#21: Mallory and the Trouble with Twins

The first few chapters of this book focus primarily on Mallory’s obsession with getting her ears pierced. Well, that and the fact that she lines up a two-month steady sitting job for the Arnold twins, Marilyn and Carolyn. Still, she’s only so excited because it means money she can save up to – maybe, if her parents will let her – get her ears pierced and her hair cut.

Mallory soon finds out that baby-sitting for the twins is tricky. They’re identical and they dress alike; the only way to tell them apart is the bracelet they each wear that says MARILYN or CAROLYN. But when the girls take their bracelets off, it’s basically impossible for Mal to tell them apart – and it doesn’t help that the twins speak in their own invented language. The only way Mallory can figure out who is who is by asking them to play the piano – Marilyn’s the only one who knows how.

It seems like the trouble all started when Mallory called the twins “cute” because they looked just alike reading on their beds in their perfectly symmetrical bedroom. Maybe they like having individual identities? But Mallory hasn’t figured out why they’re alternately torturing and ignoring her. When Claudia takes a turn sitting for Marilyn and Carolyn, they switch places and Carolyn ends up at Marilyn’s important piano rehearsal. The twins and Claudia get in trouble, even though it isn’t Claudia’s fault. Claud’s all, “FUCK IT, MAL – YOU KEEP THE TWINS.” Although she did come up with a good way to tell the twins apart – she drew a distinctive smiley face on the back of Marilyn’s hand. Our little art genius.

Mallory finally decides to fight fire with fire. The next time she sits for Marilyn and Carolyn and they start doing “twin talk”, she replies to them only in pig Latin. They can’t understand her and they get really frustrated, which proves a point to them – it’s not cool when people are purposely rude or leave you out of conversations. She agrees to teach them pig Latin if they wear the correct name bracelets while she baby-sits and if they stop using their language in front of her. They agree. Then they fill her in on a way to tell them apart – Carolyn has a mole on her left cheek, and Marilyn has a mole on her right cheek. Turns out the girls are a little sick of being so identical. When Mrs. Arnold comes home, she asks if Mallory and two other BSCers would help out at the twins’ upcoming eighth birthday party.

At the birthday party it becomes clearer than ever that Marilyn and Carolyn are sick of being just one-of-two and having no personal identity. Mallory is the only guest at the birthday party who buys them separate gifts – which they love – and their mother makes them dress alike, pose alike, do everything alike. They’re sick of it. The next time Mallory sits, the girls tell her her presents were the best because they were different and it felt like she knew the twins individually. Mal agrees to help them talk to their mom about maybe dressing differently, so they can start to build and show their own identities and distinct personalities. The talk goes well – Mrs. Arnold agrees to let the girls spend their birthday money on new (different) clothes, and to let Mallory take them shopping for said clothes.

The talk with Mrs. Arnold inspires Mallory to talk to her own parents, using classic kid-bargaining: ask for way too much, and then “agree” to something smaller (which is what you really want). Mal asks Mr. and Mrs. Pike for a haircut, contact lenses, pierced ears, and a brand-new wardrobe. She knows they’ll say no to the wardrobe and contacts (which they do), but she bargains down to the haircut and pierced ears. They agree, as long as she pays for it all with her baby-sitting money. Mallory is on cloud nine.

Her shopping trip with the Arnold twins goes well – everyone gets new stuff that they like. Mallory buys two pair of earrings shaped like open books – one for her and one for Jessi (in the hopes that Jessi’s parents will let her pierce her ears). BFFs! Jessi’s parents say yes, and all the BSC girls go to the mall that weekend. Mallory and Jessi get their ears pierced, Claud gets a third hole in one ear, and then Dawn decides she wants to join in and she gets two holes in each ear. PIERCING PARTY. Mary Anne and Kristy keep their virgin lobes.

Over the next couple of weeks Mallory changes her earrings for the first time, gets her hair cut into a cooler style (but, like, it’s still red and curly) and is basically feelin’ herself. Unfortunately, she also gets braces, which she is not into. But as Mallory once said, “being eleven is a real trial.” There’s a sweet surprise, though: at the first BSC meeting after everyone’s allowed to change their earrings, Kristy and Mary Anne announce that they bought each pierced girl a present at the mall: a pair of earrings selected specifically for her. Dawn’s are shaped like California, Claud’s look like a paint palette, Jessi’s are ballet shoes, and Mal’s are horses. Mal also gives Jessi the open-book earrings, and Claudia gives each pierced girl a pair of earrings she made herself. Claudia also gives Kristy and Mary Anne clip-on versions of the earrings she made. Such a sweetheart.

Say hello to your friends… the pierced Baby-sitters Club!

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