Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The New Lucinda

I finally read this damn book. I started it when I was eleven and finished it a couple of weeks ago.

It's only 220 very small pages (the book is about 5" x 4"), so it shouldn't have taken decades, but I stopped reading when I was eleven, because I was too embarrassed and then lost track of the book. But thanks to the power of Amazon I ordered up a copy, just like that, so I could finally find out what the hell happens at the end.

I was so embarrassed because my maternal grandmother made a fuss about it. I liked to read in my bed before going to sleep when I was eleven because my bed was the only place in the house I had to myself, so staying in it allowed me get away from the chaos of my five younger siblings. When I was done reading for the night I put the book under my pillow so I would have it handy for the next night, and it wouldn't get lost in the chaos.

My grandmother, who happened to be visiting us overnight, must have thought that I put the book under my pillow because it was naughty, and she told my mother about it, and my mother confronted me and made me feel like a criminal, so I put the book away.

I know my grandmother didn't read The New Lucinda by Grace Gelvin Kisinger because if she had bothered she would have realized that it was so innocent and wholesome that the worst thing that happens is that the bad kids in school smoke cigarettes (which of course everybody did in those days) and race their cars.

The New Lucinda is about Cindy, a high school student who is tired of her drab appearance and being called "bean-pole" because she is tall and thin. She reads an article in a women's magazine which has advice on becoming more glamorous, like changing your wardrobe color scheme from browns to blues. Cindy doesn't think she can pull off such a radical change in her appearance in her home town, but suddenly her father tells her and her mother (she's an only child - probably the reason I liked this book) he got a promotion and they would be moving a few towns away, so Cindy decides to go for her new look in her new high school.

But uh-oh, Cindy takes the magazine's advice too far, and not only does she change her color scheme - which apparently turns her into a knock-out - she also decides to seem aloof and cool.

But the evil bitch of the school, Rose, spreads a rumor that Cindy almost eloped with a college boy before she moved to her new school. Almost eloped, not got pregnant  outside of wedlock (like certain maternal relatives of mine.)

And so the entire student body of Cindy's new school, except for Peter, the cute but geeky editor of the school newspaper, gives her the cold shoulder; and except the school hot guy Mack Gordon, who figures since she's such a slut he can neck with her in his car. Which Cindy, naturally refuses to do.

The book was published in 1958 - the year after Atlas Shrugged, as it happens.

And now I finally know what happens: Cindy confronts Rose and makes her retract the story - turns out that a girl with a very similar name to Cindy's was the one who almost eloped.

Then everybody likes Cindy again. And so...
"Well since we're letting our hair down," Cindy began. She told them about her dissatisfaction with herself in Exeter (her old high school -ed.) and about the magazine article which had inspired her decision to make herself over into a new person. "But I guess I overdid it," she finished. "It was all right to try to improve my appearance but I shouldn't have pretended to be something that I'm not!" She paused, coloring. "To give you an idea of what I'm really like, I'll tell you what they called me in Exeter, if you'll promise not to tell anybody else."
"Cross my heart." Martha said, solemnly.
"Almost everyone there called me 'Beanpole'!" Cindy confessed.
"Beanpole!" Martha repeated, and there was a chorus of giggles.
"I think it's sort of cute," said Jan.
Cindy glanced at her suspiciously. "Promise you won't tell anyone!"
"I won't breathe it to a soul!"
"I'll make a bargain with you Cindy," said Susan. "I'll promise not to reveal your deep dark secret if you promise to help us with our knitting. You told me that you knew how, remember?"
"Yes, I remember." Cindy's eyes met Susan's and she knew that the memory was as painful to Susan as it was to her. (because Susan blew her off when the whole school was snubbing Cindy -ed.) She smiled quickly. "And I'll be glad to help."
"While we're on the subject of Exeter," she continued, "there's something I forgot to tell you. I do have a very good friend there named Sally Baird. I've been thinking that I'd like to invite her down for a visit soon and perhaps have a party for her - to introduce her to some of the Woodmont kids. I know you'd like her." She paused, struck by a sudden inspiration. "Why don't I call her tonight and invite her down for the weekend? We could have the party Saturday night."
"Sounds like a wonderful idea to me," said Martha.
"Me too," Jan agreed.
"I'd love to come!" Susan cried enthusiastically. "We could invite all the would-be knitters and maybe you could give us our first lesson. Or do you think it would be nicer if we had boys?"
Cindy glanced shyly around the table. "It might be more fun if we invited boys, too. In fact, there's one boy I very much want to invite."
Susan groaned. "Mack Gordon I suppose. Oh well, if it will make you happy, I'll try to get along with him for one evening."
"Who said anything about Mack Gordon?" Cindy retorted, grinning. "I'm talking about Peter Holmes!"


At last - closure!