more beautiful because she thought herself plain. (I’ll never forget the wording in some stupid article I read in YM chronicling how teenage models were “discovered,” where an agency rep ran down how a prospect would have to be this tall and this thin, and then he said “usually she is beautiful but doesn’t know it,” which seemed to elevate a lack of self-confidence to some kind of feminine virtue and make the whole thing about something more “noble” than just finding an effective clothes model.) The books certainly were much kinder about this than most others like them, though, and never caricatured or made fun of Diana. So I can’t really fault them too much.

    Hey, speaking of YM (which only I was, sorry) I also remember an article profiling ballerinas. It actually had a little sidebar entitled “Bird Food” (e.g. they “eat like birds”) where it listed a ballerina’s supposedly typical diet, stuff like tuna fish and vanilla yogurt. Of course I turned that one into a diet for a while, eating sparse quantities of the listed foods even though I didn’t like most of them. The pop culture that has been and continues to be available for consumption by girls and young women is just too depressing to contemplate for very long. Too bad Sassy came along after I had already been ingesting SVH, YM, etc. for way too long.

  45. Stephanie & spacedcowgirl:

    That’s interesting! I totally came away from DWP with the sense that giving in to the insane size 4 requirement was part of the the main character’s ‘fall.’ I just assumed she would be happily expanding back to her huge size 6 at some point after the story ended. But then again, I never read the book, and I saw the movie during a daylong cineplex spree in a record heatwave, so I may be mixing it up with ‘You, Me and Dupree’ (boy, was that a rancid movie).

    spacedcowgirl said:

    Hey, speaking of YM (which only I was, sorry) I also remember an article profiling ballerinas. It actually had a little sidebar entitled “Bird Food” (e.g. they “eat like birds”)

    Ugh!!! That is vile. Plus they know nothing about birds.

    How totally irresponsible to promote the ballerina’s diet in a girls’ magazine! It astonishes me how they can do what they do with no food, and it infuriates me that they are expected to. I can’t think of any other class of athletes who are expected to perform on so little.

  46. I never focused on their dress size, but was completely confused by their “matching gold lavalieres” that their parents gave them. Is this a common word in the US? I actually looked the word up after the 50th description and thought, “Why couldn’t they just say ‘pendants’?”

    Those books give a horrible image of male-female relationships, too: any guy who turns up is a potential boyfriend – prey to be lured but never pursued, because that wouldn’t be fitting. They have no male friends at all.

  47. Karla, I’m glad you said that, because I could have sworn I remembered the SVH girls’ “perfect size” being a size 8 as well. This was probably in 1988 or so. At this rate, in another 20 years it will be down to a “perfect size 0″ — and I wonder what they’ll do after that.

  48. “At this rate, in another 20 years it will be down to a “perfect size 0″ — and I wonder what they’ll do after that.”

    why, 00 of course. (which does, in fact exist.)

    as for vanity sizing… in 1999, i was able to wear size 3 jeans at 5’4″ and 60 lbs, without needing a belt. (they were definitely too big, but they weren’t going to drop straight to the floor, either). in 2008, a size 3 is too big for me probably better than 95% of the time, and i’m at least 30 lbs heavier now.

    i do find that juniors sizing tends to run in odd numbers, and “adult” sizing runs in even numbers. juniors’ garments tend to come smaller…i basically would never have problems finding pants to fit me in juniors, but the clothes are not appropriate for me to wear to work. in adults, i absolutely need a 0 or 00, or it just doesn’t fit. i often have better luck in children’s size 14 or 16.

  49. I remember that “perfect size 6″! Mostly because when I was reading those books, I was also a “perfect 6″ and only an inch or two shorter than the twins, and I didn’t understand why they were so thin and envied, and I was so fat, if we were the same size.

    My favourite YA books were this series whose name I cannot remember for the life of me – anyone else know it? It was about a girl called Margaret, and she was “homely” but awesome, and she had a horse. And I think she’d been sent out to the country because she had TB (they were either written or set back when that was a treatment). She wore her “homeliness” with pride and didn’t give a fuck. Anyone else read them?

  50. Right now, I am so glad I was raised reading Lovecraft.

    Let’s see them shrink Cthulhu’s dress size. I don’t fucking think so. Don’t make me go all non-Euclidean on your asses.

