|The caption on the cover art seems pretty anti-climatic.
“Barbara will be in on all the fun.” That statement really deserves an
exclamation point or some kind of expression. Unless,
of course, Barbara is completely bummed out about being in on the fun.
Barbara is super stoked when her older sister Rosemary announces that she’ll be marrying her college boyfriend Greg. And by “older sister” I mean 18-year-old sister. And by “college boyfriend” I mean boyfriend of less than six months. It all looks pretty shady. My natural response was to question whether or not Rosemary was pregnant. Sadly, though, the book ends before we can find out that Rosemary gives birth to a “premature” ten-pound baby seven months after the wedding. For whatever reason, this girl wants to get married. And now!
In Barbara’s eyes, though, the worst part of Rosemary getting married is that Barbara will never be able to catch up with her! For the past sixteen years, Babs has been focused on living the same life as Rosemary. She’s done the same activities and planned for college and worn make-up and gone on dates. But if Barbara can’t get married at eighteen like Rosemary, she’ll fall behind forever! Someone suggests that Barbara can get married after college. No! Anyone that isn’t married at twenty-three or twenty-four is a spinster! The shame! And if Barbara is to get married at eighteen, she needs to have an eligible bachelor on the line right now! The pressure! You can practically hear Barbara’s ring finger crying!
The family is pretty crazed by Rosemary’s bridal plans. She wants a small, practical ceremony. Nothing middle-class or bourgeois! Hand-thrown pottery for dishes! No silver! Only buy them records and books for gifts! Rosemary wants to get married in a suit, not a dress! She doesn’t want many guests! How dare this girl want her own wedding and not the wedding of her mother or grandmother. It really is shameful.
One thing that Rosemary does compromise on is wearing her grandmother’s cathedral veil. Except that the family cat shredded the middle of the veil. Catastrophe! is averted when the ladies have the veil salvaged to make a shorter veil and a matching lace jacket. Which is kind of perfect because Rosemary had just been bitching about how she refused to wear a traditional dress that might require a cathedral veil. Glad she dodged that bullet!
For years, Rosemary and Barbara have made fun of the Amys, their mother’s social club. Babs and Rosie are sure that the Amys “don’t use their minds.” It’s a running joke between them that they will never. become. Amys. Never. They’ll never sit around and discuss their kids and the best way to get a stain out. Never. You can see where this is going, right?
Things come together for Rosemary. Her braces come off. She and Greg score a free apartment in exchange for being landlords. The semester ends. The wedding plans are completed in record time. Gifts come in from Greg’s family friends “out east.”
Barbara spends the entire book seething with repressed anger. She wants to get married. She wants the storybook wedding that Rosemary is rejecting. She is distraught that Rosemary and Greg bicker like a normal couple. She is disgusted by the teeny apartment that Rosemary and Greg will live in. She has two dudes on the line in an attempt to find her future husband and catch up with rosemary. Tootie, the son of an Amy, is gangly, plays the trombone, and refuses to go out for basketball. He and Barbara are reluctant friends. Bill Cunningham drives a Vespa and thinks Barbara is some kind of domestic goddess. (She’s not.) By the end of the book, Barbara decides that she doesn’t need to pick a husband right now. She can wait a year or two. So she continues to casually date the two dudes.
Finally, Rosemary and Greg do get married. The wedding goes off without a hitch. There’s no Sixteen Candles drama here. Nope. Just two underaged dudes tying the knot.
- The story takes place in Bayview. Bayview, California. Do you know who else is from Bayview? My first crush, that’s who!
- ETA: Fine. He’s from Bayside. But that’s like halfway to being Bayview. There is a connection there! Also: I just like any opportunity to show off this dude’s face.
- Tootie on why he doesn’t want to go out for basketball: “I’d rather practice my trombone.”
- 1. Read that sentence aloud. 2. Consider the possibility of “trombone” being a double entendre. 3. Giggle.
- What could Tootie possibly be a nickname for? What name is so atrocious that Tootie is the better choice?
- Robin. Yep. Barbara thinks it’s shameful because no one named Robin should be 6’4″. On behalf of my cousin Robin, I’m going to disagree with this. Coincidentally, Cousin Robin is 6’4″. I never realized that his height or his name was so offensive until now. I may need to bring this up to his literary-minded mama.
- It is specified that Barbara is “college material.” It’s 1963, dudes. Most of the kiddos won’t be headed for the Ivory Tower. Weird.
- Barbara’s mom, the teacher of slow kids, stops at the DMV for drivers’ manuals. The slow kids want to learn about driving. She certainly knows how to spice up the classroom.
- And did you know that Barbara’s mom teaches slow kids?
- Quibble. Has anyone ever heard that word used outside a Beverly Cleary book? This girl hasn’t. I thought that only the young ladies of Klickitat Street quibbled. Apparently, Barbara and Gordy are in on it,too.
- A major argument against Rosemary getting married is the cost of her orthodontist. Her biweekly orthodontist appointments cost $25 a month. The couple can’t afford that. I’m a strong believer that you’re not ready to get married yet if you still have the braces from high school on. The presences or absence of braces should probably not be a deciding factor in whether or not you get married either.
- Nicknames are really better in theory. Barbara’s dad is a printing teacher that demands correct punctuation. If you aren’t sure of the correct punctuation, he demands that you look it up. This earns him the nickname Look-It-Up McLane. Seriously. That’s the best those kids could come up with.
- Still, though, Barbara is a little jealous of her dad’s rockin’ nickname. I hate to admit it, but so am I.
- Barbara’s high school has a down-only staircase. Wha’? I’m all for traffic control, but this seems a little ridiculous. This reminds me of Wayside School’s down-only elevator.
- Barbara is such a bad ass when she charges up the down-only staircase. She’s lucky she didn’t get a felony charge out of that.
- The girls in Rosemary’s dorm give her a wedding present–“unusual” cans of food with the labels taken off. These ladies certainly know how to give a practical gift.
- Allegedly, there is a feminist message in this book. Beverly Cleary was telling young girls everywhere that they did not have to have the same marriage as their mothers. They could be wives that use their mind. (And earn her Ph. T!) They didn’t have to register for the china patterns. They could have a marriage where both partners finish college and pursue careers. They could have a marriage where the partners are equals. But only if the wife still handles all the domestic duties.
- This is a great message for the young ladies of the 1960s. It’s a pretty vanilla version of today’s feminism, though. Rosemary is finishing school, yes. But she’s also really excited to earn her Ph.T. from the Dames club. Rosemary is having exactly the kind of relationship that she wants and not what society wants, and it’s liberating. Even if that relationship doesn’t seem any more modern to us than that of her “old-fashioned” parents.