Ann M. Martin’s Infinite Wisdom

I like to consider myself something of a pop culturist. But you already know that. So it’s no big surprise that there are bits of popular culture that have largely (mis)informed my expectations of friendship. When I’m old, I want to live like the Golden Girls. In my 30s, I figure I should be brunching on Sundays a la Carrie Bradshaw and co. I watch these TV shows (and Friends, and How I Met Your Mother, even Meredith and Christina on Grey’s) and I think it’s completely expected for my life to be filled with Serious Unbreakable See-You-Everyday Friendships.

As I’ve written previously, it all started with The Babysitters Club. I read the BSC books when I was a wee lass and learned early  that true friendships could withstand any boy, clothing or babysitting charge drama. They got together twice a week, lived on the same street and sent flashlight messages from each others’ bedrooms in the evenings. What more could a girl want?

It had been about 15 years since I’d read a BSC book until recently when I read the new prequel, The Babysitter’s Club: The Summer Before. Considering the book was written for 12 years olds, I was a tad surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Like, stay-up-past-bedtime-reading levels of enjoyment.  Yes, it’s for young adults—children, even—but ultimately The Summer Before is a story of friendship. Given my search, this seemed the perfect escape novel.

Approximately three days after I started, I reached the end (200 pages written for 10-year-olds move at a quick clip). As I took in the final pages, I realized that either a) issues of friendship don’t change as we get older—the circumstances may be different (we’re arguing over wedding party scandals rather than cafeteria seating arrangements) but the underlying emotions are constant, or b) I act like a pre-teen and need to grow up. Either way, it was the perfect light read for me at this very moment.

Thanks to the wonder that is Google Alerts, BSC author Ann M. Martin’s publicist caught wind of my Ode to BSC post a few months back and asked me if I’d be interested in interviewing her. Ummm, yes please. I had a total nerdfest rock star moment. Ann M. Martin??  Talking to me? I worship modern technology.

During our interview, I asked Ann why the friendships between the girls were so universally adored. Something she said stuck with me. Sure, Kristy and the gang were each very different, so every young girl could relate to at least one, if not all, of them. But more importantly, she said, “They’re not perfect friendships. I think that’s how most friendships are, they’re imperfect. Maybe that’s why they seem even more important to us. The girls fight, but then it’s important to them to make up, and they always do. Sometimes it takes a couple of books, sometimes it’s a chapter or two, but they always make up. I think that’s important for girls and women to know, that maybe your best friend isn’t somebody that you’re always on good terms with. I think maybe a best friend is somebody you feel comfortable enough to have a fight with, and then make up with.

Defining the term “best friend” is perhaps the hardest and most important factor of my quest. I love Ann’s take. It’s a perfect measuring tool. So often we think our best friends are the people we’d never fight with, those relationships that are always easy. But there are only a few people in my life that I’m confident I’d make up with no matter how bad a fight got. Those just happen to be the same people I consider my closest friends. It’s an interesting and insightful spin.

What do you think of Ann’s definition? How do you define BFF? And are you so excited about the return of the BSC? Do you like reading books about friendship?

26 Comments

Filed under Everything I Know I Learned on TV, Famous Friendships

26 responses to “Ann M. Martin’s Infinite Wisdom

  1. Oh my god. I am dying. I can’t believe you interviewed Ann M. Martin. I have a dream of someday owning every single one of the BSCs.

  2. Ana

    Wow! Just wow! Next you’re going to be having lunch with Francine Pascal ;)

    Your first paragraph is SO TRUE! I, too, always envied the friendships in books & TV and envisioned that my life should & maybe (hopefully!) would be like that at some point. Maybe that’s why “they” create TVs and series about those friendships—its every girl’s friendship fantasy. As is quite evident by the comments on this blog, this every-day-anything friend group is not everyone’s reality!

    And I think Ann M. Martin’s take on BFF-hood is exactly right. I think of my bestest friends in a separate class, very similar to family. We fight, we may not even get along for a while, and there are things that are really annoying at times; but I know we will always be there for each other. Unfortunately, at times over the years, this level of comfort has led (as it does with your family/spouse sometimes) to not treat each other with the respect deserved (i.e. I can blow her off, or say whatever comes to mind as un-nice as it may be, because she’ll forgive me & always love me)…I’ve been on either side of that and have learned that closeness is not an excuse for not trying!

    OK, I’m going to go order that book now!