  51. Mindy – I remember Trixie worrying about her weight a little – because Honey was so perfect, but she got over it because she saw that Honey had been raised as a nervous little princess and she(Trixie) was happy and healthy. And Jim liked her just the way she was :) It’s been a long time since I read any of them though. They were just great. :)

  52. Maybe it’s because I’m not from the US, but I never noticed these things when I read SVH. Or, no, I did notice it, but just wasn’t bothered, because the book was about this exotic place called America, and I could never really relate to the stories, because it seemed such a different world.

    I must say, though, that although it’s horrible that sizes obviously matter even in books (what about the freedom of imagining a character as you like? that’s one of the best things about books, isn’t it?), I think the books published for girls in recent years are definitely worse than SVH: SVH is shallow, but now and then there was a minuscule message that outsiders are normal people, too (because of Elizabeth hanging out with them). And also, it ended often with decent Elizabeth being right, not Jessica. If you think of the books girls read nowadays, like Gossip girl, I think SVH is relatively innocent.

    But as I said, maybe the fact that I could hardly imagine a world like that when I was reading those books, and just enjoyed them because it seemed so exotic, I have a too positive memory of them :)

  53. WOW. And I totally used to devour these books as a kid, even though they did kind of make me feel rotten for not having “sun-kissed blond hair and eyes the color of the Pacific” and that whole perfect size six business. I think I learned basic grammar and spelling from reading trashy teen serials. Anything with a number on the front cover, I was THERE.

  54. Yet another reason why nobody should be buying that gender-oriented, mind-rotting pap for their kids in the first place, With or with a ‘perfect size4′ those books are just shit and always have been. Go buy some Philip Pullman or some Alan Garner instead.

    SURELY you can think of female authors who write good books for and about strong girls? The comment was doing so well until you said “Go buy some books by men instead.”

    (JKR, Susan Cooper, Rosemary Sutcliffe, B. Byars et al?)

  55. I like to read vintage YA fiction and in those books- a woman who is supposed to have a ‘perfect, trim figure” is often described as being a size 12. These books are usually from the 40′s and 50′s. Because of vanity sizing, I think a 12 back then was probably around what an 8 or 10 is today. But those were always women- the teen girls were much more defined by character. If they were seen as “perfect” it had more to do with behavior and habits. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a teen’s clothing size mentioned. Of course, if there’s a fat girl character, she’s a friendly gal who is everybody’s friend or someone who eats all the time and blames it on her glands.

  56. lc – of course I remember the Margaret series! They were among my favorite books as a kid as well. “Margaret in the Middle”, “A Place for Margaret”, and “Margaret on her Way” are, I think, the three books in the series by Bernice Thurman Hunter. They’re a Canadian series, so American readers here have probably missed out on them. You can get the whole trilogy for under $11 Canadian on Amazon.ca though :-)

  57. Are you KIDDING me? To this day, I remember how that damn “perfect size 6″ made me feel. I was probably a size 9 at that age, and I felt like a cow every time I read that. So much so, that when my daughter picked up a SVH book at a used bookstore not long ago, I talked her into a different book.

  58. That’s interesting! I totally came away from DWP with the sense that giving in to the insane size 4 requirement was part of the the main character’s ‘fall.’

    This is, of course, a different discussion, but I came away from the movie with the ideas that 1.) the fashion industry is mean and nonsensical, but obviously the highest aim of our society so stop making fun of it 2.) because you have to conform anyway 3.) if you are female and you want to be successful, you have to be a FRIGHTENING STONE BITCH and give up ALL COMPANIONSHIP 4.) being a size 4 is more important than being smart. I do, of course, realize that the majority of those ideas were supposed to be portrayed in a NEGATIVE fashion (especially number 3), but it felt like, as you said, “These things are true, so whatcha gonna do?” rather than “These things are true, and aren’t they stupid?”

    Oh well. I could just be humorless or something.

  59. I have always loved to read, but I don’t think that SVH was around when I was a girl.

    I have some sewing patterns from the late 40′s-early 50′s and I think that size 12 misses had something like a 30″ *bust*!! At any rate, it was very tiny. In the 60′s the sizing changed and the patterns said “new sizing” on them for a while.

    I sewed myself a tent dress ca 1967 when I was in jr high school. The style didn’t have a waistline — it just hung loose and swirly from the shoulders. You could wear it belted or unbelted. Unbelted was for rebellion and free spirits — probably because it was kind of like a maternity dress. (Girls my age were still wearing girdles then but my mom had always been against them so I didn’t wear one.)

