For most of my life, when I heard someone talk about Weetzie Bat, I assumed it was a book about an actual bat. I imagined something like an anthropomorphic fruit bat: small, cute, not something that’s going to want to suck your blood. Maybe this cute bat goes to high school? I think I spent a lot of time inventing plots for books that I could have just read.
Anyway, when I told one friend of mine that I’d be starting this project, she immediately began giving me the hard sell on Weetzie Bat. “You’re going to LOVE IT. I read it 20 times and I wanted to be her and I tried to make ‘duck hunting’ happen,” she said. I had no idea what she was talking about, but currently I am not in a position to turn anything down. So I borrowed her copy.
The next day I read two pages and told her this book embodied everything I hate about Tumblr and there was no way I could read it. The day after that, I finished it and fell in love.
The thing about Weetzie Bat, all 70 pages of it, is that reading it is like a dream, and the second you attempt to compare anything about it to “real life” you turn into a cynical asshole. It’s like listening to people talk about Burning Man, if you know people who go to Burning Man. It’s all colors and art and community and you’re surrounded by your friends and there’s no money and it sounds like paradise, until you realize that to actually live that life you need to spend thousands of dollars to schlep all your shit out into a desert during your only vacation time and it’s entirely impractical and you’d probably just spend the whole time wanting to punch some naked dude on a unicycle in the face. So, when reading Weetzie Bat, it’s best to just accept the dream. Enter the book. Don’t think too hard.
Weetzie Bat does start off in the worst way possible: “The reason Weetzie Bat hated high school was because no one understood.” I mean, good God. Apparently the things Weetzie loves that people don’t understand are burritos and rollerblades and old Hollywood, which, I don’t know if you’ve been to Los Angeles but that is what EVERYONE understands, so Weetzie maybe just needs to talk to someone? No, scratch that, because the second she opens her mouth she’s explaining to this guy Dirk that she (a white girl with blonde hair) is wearing an Indian headdress because she is “into Indians. They were here first and we treated them like shit.” There is almost certainly a direct line between the 12-year-olds who first read this book and all the blonde girls at Coachella in neon shorts and problematic headwear.
Weetzie is every girl I wanted to be in high school and every girl I could not stand in one. She is every girl at my liberal New York City private school who put glitter paint on her Marc Jacobs t-shirts and ate cheeseburgers and weighed 100 pounds forever and liked pink in an unconventional way, somehow. I hated her. But then I’d go to her house and she’d have fantastic taste in music and an actual record player, and somehow have decorated her room to be kitschy and edgy at the same time, and who in general was just really nice and wanted to do cool things with her life. And it just baffled me because why wasn’t she concerned with covering up her body and hiding in the stairwell during her free periods so no one noticed her?
According to Block, “under the pink Harlequin sunglasses strawberry dangling charms, and sugar-frosted eyeshadow [Weetzie] was really almost beautiful.” But you know, not actually beautiful.
Weetzie owns her weirdness, which attracts the attention of Dirk, a hot guy (no one in this book is not hot. One cannot be schlubby and quirky at the same time) with a mohawk who becomes her Gay Best Friend. They go out to clubs and eat burritos on the beach and go “duck hunting” (Duck is their slang for “guy”), and hang out with Dirk’s grandma Fifi, who sounds pretty baller. One day, Fifi gives Weetzie a golden lamp, and Weetzie rubs it and a stereotypical genie, complete with turban and baggy pants, shows up and grants her three wishes.
The summary of the book says that Weetzie’s wishes “do not turn out like she planned,” which had me expecting a much more Twilight Zone-style twist. She wishes for a “Duck” for Dirk, a “Secret Agent Lover Man” (ugh) for herself, and a house for them all to live in. That last one does get a little Rod Sterling-ed because immediately after she makes her wishes Dirk calls her to say Fifi died and left them her house, which is filled with knick-knacks and vintage dresses and flowers, because of course it is.
Weetzie is weirded out for a half-second and then settles into a pretty bitchin’ life. Dirk meets a blonde surfer boy named Duck and he moves in with them, and after some time Weetzie meets a man in a trenchcoat named My Secret Agent Lover Man, and the four of them live in Fifi’s house and make films together. There’s a lot of food porn about the sandwiches and the seafood pasta they make. This book made me very hungry.
And now, a conflict. Weetzie wants to have a baby, and MSALM does not. So Weetzie and Duck and Dirk decide to have a threesome so she can get knocked up and no one has to know whose baby it is. MSALM is, understandably, pissed off at this and leaves Weetzie, who eventually gives birth to a baby girl and names her fucking CHEROKEE. I can’t even handle it. I almost throw the book away again, and then I remembered that earlier she goes to visit her dad in New York and they mention Cel-Ray soda, and I am the only person I know who likes Cel-Ray, so I keep reading.
MSALM comes back and forgives Weetzie for having a threesome without telling him (We can argue about monogamy and trust and all that, but if you’ve established you don’t want kids and your girlfriend goes ahead and gets pregnant with your roommates you have every right to never come back). They go back to life together pretty quickly, until a Dark Woman appears at their door and demands to see MSALM. He confesses to having had an affair with her while he was gone, and talks to her, and then a few months later a Dark Baby is left on their doorstep, which they raise as their own and call Witch Baby. After reading summaries, I realized that Dark Woman originally appears because she is asking MSALM for money to get an abortion, though that is hinted at so vaguely that I don’t even notice it, probably because I’m too angry at Weetzie assuming she’s scary because she has dark hair and olive skin.
Things continue to go “not as planned.” Weetzie and Cherokee visit Weetzie’s dad in New York, and soon after he dies of an overdose. Weetzie’s mom is a lush. Duck gets freaked out after he visits a friend in the hospital and realizes that “love can become death,” and runs away to San Francisco. Eventually Dirk finds him and brings him home, although it’s left ambiguous as to whether or not Duck is HIV-positive. (While in San Francisco, Duck says “You are in my blood. I can’t help it.” Thoughts?). The sun sets on them all together again, presumably happily ever after, which means that the genie wasn’t that tricky and everything turned out as planned. With extra babies around.
Now is the moment when I’m coming out of it. When I realize how casually appropriative Weetzie’s fashion choices are, or how much I would vomit if a man ever said to me “You are my Marilyn. You are my lake full of fishes. You are my sky set, my ‘Hollywood in Miniature,’ my pink Cadillac, my highway, my martini, the stage for my heart to rock and roll on, the screen where my movies light up.” Where I start to wonder how, aside from MSALM’s films, how any of them made money to afford the estate taxes on that inherited house. Where I start getting boring and realistic, while in Weetzie-land I would probably just take a bath with pink bubbles and then eat chili on the porch with my best friends.
The book I was lent had the rest of the Weetzie Bat series in it, which I was encouraged not to read. I’m down from the high of reading enough to know it would be dangerous to get back in. I don’t even want to read Weetzie Bat again, figuring that with each reading, the charm will wear off, the cynical thoughts will creep in earlier, the name Cherokee will get even more ridiculous. I’d rather just live the dream for now.
[Image via Wikipedia]