It is Time for A.E. Osworth’s exceptional guest post. I simply could not be happier to be sharing it with you. Here we GO.
The Babysitters Club reboot made me grateful to have a girlhood, or rather, highlighted how grateful I am to have had one. It’s a fraught thing to talk about; I am very trans and I do not look like someone who enjoyed sleepovers and floral Laura Ashley dresses. But I did. I loved it. And I remember picking out Babysitters Club books in the basement of Time To Read, back when local independent bookstores were a fact of small town existence and not something one thinks back on, fondly. I remember the experience of getting them, girlfriends in tow, more than I remember actually reading them. Before the reboot, I couldn’t have told you a single thing about any of the books, aside from the fact that the characters frequently watched children and that Claudia was always my favorite. I do, however, think about the 1995 film a lot, mostly when I am planning large events and wonder if I will need to rent a port-a-potty, à la the club when they decide to run a Summer camp in someone’s back yard. I have never needed to, but one never knows.
I have always been grateful to have had a girlhood. A boyhood, in the strict traditional sense, sounds bad. Not bad generally, but bad for me. I run like a limp-wristed duckling with a foot-splinter, so sports-as-bonding would’ve been right out. Growing up, I watched boys do dangerous things as part of their strange culture of “proving;” I do not like getting hurt, and I like proving myself even less. I think I would have made a terrible boy and I make a much better trans adult. Thank goodness. But there is one aspect of girlhood that has never suited me at all: the assumption of stasis. I couldn’t have articulated it so succinctly before graduate school, before taking a literature seminar on the portrayals of girlhood in narrative. Boys adventure; girls stay home.
The point is, I am very sad right now. In the same ways that everyone is very sad right now, and also in more specific ways. So I stayed up until 4:30 in the morning watching The Babysitters Club and eating Totinos pizza rolls, something my therapist insists is an act of self-soothing and not regression. I was immediately taken with the reboot—the things that need to be updated are updated. Stacey doesn’t actually go date a seventeen-year-old when she’s eleven. Mary Anne is biracial. There’s a trans girl that she babysits. But the spirit is still the same. Entrepreneurial and primarily concerned with the lives of pre-teen girls, taking their joys and sorrows seriously. Deeply empathetic, understanding of flaws. Everyone is allowed to be a person; no one is perfect and no one is expected to be. People hurt each other’s feelings and continue to love each other. I wish I’d had this exact television show when I was a girl; I’m glad I have it now, when I’m processing through my marriage ending during a pandemic, during an uprising.
The point also is, I am very sad and have given and received a lot of tarot readings as of late. July, for me, is all about the Knight of Wands. I pulled that card on the very first day of 2020; I always do a year ahead spread on January 1st. As my life has spiraled from bad generally to bad specifically, I keep drawing the Knight of Wands, backed up by the boy band of the other three. Wandsy and the Knights. I have been thinking a lot about the knights—a series of teenage dinguses riding horses, venturing out and donking up just as much as succeeding. Not devoid of responsibility, but without the trappings of rule. Wanderers of noble intent with a keg strapped to their big ole war pony. Always seeking, learning, helping. In short, always Questing.
Through the miracle of random and serendipitous juxtaposition, I have been thinking a lot about The Babysitters Club as Knights of the tarot. Not Pages or Queens; specifically Knights. Because the babysitters have Big Questing Energy.
Kristy Thomas, the Knight of Swords: A slice-and-dice youngin’. Rash, harsh and brimming with brilliant ideas (the Babysitters Club is her idea, of course) and fearsome energy. I immediately recognized Kristy Thomas as the Knight of Swords. School comes easy for her, theoretically; practically, she can’t stop poking the teacher with her mind-blade and her sharp words (he deserves it; whose pedagogy involves telling a whole class that a student is struggling? What a butt). She can’t stop knighting about, either, which makes sense given the Knight of Swords is the knightiest of the knights—she’s entirely unable to simply enjoy a Summer at Camp Moosehead without a job. In the Many Queens deck by Lettie Jane Rennekamp, one cannot pull this knight upright or reversed—both her most positive and most negative qualities are so intertwined as to be present all at once, all the time. Kristy Thomas, often called bossy and annoying yet endearing for both of those reasons, embodies her perfectly.