    I hate it that anybody would gain or lose a feeling of self worth based on a number whether that number be weight, size, or I.Q.

  60. Er, about the girdle — my mom probably would have gone along if I had wanted to wear one. I felt very lucky that she felt they were stupid. I never wanted to wear one and felt sorry for the girls who did wear them.

  61. I sell vintage clothing and the way sizes have changed over the years always amuses me. Thanks to improved nutrition, women have been getting bigger but the size labels on clothes are going in the other direction. I’ve got a couple 1950s size 15/16 dresses that would be the equivalent of maybe an 8 at the most now.

    As for vanity sizing, the smallest size any woman is ever going to wear is probably going to be a wedding dress, and this has been true for years. It doesn’t matter what size you are, the person selling you the dress is going to tell you it’s at least couple sizes smaller than your normal size. I think it’s to psych you into spending more. You know, “It doesn’t matter if it’s ten times as much as I can afford — it’s only a size [incredibly small] and it fits!!”

  62. Nan, my wedding dress was actually a couple of sizes bigger than what I normally wear. I thought that was true for most women, as wedding dress sizes run smaller? Or is what you’re talking about strictly a phenomenon that occurs at high-end boutiques?

  63. sso,

    You have better luck with girls’ sizes than 0/00? I sure don’t! A girls’ 14 or 16 is BIGGER than a 0 or 00 in most cases.

    As for wedding dresses: I thought wedding dresses were based on traditional sizes? So if you wear a catalog 2, you’d be taking a 6 or 8 in wedding sizes? Unless, of course, you’re getting your wedding gown from J.Crew.

  64. is tends to bear out the notion that people (especially girls and young women) really don’t think size 6 is quite perfect enough anymore.

    I have been doing costumes for colleges and universities since 1995. The girls definitely think of a 6 as a “fat” size. Probably about how they felt about a 12 or 14 in 1995. Weirdly, in my experience waists seem to be getting bigger, I think because so many people have Rock hard Abs. The smallest waist I ever see now is a 26, with 28 being small and 30 being the norm for the group of students I measure. In 95, I would get 23′s, 24′s and 25′s. However, the hip sizes are sort of shrinking– so in 1995 I would get alot of 34-24-38, where as now I get a lot of 36-28-34. I have no idea why this is, or if it is just a weirdness of the population of students doing theatre at college. Also, the girls who do have an hourglass figure, which I think of as the cultural ideal, really feel like they are fat and not sexy, although they get cast in sexy roles a lot.

  65. Also, I wanted to add that this is really just an observation of college age girls, not my opinion

  66. As for vanity sizing, the smallest size any woman is ever going to wear is probably going to be a wedding dress, and this has been true for years.

    Wow, I had the exact opposite experience a few years ago when I got married. The bridal salon I went to had all of the try on samples in one size only, which was equivalent to about a 6/8 dress size, but for whatever reason it was labeled a 12 (maybe European or UK sizing? I’m brain dead at the moment). Anyway, I was too large for a proper fit, so I had to kinda squeeze into it and they clothes pinned the back to my underwear to make it hold up across the front. I felt like a human version of a paper doll!

  67. Or is what you’re talking about strictly a phenomenon that occurs at high-end boutiques?

    FWIW I got my dress at a “high-end” place — the ladies said the sizing was “always” like that. But that was the only place I went to and the sole experience I’ve had with bridal gowns.

  68. I loved SVT and SVH when I was younger. I never really paid that much attention to the descriptions and whatnot. It was all, “Yeayeayeah.. they’re perfect.. Story now?” I’m sad, though, that they’re being “modernized” like this.

    As for the discussion of DWP, the book is much better than the movie. The main character has much more… attitude.

  69. Yeah, I gather that’s everyone’s experience. Bridal sizing is pattern sizing — the number will be a couple of sizes higher than your “street” size.

  70. IRL I wear a 26, in wedding I wear a 30, which a lot of lines don’t even stock. (Bridesmaid, not Bridal, though I’m pretty sure it is the same. *hate* of the wedding industry)

    I think I read like one SVH book before I was like “Man, this has no horses in it BORING!” And went back to reading The Saddle Club.

    I also have a bunch of older books my grandma gave me that I love. One series called the MEadow Brook Girls, and one called Jane allen. They were both set in the very early 1900′s, when motorcars were a new thing. So there are a lot of “behavioral” restraints on the girls, but they still manage to be interesting and do like, real things. I think they teach good values. Not dissimilar to the original Nancy Drew, which I also have (zzzzzzz after the first few.)

