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Friday, December 23, 2011

Why didn't Nancy Drew and Ned Nickerson make out more? (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love romance)

The summer before third grade, I was obsessed with Nancy Drew. My mother had remarried, and we'd moved from Manhattan to Long Island. The town (in which I knew no one) was a fairly typical suburban one except for one thing: its tiny, old-fashioned library, a wooden building located about half a block from the train station.

The lonely new girl on the block, every morning, I'd get on my bike and ride over to the library. There, I'd return the Nancy Drew book I'd taken out the previous day and check out a new book that would last me until the next morning.

Those books were a life raft on which I floated all through the sea of that lonely summer. If you need a refresher course, Nancy Drew is the daughter of Carson Drew, a widower lawyer with an admirable sense of justice. Cared for by the family's devoted housekeeper Hannah Gruen, Nancy (amateur sleuth) is somehow utterly adored by both her father and Hannah but never told she cannot pursue evil criminals, even those whose nefarious activities extend to attempting to murder her. Nancy (a lovely red head) has two friends, Bess (pretty, plump, timid) and George. Lest you be inclined to make something of George's physical strength, bravery and boy's name, the author gave all the girls boyfriends who drop in and out of the story, occasionally serving as escorts to dances or joining the girls for picnics and outings, but inevitably standing on the sidelines when there's serious sleuthing to be done.

I loved Nancy, Bess and George and I loved the books. Though I was a strong reader, I wasn't an especially talented detective, and this made me the ideal audience for a mystery. Each plot twist amazed me. The solution always came as a total shock. Every evening, I'd finish the last page shaking my head in awe. That Nancy Drew. She was so pretty. So clever. So perfect.

When I grew up, I was going to be just like her.

But despite my passion for the books and their heroine, there was one thing about both that nagged at me ever so slightly. Though only eight years old, I couldn't help wishing that Nancy was…well, more into Ned Nickerson, her "special friend." Ned was super into Nancy, that much was clear. He always wanted to hold her hand, to dance with her, to take her for drives. Just to be clear, this was all in good 1930s fun, so Ned never did anything untoward like grind against Nancy or ask her if she wasn't ashamed she'd be going to college a virgin. No, Ned was just a nice, wholesome boy who wanted to stroll by the lake with his girlfriend. Sadly for him, while they were walking in the moonlight, Nancy would inevitably spy something shiny and cry, "Oh! A clue!" and the next thing you knew, Ned would be cooling his heels in the car while Nancy, Bess and George discovered the whereabouts of a sunken treasure.

Nancy Drew still remains one of my heroines. As a die hard feminist, I love a plucky female protagonist who's not distracted by a dazzling smile and a well-cut tuxedo. And why shouldn't Ned Nickerson stand aside when there's work to be done? If you have to choose between making out with a hot guy and saving an innocent family from being swindled out of its inheritance by a con man…well, I hope that none of us would hesitate to stop walking hand-in-hand by the lake and get down to some serious sleuthing.

That said, I think my eight-year-old self was onto something. After all, why shouldn't Nancy get to make out with Ned and solve crimes? It's not like you can do either one twenty-four/seven.

The same summer I was reading so much Nancy Drew, I was traveling into Manhattan every other weekend to see my father. He introduced me to another crime fighter, this one a man who seemed to have no trouble fighting crime and making out. In fact, he barely had time to save the world what with all the ladies he was seducing. Let me tell you something: If Ned Nickerson had been into James Bond instead of Nancy Drew, he would never have had to wait in his car. Not alone anyway.

Maybe Nancy had something to learn from Mr. Bond.

I know they've recently updated Nancy Drew for a new series. I can't imagine trying to wrap my head around an unfamiliar incarnation of my old friend, but from what I hear, Nancy's got a cell phone now. And I'm sure her roadster's been replaced with a razor scooter or maybe an eco friendly hybrid. While all those changes are certainly ones I can get behind, there's only one improvement I'd really wish on Nancy. And it's not that she'd start drinking her martinis shaken, not stirred.

It's this: Now and then, when she and Ned are walking along or star gazing or just having a friendly chat, I hope Nancy puts a finger on Ned's lips, shakes her head and says firmly, "Stop talking and kiss me already!"

It's what James would do. It's what I would do. And I like to think it's what today's Nancy Drew would do too.

Happy holidays!
xoxo,
Melissa

Click here to read the first chapter of The Darlings in Love.
Boys come and go. Best friends are forever.

6 Comments:

Blogger Ricki said...

If you ever read any of the Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys Supermysteries from the late 80s/early 90s, you would know why she was not as into Ned and her was her - there is major tension between her and Frank!

December 23, 2011 at 2:50 PM  
Anonymous Katie (Secrets and Sharing Soda) said...

Haha, great post! I don't remember much about reading the original Nancy Drews (though I was all about this one particular "new" Nancy Drew title, The Secret at Solaire) but I do play some of the computer games now, and Ned turns up quite a bit in those. And it's the same dynamic you describe - Nancy is always off in some exotic locale solving crimes, and Ned is just a number she occasionally calls on the phone for hints. In one game, they even have a fight, and I think it has something to do with Nancy choosing her case over him. Poor Ned. And he's such a nice guy, too!

I also wonder about that Frank Hardy connection... She sometimes calls the Hardy boys on the phone during those games, too, and occasionally I have wondered if we're supposed to think there's some flirtation or something. It's fun to think about anyway.

December 24, 2011 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger Jana said...

Did you ever read Confessions of a Teen Sleuth by Chelsea Cain. It was so good and had some ideas about Nancy and the Hardy boys. I think that was the main reason as well. But I agree, there needed to be more romance. Maybe they were trying to show little girls that they didn't need a boy to be strong and smart. They could do it all on their own!

January 3, 2012 at 1:20 PM  
Blogger Kimberly said...

I read all of the Nancy Drew books in elementary school! Ned and Nancy's relationship was soo chaste! Did you see the movie with Emma Roberts? He's a tad young for me, but I thought Ned (Max Thieriot) was sooo dreamy - just like I'd always pictured Ned.

January 4, 2012 at 1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They should totally make love, and have sex, and have a kid....

January 14, 2012 at 5:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ned and Nancy are a perfect couple.

March 14, 2013 at 5:07 AM  

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