Does anything say Valentine’s Day like enormous, room-filling IBMs crunching numbers to determine your Dream Date? It is the time of year where your day is ruined because of peer pressure to cough up two dollars for your official Data Matches, which are inevitably 9 people you absolutely hate plus the one dude you have a secret crush on, which is even worse, so you crumple up the carbon paper and hide it in the bottom of your locker (underneath the Problems In Democracy textbook that is still in its cellophane shrink-wrap) and when your friends are like “Did you get your matches yet???” ALL THE DAMN DAY LONG you are like “No! Because it is STUPID and SHUT UP I DO NOT EVEN LIKE [Redacted]! Who did you get? Probably [Redacted]!” “No, shut up, I DO NOT EVEN LIKE HIM!!!”
And then like 15 years later your parents send over a bag of garbage for you to sort through and at the bottom is a crumpled-up up carbon sheet and you’re all like “Ha, ha [Redacted]! Remember that guy!” and then maybe you have some flashbacks and when you come to you are inexplicably listening to Soundgarden and you thank God that you are living in the future, now where are my jet-boots?
What I’m saying is that, despite what this book would have you believe, the outcome in involving computers in high school social rituals is only going to be traumatic and bad. And also that Soundgarden was never a good band.
The Plot: 12 year old Toni Moretti and her friends Kate and Brenda are actually excited when the middle-school principal announces that students will be filling out multiple-choice questionnaires to find their perfect matches for the upcoming Valentine’s Day dance. Toni and her friends have zero experience dating (I can’t tell if I’m supposed to surprised or not? They are 12!) and see this as the opportunity to lure their various crushes into an inescapable relationship-web.
Brenda has a crush on one of her teachers and Kate thinks the whole thing is stupid, but Toni sees the perfect opportunity to jigger her questionnaire so it is the perfect match with class president, football captain and all-round Popular Guy Kevin Donnelly.
Toni, being naturally dramatic, uses the powers of Acting, Astrology and Catholicism to achieve this end. After finding her college-aged sister’s discarded Guide Your Life With The Stars book, she decides that she will act in a way that will make Kevin, a Leo, realize that she is her perfect match and sets about making herself more “dramatic, outgoing, independent and strong, yet sensitive.”
To that end, she takes a cue from her role models in classic Hollywood movies, and the next week makes a grand entrance in the cafeteria:
I decided to start off with a little fun-loving routine a la Katharine Hepburn from Bringing Up Baby. Then I’d mix in some dramatic Bette Davis in Dangerous. That should clinch it, I thought. I knew Kevin wouldn’t be able to resist me.
Of course, everyone just thinks she’s insane and want to know why she is suddenly speaking in a southern accent (like Scarlett O’Hara, duh!) and calling everyone “Dahling”.
For extra insurance, she also prays to St. Anthony, the patron saint of Lost Causes and goes to church and makes an offering of $2.82, which she assures God is not a bribe.
Undermining Toni’s confidence is her arch-nemesis, Bobbi “The Body” Weston, who pops up in the gym locker room to suggest that boys are only interested in one thing, and it’s not Rosalind Russell impressions. She also makes fun of Toni’s underwear:
“Hey- what are you wearing? It doesn’t look like a bra. Toni Moretti, don’t tell me you don’t wear a bra!”
“It’s called a camisole. That’s French, in case you didn’t know.”
Bobbi obviously never saw Bette Davis in her underwear.
The scheming is all for naught, as Kate is matched with Kevin on the big day, while Toni is stuck with one of Kevin’s teammates who goes by the name of “Soup”. Toni’s family is not supportive, as her mother informs her that St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost objects (which to be fair, he did great at turning up for her all week) and her sister points out that Hitler was also big into astrology.
Toni and Kate resolve their rivalry, Brenda decides to accept a date with someone her own age, and Toni eventually decides that if she squints Soup’s ears kind of make him look like Clark Gable.
Sign It Was Written In 1981: “Luckily, the book was for beginners, because if it had been any more complicated, I would have ended up with Excedrin Headache number twenty-five.”
Role Models Department: “Why I remind her of Tallulah Bankhead, though is beyond me. I am absolutely nothing like her. Well, maybe a little. I do move my arms around a lot… and I talk pretty fast…but that’s it.”
Life Is Unfair Department: “If I didn’t know better, I’d swear Bobbi stuffed her bra with sweat socks.”