    I’m planning to make electronic copies soon so if I ever have nieces I can give them a copy.

  71. Ugh just perfect when a size 6 is too fat!

    Thank gawd im too old for the SVH series. My favorite as a kid was Trixie Belden, an awkward, geeky, unsure kid detective. She rocked!

    I just finished a book that sounded yummy called the Lemon Merangue (hmm how do you spell that?) Pie Murder. Its a series about a cookie shop owner that solves murders and includes about 8 or 10 great recipes. She is constantly baking and everyone is eating yummy stuff throughout the book. Could have been a little slice of heaven right?

    Unfortunately, the heroine put on a pair of too tight pants in the beginning of the book and was on a diet the whole freaking book long! Every meal was a denial fest and my stomach acid was churning from the vast quantities of “no-cal” coffee she consumed. All the characters told her how “super skinny” she was looking and she lapped it up. Ugh ugh ugh. And in the final pages, you learn that she had accidently brought home her much smaller sisters pants – of course.

    Frankly, I wouldnt trust someone who doesnt eat their own cookies!

    Damn – I need a donut!
    jen

  72. Wow. To this day the “perfect size 6″ is burned into my brain as what I’m supposed to be.

    I feel really kind of sick. I feel kind of conned.

  73. I read the SVH series religously in my teens, and it made me feel like shit about myself then. After all, the fictional Wakefield twins were “perfect” blondes with long, slender legs and blue-green eyes that looked like dancing pools of aqua lovliness (or something like that, it’s been a long time, but I remember the descriptions of thier beauty in each book being very drawn-out, and really, relly, annoying!)

    They didn’t have short legs and bad skin and a big Jewish nose like me, so if they were beautiful, that made me ugly right? And now these books are back to torment a new generation of young girls. Groan!

    P.S. The most disturbing SVH ever was the one where the nice deaf girl, Regina, does one line of coke at a party and drops dead of a heart attack immediately! That one gave me nightmares – up til then I thought these books were too fluffy for that kind of thing. Still gives me the creeps to think about it!

  74. I heard this awhile back. Given that I was a size 6 about the time I read those books, and am a 4 now despite not having lost a single inch off anything anywhere, I figured it was a vanity-sizing thing.

    (Which doesn’t, of course, make the change any less WTF-full or make me like the Wakefield twins in any other conceivable way. I was Amy.)

  75. Yeah, I mentioned to SM that the twins, if they were real people, were probably exactly the same size as a size 4 today as they were as a size 6 in the 80s. What gets me is not the slimming per se, but the fact that some editor looked at the books and said “oh man, we’ll have to change THAT — you can’t be perfect at a size 6 anymore! If we’re going to have ANY CREDIBILITY, we can’t POSSIBLY say they’re perfect at any higher than a size 4!” That their idea of “modernizing” the books was to make sure that the twins’ “perfect” size didn’t accidentally get less restrictive with time.

  76. Pingback: Contact info for Sweet Valley High re-release complaints » The-F-Word.org

  77. Books with strong female characters by female authors :
    Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt
    Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson
    I am not sure size is mentioned in those I just remember them from fifth grade or so….

    size is brought up in
    Circle Of Magic #01: Sandry’s Book by Tamora Pierce, has a main character who is a fat but powerful girl, her weight is really the least of the story Pierce also has another series where a large girl becomes a knight and doesn’t like dresses and such as much as she likes fighting and being active…..
    Susan Cooper and JKR write about boys more than girls and don’t address size all that much

  78. Pingback: I thought this might happen… « The Seventh Year

  79. Jesus Christ, that’s ridiculous. Shouldn’t they be going the way of Dove soap and make books with the message that, “Hey, starving is bad, so screw society’s vain and impossible images of females that only make you feel like shit!”

    Tsk, tsk. They’re only contributing to anorexia and bulimia.

  80. Time-Machine: Way late in replying, but while I knew about the movie, I didn’t know TMBG was doing the soundtrack! They’re my most enduring favorite band as well! I’ve seen them in concert a million times.

    We should be buds.

