The Pants first came to us at the perfect moment. That is, when we were splitting up for the first time. It was two summers ago when they first worked their magic, and last summer when they shook up our lives once again. You see, we don’t wear the Pants year-round. We let them rest so they are extra powerful when summer comes. (There was the time this spring when Carmen wore them to her mom’s wedding, but that was a special case.)
Now we’re facing our last summer together. In September we go to college. And it’s not like one of those TV shows where all of us magically turn up at the same college. We’re going to four different colleges in four different cities (but all within four hours of one another—that was our one rule). We’re headed off to start our real lives.
Tomorrow night at Gilda’s we’ll launch the Pants on their third summer voyage. Tomorrow begins the time of our lives. It’s when we’ll need our Pants the most.
Granted, Tibby was in a mood. All she could see was change. All anybody talked about was change. She didn’t like Bee’s wearing heels for the second day in a row. She felt peevish about Lena’s getting three inches trimmed off her hair. Couldn’t everybody just leave everything alone for a few minutes?
Tibby was a slow adjuster. In preschool, her teachers had said she had trouble with transitions. Tibby preferred looking backward for information rather than forward. As far as she was concerned, she’d take a nursery school report card over a fortune-teller any day of the week. It was the cheapest and best self-analysis around.
Tibby saw Gilda’s through these same eyes. It was changing. Its glory days of the late nineteen eighties were far behind it. It was showing its age. The once-shiny wood floor was scratched and dull. One of the mirror panels was cracked. The mats looked as old as Tibby, and they’d been cleaned much less. Gilda’s was trying to get with the times, offering kickboxing and yoga, according to the big chalkboard, but it didn’t look to Tibby like that was helping much. What if it went out of business? What a horrible thought. Maybe Tibby should buy a subscription of classes here? No, that would be weird, wouldn’t it?
“Tibby, you ready?” Lena was looking at her with concerned eyebrows.
“What if Gilda’s closes?” Tibby opened her mouth, and that was what came out.
Carmen, holding the Traveling Pants, Lena, lighting the candles, Bee, fussing with the dimmer switches near the door, all turned to her.
“Look at this place.” Tibby gestured around. “I mean, who comes here?”
Lena was puzzled. “I don’t know. Somebody. Women. Yoga people.”
“Yoga people?” Carmen asked.
“I don’t know,” Lena said again, laughing.
Tibby was the one most capable of emotional detachment, but tonight it all lay right on the surface. Her irrational thoughts about Gilda’s made her feel desperate, like its demise could swallow up their whole existence—like a change in the present could wipe out the past. The past felt fragile to her. But the past was set, right? It couldn’t be changed. Why did she feel such a need to protect it?
“I think it’s Pants time,” Carmen said. The snacks were out. The candles were lit. The egregiously bad dance music played.
Tibby wasn’t sure she wanted it to be Pants time yet. She was having enough trouble maintaining control. She was scared of them noticing what all this meant.
Too late. Out of Carmen’s arms came the artifacts of their ritual. The Pants, slowly unfolding from their winter compression, seeming to gain strength as they mixed with the special air of Gilda’s. Carmen laid them on the ground, and on top of them the manifesto, written on that first night two years before, describing the rules of wearing them. Silently they formed their circle, studying the inscriptions and embroidery that chronicled their summer lives.
“Tonight we say good-bye to high school, and bye to Bee for a while,” Carmen said in her ceremonial voice. “We say hello to summer, and hello to the Traveling Pants.”
Her voice grew less ceremonial. “Tonight we are not worrying about good-bye to each other. We’re saving that for the beach at the end of the summer. That’s the deal, right?”
Tibby felt like kissing Carmen. Brave as she was, even Carmen was daunted by the implications of looking ahead.
“That’s the deal,” Tibby agreed heartily.
The last weekend of the summer had already become sacred in their minds. Sacred and feared. The Morgans owned a house right on the beach in Rehoboth. They had offered it to Carmen for that final weekend, in part, Carmen suspected, because they had gotten an au pair from Denmark and felt guilty about not hiring Carmen to babysit this summer as she had done the summer before.
The four of them had promised each other in the spring that it would be their weekend. The four of them and nobody else. They all depended upon it. The future was unfurling fast, but whatever happened this summer, that weekend stood between them and the great unknown.
They all looked ahead to college in different ways, Tibby knew. They all had different amounts to lose. Bee, in her lonely house, had nothing. Carmen did; she dreaded saying good-bye to her mother. Tibby feared leaving the familiarity of her chaos. Lena flipped and flopped—one day she was afraid to cut ties, and the next she was dying to get away.
