I was a nerd growing up — still am, I guess, if I'm going to be honest about it. I got my first set of braces just before the 4th grade, the same year I got my first pair of glasses, so I had buck teeth, a mouth full of metal, pink-framed glasses and Bettie Page bangs years before they started being cool again. I was also the smartest girl in the class and, if not the least popular, pretty close. I had a crush on a soccer-playing popular boy named Brian Keenan, who didn't like me back. But what I also had was a lot of books, parents who encouraged me to read (and were strict about what I could watch on television) and enough imagination that I didn't notice the lack of MTV until I was in junior high. One of my favorite series of books growing up was Nancy Drew, and, of course, as NPR explains in its latest "In Character" segment, I was not alone.
As a nerd, I devoured books the way other people ate sweets. My aunt timed and quizzed me once because she was sure that I wasn't reading that fast, but I was. What that meant was that I needed a practically unlimited supply of appropriate young adult books or else my parents were going to come home from work and catch me reading my dad's SciFi tomes, and Robert Heinlein is not appropriate for young girls. I hit a point pretty early on where Babysitters Club was more dessert than intellectual dinner, not that it stopped me from reading and re-reading, but I wanted something more hardy.
This is where Nancy Drew came in handy — although, not the shitty remade versions from the late eighties where she was meaner and more popular and the series was more edgy. I liked that there was a mystery but the themes weren't too adult (unlike those slutty Sweet Valley High girls), I liked that she had a couple of close friends but was sort of more isolated from everyone else her own age, and I liked that she always won even when she was up against people who were older or richer because she was smart. I liked the idea that the smart girl would always win and that she could be happy even if she wasn't the coolest kid around, and I guess this is all saying that I totally identified with her even if I never wanted to be a detective or wear a tweed skirt (though I now own 3, so, apparently I did).
I never did see the movie. Like most of the books that sustained me through my incredibly awkward childhood and increasingly pathetic adolescence, the Nancy on the screen was never going to be able to be the Nancy in my head, and I am still not willing to give that Nancy up. She was the better version of me, the one Brian Keenan would've liked back. But by the 5th grade, I was on to having a crush on Doug DiBlasio, my braces were gone, I squinted instead of wore glasses and got totally obsessed with Little Women. That's what's in the bag I'm carrying, actually, and I swear I'm not grinning just because I'm standing next to Brian.
I didn't get rid of the bangs until the 9th grade.