  81. I used to read Nancy Drew- had a crate of really ancient hard cover copies, and I remember being so baffled by the “chubby” friend (cousin?) in the stories. She was constantly being “gently” chastised for her girth, and it was always mentioned in the cookie-cutter descriptions (word for word near identical in every volume) but she was never depicted as such on the covers. I know alot of times the covers of the books are drawn by artists with only the vaguest idea of what the books are even about, but I remember pointing to the girl (name escapes me) on the cover and asking my stepmother if she was fat. My stepmother said no, and I pointed out that the book said she was. She than tilted her head, squinted at the portrait and said “Well… yeah. She is a little chubby”

  82. Mistletow, the chubby friend in Nancy Drew was Bess. But, IIRC, wasn’t she always going on dates and stuff? I remember there was some teasing, but I don’t remember it being vicious. Not that that makes it okay, obviously.

    Rose, I was totally traumatized by Regina’s death, too. Hadn’t she recently recovered from leukemia, too, or was that a different gf of the brother?

  83. or something like that, it’s been a long time, but I remember the descriptions of thier beauty in each book being very drawn-out, and really, relly, annoying!

    I would just skip the beginning of the books when I read them, because it was 90% introducing characters with whom I was already familiar. I would do the same thing with the BSC books, where there would be a huge description of every member of the club.

    I love Anne of Green Gables inordinately (every few years I reread the books) but even as a young girl, it was clear to me that Anne’s brand of beauty was supposed to be preferable to Diana’s. Like Diana was run-of-the-mill pretty, but Anne was the thinking man’s classic beauty, made all the more beautiful because she thought herself plain

    spacedcowgirl, I think there is some truth in this, but I think there was also a very strong implication that Anne was so beautiful because of her personality. Her beauty was cast in terms of a certain sparkle in her eyes, and the way she held her head, and things like that. I recall a particular passage where it’s said that people who had heard rumors that Anne was a great beauty were always disappointed when they first met her, but once they got to know her, they rethought their opinion.

    The Anne books have their problems, to be sure. They were written in the 1800s and you can definitely tell by their descriptions of gender roles, although Anne is written as just as (if not more) intelligent as Gilbert. I’ve always enjoyed their particular take on beauty, however. YMMV, as always.

  84. sweetmachine, it’s been ages since I read Nancy Drew, but in my recollection, the Bess character was written very inconsistently. In some books she would be vivacious and funny and go on dates, and in others she would be dieting and lamenting how she could never get a guy. It was very disconcerting.

  85. I, to my shame, I loved those sweet valley books, but only the ones with the ‘original’ really 80′s airbrushed covers. They seemed , to and English girl, totally exotic.

    However, I wonder how useful it is advocating banning your kids from reading such things. I was brought up by a strong feminist mother, who was pretty vocal about size acceptance as I grew up. We 3 daughters were not allowed to read books like svh (I read them in secret in the library), and we were not allowed to discuss dissatisfaction with our bodies. despite that 2 out of 3 of us went on to develop (and recover from) eating disorders. Now I am not saying that it isn’t great to have a role model for size acceptance, but I think that coming to terms with yourself and your genetic heritage is something you might have to work through yourself, and putting too much emphasis on perfect self acceptance as a child/teenager is another burden to deal with.

    I am not a mum myself, and have often worried about the responsibility of raising girls in a society that is so hating of women’s bodies. I guess this is a common worry, how have people dealt with this?

    lucy .x

  86. Oh, and because apparently terrible YA books are my passion,
    Regina had recently gotten a cochlear implant right before she died. She was dating Bruce Patman, and he actually became tolerable for a little while. It was the twins’ brother, Steven, whose girlfriend Trisha died of leukemia. Trisha was also from “the wrong side of the tracks” and Jessica was an asshole to her, and her sister, whose name was Betty, I think.

  87. Maybe they’re correcting for Vanity Sizing.

    The series re-release presented a perfect opportunity to finally just remove altogether any mention of size. The fact that they have made the standard more stringent in a time when eating disorders are at an all-time high is abhorrent. And do we honestly expect young girls to be aware of and cognizant of vanity sizing? I didn’t know about vanity sizing until just several years ago and I’m celebrating my last birthday this year (29).

    I’ve placed contact info on my blog to address complaints to, if you’re really appalled.

  88. suddenly lightbulbs went off in my head. Oh! Bess was fat and George was a dyke! I get it! It made me happy.

    sweetmachine — this made me LOL ’cause I had that revelation too.