The thing they feared equally and powerfully was saying good-bye to one another.
After drawing for the Pants (Tibby won), reviewing the rules (unnecessary, but still part of tradition), and taking a brief hiatus to chew down some Gummi Worms, it was at last time for the vow. Like they had the summer before, they said it together.
“To honor the Pants and the Sisterhood
And this moment and this summer and the rest of our lives
Together and apart.”
Only this time, Tibby felt the tears fall when they said “the rest of our lives.” Because in the past that had always seemed like a distant road, and tonight, she knew in her heart, they were already on it.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares. Copyright © 2005 by Ann Brashares. Excerpted by permission of Ember, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
About Ann Brashares
“I don’t really write with the idea of trying to teach any lessons. I want to tell a story as truthfully and engagingly as I can, and then let the chips fall where they may.”—Ann Brashares
Ann Brashares grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland, with three brothers and attended a Quaker school in the D.C. area called Sidwell Friends. She studied Philosophy at Barnard College, part of Columbia University in New York City. Expecting to continue studying philosophy in graduate school, Ann took a year off after college to work as an editor, hoping to save money for school. Loving her job, she never went to graduate school, and instead, remained in New York City and worked as an editor for many years. Ann made the transition from editor to full-time writer to write her first novel, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ANN BRASHARES ON THE SECOND SUMMER OF THE SISTERHOOD
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, your debut novel, received much critical praise, awards, and adoration from readers of all ages. What are your thoughts on its success and why do you think it resonated so heavily with readers?
Its success has been a wonderful surprise each step of the way. From the outset I tried to keep my expectations very low. I know how hard it is to get a book published let alone have it succeed. I’ve read many excellent books that did not succeed commercially. Here I give credit to the publisher, Random House, and to the booksellers. They supported the book wholeheartedly.
To the extent that it has resonated with readers, I am grateful for it. I sense that they have responded, more than anything else, to the unconditional love and loyalty that the Sisterhood represents.
Has the success changed your writing process and expectations for the The Second Summer of the Sisterhood?
I tried not to let the success change anything, but it kept creeping into my consciousness anyway. I worried that I wouldn’t live up to the hopes of my readers. I worried that I would forget how to write. I worried that I never knew how to write in the first place. I worried a lot and I wrote very little.
When I finally forced myself back to my computer, I worried I had fallen out of touch with my characters. They felt to me like friends with whom I'd been intensely close, but hadn't seen in a long time. It's painful, in a way, to have to ask clunky, anonymous questions of people you used to know in an intimate, hour-by-hour way. Luckily, though, when I started to spend real time with Carmen and Bee and Tibby and Lena, I relaxed. I grew close to them again and enjoyed being with them so much, I forgot all the things I was worrying about.
As for expectations, I still try to keep them in check. But I do allow myself to hope. I hope that readers who liked the first book will like the second one, too.
Did you plan for the girls’ relationships with their mothers to play a stronger role in The Second Summer of the Sisterhood? Does your relationship with your own mother resemble any from the book?
It didn’t start out that way exactly. As I was working out stories for each of the girls, I realized that most of them involved their mothers to some degree. So I just went with it. The mother-daughter bond is about as rich a subject as any I know. And I felt those relationships could give a center of gravity to a book that otherwise ran the risk of going in too many directions at once.
My relationship with my mother doesn’t resemble any of the ones in the book precisely. There are some thematic similarities to Carmen, though, in that my parents were divorced and I had to come to terms with my mom having a romantic life of her own.
As the mother of three young children, do you find that you relate more to the girls or their mothers?
Even though I’m closer to the age of the mothers, I related more to the daughters. I think that’s because I wrote the book from the girls’ points of view. Although I tried really hard to imagine how the mothers would feel, I didn’t actually spend my days thinking their thoughts the way I do when I’m writing in a character’s point of view.
Also, my daughter is not a teenager yet. When she gets to be a teenager, then I’ll really understand what those mothers go through.
Female friendship remains a central theme in the second book, do you have your own Sisterhood? In your writing, you seem to have a real understanding of the importance of those bonds, how have you come to know that?
I have a few very good old friends from childhood and some more recent friends whom I love dearly. But truthfully, I think the Sisterhood is more fantasy than reality for me. I grew up in a house full of boys (wonderful boys, I should mention), and always dreamed about sisters.
Do you have a sense of where the girls will be “next summer”? How do you see their growth continuing?
Next summer will be the girls’ last before they split up to go to college. That’s going to be a big deal for them. I suspect Tibby is going to fall in love for the first time. I have a feeling Bridget might encounter Eric, the soccer coach, again. I have a few other plans up my sleeve, but I think I better keep them secret.