Mary Anne Spier, the Knight of Pentacles: I can’t remember where I read it, but I remember reading it—the Knight of Pentacles is most often the only Knight portrayed astride a horse that has all four hooves on the earth. Grounded. So, too, is Mary Anne Spier, often literally as well as figuratively. Her overprotective father’s strict rule-keeping has turned her into a Knight with lead in her behind. Which is sometimes exactly what’s called for—a lead-assed Knight is difficult to unseat. This quality, combined with her high-value of comfort and safety, turns Mary Anne into a warrior for Bailey, a trans girl who needs to be hospitalized for a fever. The eleven-year-old sees encroachment upon comfort, safety and will not take no for an answer against full grown adult doctors. The Pentacles often represent the material world, and that’s exactly how Mary Anne tries to solve her self-confidence problem: by redoing her room. The Knight of Pentacles often comes at a challenge from the outside in. As the Earth suit, Pentacles is diametrically opposed to Swords, the air suit, therefore making these Knights and Babysitters a very satisfying pair of best friends.
Claudia Kishi, the Knight of Wands: Ah, Claudia, always my favorite. But that’s not the only reason I’ve conceptualized her as the Knight of Wands during this, the July when I am also supposed to be Knight of Wandsing. I’ve linked these two first and foremost because any time I read for any writer or artist and the wands are making a big appearance, they’ve always been all about art practice and no one can tell me different. Wands are about taking passion and bringing it to bear on the surrounding world; shining light and stoking fire. Always knows exactly what to say to bolster or smite—just as quick as Kristy to be mean, but far more emotionally precise—as with telling her sister Janine that Mimi always preferred Claudia. It’s in Claudia that I started to understand something about the Knights more generally—often the tool most often reached for to Quest is the very one that the Knight struggles with in the largest ways—as in, the art show; Claudia hasn’t deeply considered what it means to make art even as she engages with it constantly, even as she has tremendous skill. In this way, the Knights differ from Queens and Kings.
Stacey McGill, the Knight of Cups: This Knight’s cup overfloweth with feelings, and of course this is true for boy-crazy Stacey. As she figures out how to move through the world, she makes most of her decisions with the guiding principal of her intuition, crushes and emotional wants. Not the worst way to make decisions most of the time, if I’m honest! At her best, it leads to the recognition that her feelings are real and important, and others’ feelings are as real and important to them as hers are to her. At her worst, she makes hurtful decisions following the whims of her own feelings—it’s a good thing that the Knight of Cups always knows what’s needed to make someone else feel good, to make amends.
How is any of this useful? I’m not sure it is, to be perfectly honest. Except of course that it is strange to be connecting to Big Questing Energy in a time where one cannot and should not leave home. The Babysitters Club reboot reimagines what it takes to Quest, and how it can be, if not entirely accomplished, inextricably linked to hearth and house, to the community where one already lives. The Babysitters take the “boys adventure; girls stay home” dichotomy and mix it up with a KitchenAid, which is especially satisfying to a person like me who doesn’t fuck with binaries. Because the Babysitters use the trappings of the girlhood stasis trap in order to seek, to learn, to help; to leave home, to fuck up, to repair; to be without the structure of their Queens and Kings and Pages. To Quest.
I do not leave home right now; neither should you. Nor do I have a concrete understanding of where my home is, how it should be; you might not, either. You might be looking around you, as I am, and touching the furniture to make sure it’s real; everything looks wibbly and unfocused, distorted like the air above the road on a hot Summer day. A place, a concept, you thought you understood has melted into something you’re not quite as sure about. But as I sit in this backyard of this place that is home now, as I type this, I turn in. I seek. I learn. I help. Softly and with all the elements at my disposal, quietly and within the bounds of home, I Quest.
A.E. Osworth's novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing in April 2021. It's about a game developer dealing with harassment and is narrated collectively and unreliably by a fictional subreddit. In the meantime, you can read their work on Quartz, ElectricLit, Autostraddle, PaperDarts, Mashable, and Guernica, among others. Keep up with them on Twitter, Instagram or their website.
I’m currently reading for free for anyone who’s organizing and on a sliding scale for everyone else— get in touch if you want an individual and/or group reading!
Content will continue to be free until it’s way safer to go out. Also, my money situation is tenuous! Subscribing is $5/ month and $50/ year, and if you have some disposable $$ I would love it if you did (or sent me a Venmo tip @james0ctober). Stay safe, bake bread, watch TV. <3