    I’m too old to have read the SVH books, but like a lot of people are saying, I too was an early reader and due to a voracious appetite for books, I ended up reading things I wasn’t mature enough to process. I remember picking up a few dark YA books that may have been from the early ’70′s where the girls would would be weight obsessed and talking about the serious ED shit they were doing to lose pounds. Awful stuff. Luckily I was young enough to think it was creepy, but I’m sure some of it warped me in some way.

  89. my recollection, the Bess character was written very inconsistently. In some books she would be vivacious and funny and go on dates, and in others she would be dieting and lamenting how she could never get a guy. It was very disconcerting.

    See also: Etta Candy.

  90. Rose, I was totally traumatized by Regina’s death, too. Hadn’t she recently recovered from leukemia, too, or was that a different gf of the brother?

    No, the girl with leukemia (the brother’s girlfriend) died from her cancer. Regina was the deaf girl, and I think she had just nursed a blind guy back to health.

    They were written in the 1800s and you can definitely tell by their descriptions of gender roles

    Yeah, there’s one near the end of the series where Anne and Gilbert go to a party thrown by a girl Gilbert used to date. She asks if Anne still writes and Anne said no becuase she is too busy taking care of her huge family. This woman is portrayed as unnatural for not aspiring to a husband and a million kids like Anne has, and secretly jealous because of course that’s what every woman secretly wants. Oh, and Gilbert mentions to Anne that this woman got fat and: “Thank God you never got fat, Anne”. Ugh. Don’t get me wrong, I do love the books, but that whole chapter was awful.

  91. Becky, I had forgotten about that chapter. It’s in Anne of Ingleside, and you’re right, it is terrible. Christine is basically portrayed as insipid and spiteful and totally unfulfilled because she is a widow and doesn’t have kids. Ugh is right.

  92. Yes yes on the inconsistency with Bess. It was a weird message- sometimes she was a fun-loving dateriffic lass with just as much sex appeal as her comrades- and then there would be the ‘tsk tsk’ as she ate another piece of chocolate while on a diet. It’s almost like they wanted you to know that Nancy would never hang around someone who was a -total- loser, but if Bess was only a little slimmer, she’d be catapulted to the pinnacle of popularity. I dunno.

    I haven’t read them in ages, but I’d love to backtrack and see if there was any inferring of promiscuity. Like, this fat girl plays fast and loose. Never so blunt in Nancy Drew, but SURELY her relationships couldn’t have been so pure and honest as her smart, beautiful friend.

    Oh, and yes, Bess was not as bright as Nancy. *eye roll*

  93. Worse than a widow! A *gasp* divorcee! Bitch couldn’t even make her marriage work. Sorry for reminding you :P

  94. I loved SVH. I read everything back then and took the series for what I thought it was: a fantasy about pretty, popular California girls. I never thought their looks were over-emphasized, really. I liked that Jessica was in theater and that Liz was a writer. And I loved how frothy the books were. The dialog is so bad it’s good.

    I do have a recommendation: The Nancy Clue series, which parodies Nancy Drew and lesbian pulps of the 1930s-40s. Bess and George are lovers. It’s a scream.

  95. Okay, I just have to share this awesome excerpt from the SVH Wikipedia article:

    The Sweet Valley series has often been criticized for its unrealistic portrayal of teenagers (although this was somewhat rectified in the Senior Year series), and its outlandish plots, especially within the original Sweet Valley High series. Some exotic examples include:

    * The twins battling a werewolf in London;
    * Jessica falling in love with a vampire;
    * The twins and friends being chased by escaped criminals in Death Valley;
    * Margo, a psychotic young woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to the twins, and later, her own twin sister Nora, attempting to murder Elizabeth in a diabolical scheme to ‘replace’ her;
    * A former classmate of Alice Wakefield’s luring them to a beauty spa with the intention of stealing Alice’s face via a face transplant
    * Elizabeth and a Parisian prince falling in love.
    * The twins and many of their classmates being unrealistically “beautiful” in a model-like way and never having acne, oiliness, pubertal awkwardness, bodily odors, or greasy hair the way most real-life teenagers have

    I don’t remember werewolves and vampires!

  96. God, why the hell didn’t someone tell me? I totally would have read SVH if I knew those shenanigans were going on.

    I do completely love that beauty and lack of oily skin is on the same list as werewolves and vampires.

  97. Whoa, mistletow… two dummies one idea, as SM said to me recently. How is it that we both even used the word “shenanigans”?