  3. Oh my goodness, I wanted Dawn’s hair. I wanted her hair so badly.

    I agree with Martin’s definition. It’s easy, perhaps, to love someone with whom you always get along, but being afraid to disagree also indicates a lack of depth and openness. Allowing room for conflict and realizing the friendship can withstand it seems like the mark of maturity, right?

    SERIOUSLY. Why can’t I be blonde and twelve years old?

  4. I was out with some of my dearest, be-totally-my-honest-self and love-totally-their-honest-selves friends last night. We three started out as part of a larger group of gal pals, all different, each closer to some than others, but with threads from one to the other uniting us all. And of course we’ve had fights through the years. To be honest, I’m not sure they made us stronger. The threads uniting individuals who fought most are weaker now. The tensions tended to be rooted in jealousy or judgementalism and when we can’t accept ourselves (jealousy) or can’t accept others (judgementalism) exactly for who we are, then it’s really hard to have an honest and intimate connection. An occasional argument, debate, spat… that’s different. But fights? I don’t know if they do signal a stronger friendship.

  5. I am so jealous!! Those were my FAVOURITE books growing up, I even started collecting them at garage sales and flea markets for my neice but she is truly not interested. Wants to read Twilight and such! Oh well, they were great books and I enjoyed hearing Ann’s take on imperfect friendships. I think it’s like anyone you love (as per yesterday’s post!), you tend to argue with the people you love the most (BFF, mother, husband. They can get under your skin because you care about them so much. But you love them no matter what, that’s the beauty of the relationship!

    XO
    Lenore

  6. Donna

    I think Ann has it exactly right. My closest BFF and I have our share of disagreements/issues, and I’ve even had people tell me I should dump her because I don’t need the stress. The thing that she and I understand that others don’t is that we are peas in a pod and we get each other in a way that nobody else does (which is detrimental to our sanity), so we know eventually whatever it is will blow over, we will forgive the other’s weakness/trespass/temporary insanity and we are back in the same pod again. The key to any strong, lasting relationship, especially when a problem arises, is knowing that above all you care about each other and that this too shall pass. Unless the person is completely toxic, if you can’t forgive, forget, and move on, maybe that person isn’t as important to you as you thought.

  7. I love the BSC books – so much – and can’t wait to read the prequel. I can’t BELIEVE you got to interview Ann M. Martin! Will you post more tidbits for us, your readers? :)

    I’ve fought with my best friends too – not often, but occasionally – and our friendships have withstood the drama. (And, it hardly needs saying, my husband and I have our disagreements – but we also have weathered the storms.) I think these other commenters are right on – real friendships aren’t perfect, but man are they important.

    Thanks for sharing Ann’s wisdom! (I always wanted to be as cool as Stacey, but I was definitely more like shy Mary Anne.)

  8. I can’t say I have ever read one single BSC. Clearly, I’m missing out.

    I’m not sure I have a definition of a best friend. I have what I like to term besties and each one brings something uniquely different to the table. One friend teaches me patience and the humor found within being patient. Another shares with me her expanded cultural horizons. Another reminds me that marriage is beautiful, despite abounding imperfections. And so on.

    Maybe I’m just entirely too independent. Or too difficult to put up with. Or something. But, I can’t say I’ve ever had one particular person I consider a best friend. Though, that’s not to say I go without incredibly close and important friendships – quite to the contrary.

  9. Michele

    A friend of mine recently directed me to your blog and as a (relatively) new transplant myself, I can totally relate! I love your blog!

  10. Oh how I adored BSC books. I can remember having sleep overs with my best friend in elementary school and we’d sit side-by-side in bed, reading our latest BSC book! I haven’t read one in so long, but it would be fun to pick one up this summer to switch things up a bit. I used to own a ton of them but I think they got ruined when my parents’ basement flooded…

    Now for the question at hand – I don’t have a succinct definition for what makes a person a best friend. I have a good group of girlfriends and there is one person I consider a best friend because she always has my best interest in mind. That means telling me that the guy I am dating isn’t good enough for me or that I shouldn’t buy a pair of jeans because they aren’t as flattering as they should be. We don’t talk every day and we go weeks w/out seeing each other due to our schedules, but it doesn’t impact our friendship. She totally gets me and gets my sense of humor, and I am 100% myself around her.

  11. Jackie

    I am working to expand so many areas of my life-friendships being first and foremost to me at this time. After 40 years of an emotionally abusive marriage, I took a giant step. I am now 60 something and starting over. I love to read..books…blogs…whatever, to encourage me to step out of my comfort zone. I come across so many profound statements and ideas that I want to remember…thank goodness for printers and highlighters. I have never read any BSC, but I am headed to the library right now. BTW…I love, love your blog.

