I remember it like this, but I could be wrong (I so often am)–I was joking, awhile back, about how much weight I had lost, when I could stop losing weight, what my goal weight should be. If I would ever be happy with what size I was. I don’t remember what size I was, when I had this conversation. But I remember talking about Sweet Valley High. I said, you know what? Do you remember the Sweet Valley High books? About the two blonde twin sisters who lived in California? I read that whole series. I was fascinated with it. And I remember that they were a perfect size six. That’s what I wanted to be, when I was a fat kid. That’s what I was always shooting for. To be a perfect size six. That’s what I want!
I didn’t have to say all that, because my friend knew about Sweet Valley High. Everyone my age remembers Sweet Valley High. She knew what I meant when I said perfect size six, and she said to me those books were written in the ’80s. A six size then is like, a size zero now. Ridiculous, insulting vanity sizing seized hold years ago, continues on and becomes worse, apparently, every season, so of course that’s true. The perfect size six is a completely insane goal. Why did it fascinate me so much? Because I grew up with it–every one of those fucking books talked about Elizabeth and Jessica and their perfect size six bodies, and how beautiful, beloved, popular they were. I was an impressionable child. I still am. It stuck. How many girls did it stick with? How many girls bought into Francine Pascal’s idea that physical perfection can be encapsulated in a size?
As sweet Weet wrote yesterday, Random House is reissuing the books. When I first heard about it, I was
excited. These books were my childhood. An article I read four years
ago, now, in The Believer, talked
about the effect that SVH had on my generation. Not profound, exactly,
but they made an impression. And the author called the Sweet Valley
High series “historical fiction,” and that rings true. It is so much
personal history, wrapped up tight in my adolescence and ideas of how
life should be lived and friendships made and how high school was
supposed to go, and it’s also a snapshot of a very particular time in
history, isn’t it? The SVH books are so much of the eighties. Which is
why they need to be updated for a whole new generation of girls to have
their heads screwed with, filled with lessons no girl needs to read.
Among the updates: the perfect size is size four, now. Six is not
perfect. Six, you might even go so far as to extrapolate, might be fat.
I am mostly shocked that the editors had enough restraint to only drop
Elizabeth and Jessica down a single size–why are they not a size zero,
that ultimate signal of waifish perfection? Do they think they’re being
responsible, the editors, in just a tiny bit of whittling that they can
blame on being very concerned with the idea of keeping important things
like clothing manufacturers’ sizing standards accurate and up-to-date?
Being told a size six was perfection was screwed up then; being told a
size four is perfect is just as screwed up, if not more so–don’t we know
better by now? Aren’t we more aware of exactly how damaging that can
be? Why are we revisiting an entire generation’s insecurities on the
next generation? Haven’t we already got enough problems with six year
old anorexics, for god’s sake? A part of me is just grateful that kids aren’t going to realize that it used to be a size six, and all that change implies.
I remember joking that I wanted to be a size six, but of course there
was a part of me that really wanted it, that was fascinated by the
possibility, and what it implied. But even a six isn’t good enough any
more, is that what you’re telling me, Random House? Will I have to wait
for vanity sizing to get even more ridiculous, before I feel like I’m
good enough? Personally, I’m tired of waiting to be good enough. I
wanted to say: How amazing would it have been, if they had been revised
into perfect size tens, or twelves, or fourteens, right? But that’s the
wrong way to think about it. How about this: How amazing would it have
been, if their sizes had just been left out?