  98. I never focused on their dress size, but was completely confused by their “matching gold lavalieres” that their parents gave them. Is this a common word in the US?
    The term ‘lavalieres’ is usually used with sorority symbols and Greek life, which would just be another example of Sweet Valley classism :)

  99. Nicole, I discovered that sight awhile back, and lost an entire day reading nearly every post. SO funny.

  100. Dudes, screw SVH. I have two words:

    Daniel. Pinkwater.

    That man is a treasure. If I have kids, they will be read Pinkwater stories till their little ears fall off.

    He is actually fat positive. (Marilyn Wann did an interview with him once, I think it’s still up on her site). He has fat characters in his books, and they’re often actually positive about their fatness. Not just tolerant. Or, the fatness is mentioned matter of factly as a simple trait, with no “shame shame” or anything, not even a little bit. It’s amazing. In his book “The Education Of Robert Nifkin” there’s a part where this Goth girl falls in love with the main character Robert (Robert is fat, btw) and she says something about his roundness (in a positive way, I wish I could remember the exact wording) and he remarks that it’s something he’s always prided himself on. It’s the sort of thing that made me breathless, to actually see that in print. I wish I’d had Pinkwater books as a kid, I would have made being a fat kid in Jr. High a hell of a lot less toxic, I am certain of it.

  101. I read those books for WAY longer than I care to admit. Man, I loved some trashy entertainment as a kid. I was also madly in love with R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike from a young. Which is why no one ever wanted to play Barbies with me, because the dolls always ended up beheaded, disemboweled, or BOTH AT ONCE.

  102. Another favorite of mine was Little Women, which I remember as being fairly nonjudgmental, appearance-wise. Meg was “plump,” and she was the prettiest one. Jo was skinny, and it was implied that she was less attractive than her sisters, but that was okay because she was cool. There was Amy’s whole obsession with making her nose pointy, but that was ridiculous and clearly not endorsed by the book as a whole.

  103. I loved RL Stine until I realized that the grand majority of his books starred characters who had straight black hair and bright blue eyes. I’m serious- it’s weird. Not so much in the earlier ones, but the later books, its like he was obsessed. I don’t know if his kids look like that, and he envisions them in his stories, or if maybe it’s his preferred type in a mater (eww), but it was rampant. I know it sounds piffle, but I actually stopped reading them because the glorified black hair-blue eyes combo made me feel self-conscious.

    Course now I dye my hair black. Maybe it’s a deep-seated need to please RL Stine. I hope we’ll meet someday, and he’ll be all ‘I wrote about your kind!!’ Hah.

  104. “You have better luck with girls’ sizes than 0/00? I sure don’t! A girls’ 14 or 16 is BIGGER than a 0 or 00 in most cases.”

    that is untrue in my experience; i don’t know where you’re shopping but maybe I should go there.

  105. Chartruese- I read that SVU book. Looking back on it now, I see that she was becoming an emotional eater, but of course when she realizes that she’s put on weight, she doesn’t stop to think about her deeper issues- she just gets to work on those hips.

    I didn’t read much SVH- I read the middle school books like crazy. I never really thought about their physical descriptions (except for getting a little annoyed that it was repeated every damn book), but Elizabeth’s weight gain and her reaction to it did bother me. Hell, the plots of that whole book bothered me. I think I gave up on the whole SV series not too long after reading that book.

    Jen Smith- if you want good mysteries sprinkled with yummy recipes, may I suggest the books by Diane Mott Davidson? She writes about a professional caterer who’s always finding herself in the middle of something. And the character enjoys her cooking without worrying about needing to burn the calories off.

  106. Just fucking sickening.

    I think my daughter is a bit like time machine and I sometimes lack a knowledge of what to supply her to read.

    She has been choosing materials of her own liking since she was four and preferred reference books and encyclopedias. It has been a struggle for a less ‘classically’ educated me to keep up with her desire.

    After exhausting Anne of Green Gables, The Miracle Worker and other classics when she was five she turned to Baby Sitters club books. They served her well for a while but she has grown out of them. I always take notes from these comments when it turns to books but still fall short.

    I am scared for her future but am trying to involve her in feminist ideals and critical thinking when it comes to other outside influences. Luckily I come with a whole library of feminist and size acceptance books but she is still exposed to so much terrifying stuff.

    Then this comes along and I feel powerless and overcome by more shit I cannot control.