    • Donna

      Jackie,

      My BBF and I refer to our first husbands as “Poophead” and “E-Vil” respectively as they were both angry, emotionally abusive men. Kudos to you for taking back your life and for seeking ways to enrich it with friends and other interests. I had to do it when I divorced, and then again when I moved to another part of the state. It’s a constant process, and sometimes hard, but worth the effort. Good luck on your journey.

      Donna

      • Jackie

        Donna
        I had to laugh as my sister often refers to my “ex “as “Poophead”. Thanks for your encouragement. It is hard and often scary, but I feel like a two ton weight has been lifted off my chest and I am excited to move forward.
        Jackie

  12. LolaP

    OMG! Jealousy does not even begin to describe what I am feeling right now. Yet, (and I realize I don’t know you personally) I feel totally proud of you that through this blog you were directly connected with Ann! I covet the friendships in BSC and I’m pretty sure it’s what set me on the path I’m on today and what has at times led me to believe that the kind of friendships I long for – the TV sitcom/drama variety – are impossible to find in real life. But then I read your blog and the comments left here by readers and hope is restored again. Thank you again for sharing your life and your adventures.

    Bon weekend!

  13. I think there’s a distinction between fighting and disagreeing. I feel completely comfortable disagreeing with my close/best friends, but I do not maintain relationships with anyone who I am continually fighting with. I choose not to be part of the drama and toxicity involved in fighting.

    But I think that’s probably what Ann was referring to. Most people don’t know crazy fighting people like we have here in the South! ;)

  14. Wow, my 12 year old self is sooooo jealous of you for interviewing Ann. Ahhh, memories of hours spent in the company of the BSC.
    I do think there’s truth in the idea that you may not always be on the most amazing terms with your friend. The relationships that are the strongest are the ones that can weather disagreements, distance, and time.

  15. Donna

    Seriously, are the BSC books that good??? I’ve never read them – I was a Nancy Drew girl solving mysteries and whatnot. I have a 18 month old girl and have already started reliving my childhood through children’s lit (just finished Alice in Wonderland) in anticipation of her growing up with books. Guess I need to expand my horizons and head to the library as well.

  16. It’s true, your best friend is someone you can have a fight with. Or at least you can be honest with them even if that might make them upset. *A best friend is someone who does not carte blanc agree with you, but who challenges you, asks you questions, and makes you a better person for it because they want nothing but the best for you.* Some issues are not easy, be it between friends or anyone else. The bridge of time between two friends only adds complication, but there is also strength in that.

  17. Megan

    My ex-roommate (and still good friend) once told me, “Megan, I think you create conflict. You don’t do it on purpose, but it’s a way of not only testing the friendship, but solidifying the friendship.” This made me think: If you’ve been through a conflict with someone – been THROUGH one – you know how strong the relationship is, and, in a way you are closer, there is more ‘at stake’ in the relationships, so it’s harder (emotionally) to blow it off. All that is to say, I think I agree with Ann’s definition, at least in principle. For whatever reason, though, I don’t actually like reading books about friendship: I just get jealous. :-P

  18. Leigh

    I agree that we do have these lofty ideas that the friendships in our lives are supposed to be like the ones on tv or in fiction. Maybe that’s why I am dreading the second Sex and the City because it will serve as a reminder that I don’t have a close group of friends like Carries does. But, that’s ok…..it’s forced me to become closer to my husband, honestly.

    I like Anne’s definition of it being a relationship that is developed so that if something happens you have the interest to come back to the table after a fight and make-up. Friendships are relationships- you are going to have ups and downs regardless. And just like a relationship you need to decide if it is worth coming back and apologizing or being the more mature one and making the first apology, etc.

  19. I guess I’ve never really thought about what a “best friend” is, but now that you’ve mentioned it, I think Ann’s description is pretty accurate. Outside of running a babysitting business together, my friends in Junior High were a bunch that were as tight-knit as the babysitter’s club. We’d go through a lot of ups and downs, alliances would be forged and broken, and we had weekly sleepovers and parties…oh, those were the days. We’re spread all over the country, now, but even today I still love them dearly. And if they lived in my city, I think we’d probably still have sleepovers :p

  20. Danielle

    I CANT BELIEVE you interviewed her!!! She is truly my childhood, pre-teen, teen, 20s and I assume 30s obsession!

  21. Hey there, momalom friend…
    was writing today (about making friends in a foreign country) and thought of you. Come on over if you’ve got a minute; I wondered if anything I said there resonates with what you’ve learned in Chicago!

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