The Baby-sitters Club #61: Jessi and the Awful Secret
Ah, lovely. Another yawn-inducing episode of “Intrigue at the Dance Studio” starring everyone’s favorite (black) ballerina, Jessi Ramsey.
We open in the dance studio and are hit immediately with Madame Noelle’s accent and Jessi’s musings on how wonderful she is at ballet. We are also treated throughout this book to lengthy explanations of multiple ballet moves, as well as phonetic pronunciations of the French names. Forget Livemocha, I’ll just add French to the long list of things I’ve learned from the BSC. Turns out Jessi’s dance school is offering a free 6-week class to some underprivileged kids from Stamford and Mme. Noelle needs volunteers. Pretty much the whole class balks at giving up 6 weeks of their lessons to help some dumb kids, but Mme. Noelle clearly knows she’s not teaching at Juilliard, as she reminds her students that they’re probably going to end up as teachers at some point in their career (Because those who can’t do, teach. Not that I necessarily believe that, but hey, I’ve seen “A Chorus Line.” I was also one of the approximately eight people who watched Bunheads this summer. I think this qualifies me to speak on the matter.)
Jessi volunteers, obviI, and so does Mary, this other girl from her class and subject of the titular awful secret, which is anorexia. For the record, here’s my awful secret: I. Do. Not. Care. At. All. About Mary and her awful secret. Maybe if it were Katie Beth, instead of some tertiary character we’ll never hear from again. (Katie Beth is awesome. She’s the Cokie Mason of Mme. Noelle’s dance studio.) Or poor sad sack Carrie who’s about to graduate from dance school without ever having the lead in a ballet because she keeps losing out on them to our intrepid 11-year-old (black) heroine. Wouldn’t that seem like more compelling motivation for an eating disorder?
Anyway, the class is full of your typical BSC-ish kids (that is, kids who behave like no kids I’ve ever met), although a slightly more diverse group. They are also all clearly named after my grandma’s friends: Yvonne, Martha, Nora, Jane (although there is also a Devon and Cherisse… apparently a nod to “diversity?”) Martha is very shy but a good dancer, and when Martha’s mom comes to pick her up, she stares at Jessi and eventually they talk about how Martha’s mom really wants her daughter to use her dance talents, but her neighbor said she was wasting her money because there are no black ballerinas. Thank God Jessi exists to prove her wrong. I care nothing for this kiddie class plotline so I’ll simply sum it up by saying there is a dull performance at the end (of course) and my beloved Watson and Elizabeth Brewer decide to donate two scholarships for students from the class to continue lessons at Mme. Noelle’s studio, which is super-nice of them, and Martha and Devon win them. Yay. We will never hear of them again, but I am glad to know they are dancing off into the sunset with some of Watson’s money.
Jessi and Mary start going out for burgers after each class with the other teaching volunteers (I would find this unrealistic, but the girls on Bunheads were eating fried food all the time too, so it must be a thing!) Mary doesn’t eat, just pushes French fries around on her plate. Jessi is already on to her because she overheard a conversation between Mary and some bitch Mindy (Mindy is always such a bitch name. Except for Mindy Kaling, who should be my best friend. Mindy Kaling, if you’re reading this call me!) where Bitchy Mindy (BM) tells Mary that if she loses weight she’ll be a better dancer. Considering we’ve never heard of BM before, she herself can’t really be that good. BM tells Mary she should lose weight so she can jump higher and Jessi is all “Dumbfucks. If you want to jump higher, just practice jumping higher.” Not sure whether that’s the solution either, but regardless she doesn’t say it out loud because she’s young and wants everyone to like her.
But then over the course of the next few weeks, Jessi continues to watch Mary get thinner, pass out in class, not eat her french fries, and generally act like a bitch. Jessi confides her suspicions to the BSC at a meeting, where they proceed to ransack Janine’s room for psychology textbooks so they can learn more about disordered eating and teach us a valuable lesson by discussing it, by which I mean reading directly from the books, which sound exactly like sound bites from the “Don’t Be Anorexic” film strips they used to show us in eighth grade health class. Damn, I just dated myself with that reference to film strips, didn’t I? In a nice callback, Stacey reminds us how Kristy accused her of being anorexic when they first met (way back in Book1) because she hadn’t yet shared her diabetes with the group. Then Jessi talks to Aunt Cecelia (whom she earlier ripped on for not “being naturally thin” as apparently Jessi herself and the rest of her family are. Bitch.) about what she should do if she knows someone is hurting herself but doesn’t seem to recognize it. I laugh because Aunt Cecelia immediately jumps in all “Is this about drugs?!” and I don’t know why that’s as funny as I thought it was except that I just finished re-watching Freaks and Geeks on Netflix and it was such a Mr. Weir response (and Mr. Weir is honestly my favorite character on that show. Suck it, James Franco, Jason Segel, and Seth Rogen!)
Anyway, end result is Jessi’s got to speak up. So she corners Mary at the next dance class and tells her either Mary confesses to Mme. Noelle or Jessi does. Mary agrees to but then chickens out, so Jessi’s got to do it. Mme. Noelle already had her suspicions, so together they go to talk to Mary again. Mme. Noelle is awesome and sensitive and then we’re told Mary is getting help from a physician and psychiatrist, and her family is in counseling, and I hope that’s true, because we never hear it from her and she never comes back to dance class. So really, we have no way of knowing. Plus, she could be in rehab but be in total denial and totally faking getting better when in reality she still won’t admit there’s a problem, like Kaylie in the second season of Make It or Break It (Yes. I have awesome taste in television programming.)
In other news, there’s lots of Shannon in this book, and very little Mallory! Love! See, Shannon’s schedule has “changed” (mysterious!) but her school friends’ schedules have apparently not changed (which leads me to conclude that Shannon got booted off the cheerleading squad or failed out of Mathletes or something) so she has lots of free time and she keeps calling Kristy to hang out. But Kristy is too busy, and feels bad because she thinks she’s starting to hurt Shannon’s feelings. So Stacey and Claud and the others are like “Have Shannon call us! We’ll hang out with her!” because they know Shannon is awesome. But then they all start hanging out together and Kristy starts getting pissy because she thinks they’re replacing her (please, Kristy. If we were going to replace anyone, it’d obviously be dipwad Mallory.) so she acts like a total bitch to Shannon but then gets over it and apologizes to Shannon because Kristy is generally a decent person. And then they all ride off into the sunset, and mercifully, this book is finished.