  107. c – of course I remember the Margaret series! They were among my favorite books as a kid as well. “Margaret in the Middle”, “A Place for Margaret”, and “Margaret on her Way” are, I think, the three books in the series by Bernice Thurman Hunter. They’re a Canadian series, so American readers here have probably missed out on them. You can get the whole trilogy for under $11 Canadian on Amazon.ca though

    Chartreuse, I LOVE YOU! I am indeed Canadian (though an expat at the moment) and I read them when I was growing up in Canada. Thank you SO MUCH, I am about to go buy them right bloody now.

  108. Linz, when I was a kid, beheading and disemboweling Barbies was THE WHOLE POINT OF PLAYING WITH THEM!

    We shoulda hung out…

  109. Disclaimer: I love SVH. Always have. The description of the twins never bugged, but when Robin lost weight did get to me.

    As such an afficiando, I shall list some of the more intersting (hee) titles:

    Super Thrillers (ie, murder mysteries the twins help solve, naturally):

    #104-106 – Love and Death in London
    A Date With a Werewolf
    Beware the Wolfman

    And the very best:

    A 5 part series where Jessica spikes Liz’s drink at the prom so Jess will be crowned prom queen, but Liz leaves with Jess boyfriend and they get into an accident and he bites it. (Seriously, like 8 of Jess’s bf’s die.) Anyway, there’s a whole trial and what not and it comes out that of course someone else hit them, it wasn’t Elizabeth’s fault. However, the whole time this evil girl who looks just like the twins is planning on killing Liz and taking over her life. (I am not making this up.) Then, in one of the super thrillers (Deadly Chistmas) the evil girls IDENTICAL TWIN shows up and tries to kill Liz as well. Which is stupid, because both girls think Liz should be more like Jess, so why don’t they freaking kill Jess?

    I think of them as soaps in book form. Plus, I can read one in an hour.

    And how sad is it that I did that from memory? Almost as sad as thinking someone will read it and/or care.

  110. Take it from me — as a blonde, sea-green-eyed classical beauty with peaches and cream skin who happens to fit that exact description except for ‘slender’ and ‘size 6′: we hated those books too.

    Mainly because the twins made us look like bad girls for not being all perfect and altruistic just because we were stereotypically pretty.

  111. I don’t know if anyone else remembers it, but even the Laura Ingalls Wilder books had their small obsessions with size and body image.
    In one, Laura compares her waist, which is round, with the antagonist’s (Nelly!), whose is flat.
    Also, Laura’s mother was constantly hounding her to wear some kind of corseting garment and worrying about her figure. Ma even bragged that when she and Pa were married, he could span her waist with his hands.

  112. Caroline Ingalls had the girls run out and ask a visiting auntie whether she preferred brown curls or golden curls when they were like FOUR and SIX or so. The auntie said she liked both kinds best. And later Charles pointed out to a miserable Laura that well, his hair was brown, and Laura realised that it could be ok to have brown hair.

    So yeah, there were issues about beauty standards then, too.

  113. Krista: “Also, Laura’s mother was constantly hounding her to wear some kind of corseting garment and worrying about her figure. Ma even bragged that when she and Pa were married, he could span her waist with his hands.”

    I loved Laura’s retort to this, something about how Pa couldn’t span Ma’s waist with his hands anymore but he still seemed to like her. If I’m remembering correctly, Ma told Laura not to be saucy, but smiled and dropped the corset talk.

    I need to go back and reread these books. I liked how everyone, Laura included, acknowledged that even though she was small she was very strong, both physically and mentally. Her strong personality was considered a good thing and she was valued for that, for her intelligence, and for her kind nature, rather than for physical attributes.

  114. Pingback: Headlines: Trouble with an eating disorder? Try an exorcist today! … plus: The whiter the better … plus: 4 is the new 6 « Pretty Little Girls

  115. I was obsessed with SVH when I was a kid. I seriously don’t recall all the stuff about “perfect size 6″ and all, but I remember thinking that I wanted straight hair and aquamarine eyes (never realizing, of course, that my eyes ARE aquamarine!)

    Now though, I only recall one book form them all clearly, and it’s the one about the carnival, and Elizabeth gets knocked out and the rides turn real. And I think it stuck with me because of the plot. Otherwise, I remember so bloody little from the series.

    But hearing that they are pressing the “ideal” of skinniness home like that sickens me. Better the ban the books, I think. And I’m a bibliophile!

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