What do you hope readers will take away from this second book?
I don’t really write with the idea of trying to teach any lessons. I want to tell a story as truthfully and engagingly as I can, and then let the chips fall where they may. But I realize when I get to the end of the story, I care very much that my characters evolve and grow. In spite of their torments and their selfish impulses, I care that they are guided by a spirit of goodness. I want them to set a high standard for compassion and for friendship.
ANN BRASHARES ON THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS
How did you come up with the book’s unique central concept? Why traveling pants?
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was born in an unusual way. I was working as an editor at the time, chatting in the office with a colleague and friend who told me about a summer when she and some girl friends shared a pair of pants. She told me the pants had sadly been lost in Borneo. My mind was immediately filled with all sorts of wonderful possibilities.
I think pants have unique qualities, especially in a woman’s life. Whatever bodily insecurities we have, we seem to take out on our pants. In high school, my friends would have their skinny pants and their fat pants. I like pants that allow women not to judge their bodies. The Traveling Pants are the kind of pants that always love you. They fit my characters’ bodies in a non-restrictive way.
Describe your favorite pair of pants. What makes them your favorite?
At the moment, my favorite pair of pants are bright red. They are cropped, slightly flared summer pants. Like a good friend, they are flexible, forgiving, and boost my confidence even on really off days. They are low maintenance pants–never requiring dry cleaning or even ironing. The waistline is zippered and definite, so it doesn't have that subtly defeated quality of elastic. And these pants manage to make me feel loved even through major body transitions (like having a baby!).
This story should resonate with young women because sharing clothes is such an integral part of many female friendships. Did you have a clothes-sharing experience that helped to shape the book?
The concept of The Pants is directly related to my experience with my wedding dress. Before I had chosen a wedding dress, I had a picture in my mind of what mine would look like. One day, my mom and I were touring wedding venues in the Washington, DC area where I grew up. Our guide showed us some wedding photographs, and one of them showed a bride wearing a dress just like the one I had imagined. The tour guide invited me to take the picture home, so I did, and I left it in my drawer.
A few months later, the sister of a friend, a young woman named Hope, asked if I had picked my wedding dress. I hadn't. Hope’s recent wedding hadn’t worked out. She wasn't broken-hearted about the groom, but she was broken-hearted about her beautiful, amazing dress not being worn. She asked me if I would consider wearing it at my wedding. I didn't know Hope very well, so I politely declined a few times. Yet she was strangely insistent and later arrived at our friend's apartment with a huge box. Through the clear plastic front I could see that the dress inside was remarkably familiar. It was exactly the same as the dress in the photograph I had put in my drawer. I was ecstatic.
I tried to give the dress back to Hope, after I had worn it in my wedding, but she didn't want it.
So I decided, in the spirit of her generosity, that it was a fortuitous, serendipitous kind of dress, and needed to be shared some more. Since then, it has been worn beautifully by my older brother's wife, my middle brother's wife, and my lifelong best friend. These are probably the three women I am closest to in my life–my own sisterhood. I'm hoping it will be worn again. In fact, I am imagining that instead of the next bride throwing the bouquet at the end of the wedding, she can ball up my wedding dress and throw that.
Much of the novel takes place in Baja and Greece. Did travel play an influential role in your childhood or teenage years?
I love to travel and have taken a lot of trips, but have never actually been to either Baja or Greece. I did a lot of reading and imagining for those stories. They existed more in my imagination than any place else. I love islands. I loved that Oia, the town where Lena’s grandparents lived, was stuck in time and had this geological drama in the background.
I grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland, which was very Plain Jane. When I was a kid, I had a scrapbook that I used to write letters in from places I wished I could have gone. I would imagine being in Argentina and then write about all the incredible things I was seeing there. This book is almost like a continuation of those imaginary years.
How old were you when you first fell in love? Who was he? Where were you?
I first fell in love when I was 14 or 15, but it wasn’t immediate falling in love, it was a slow… slow fall. The person I fell in love with immediately was my husband. He is an artist and we met during my freshman year at Barnard. He sat across from me and drew a picture of me in the Columbia University Philosophy Reading Room. I hadn’t even noticed him, but a friend of mine saw what he was doing and told me. As soon as I went out with him, that was it. It was the first time I felt like I loved someone instantly. We’ve been together ever since.
You’ve written about four very different girls. Are the characters in this book based on people you know or wish you had known?
Oddly enough, they aren’t. They are composites of different people. I based Lena's story on the Greek myth of Artemis, the proud, boy-hating goddess of the hunt who, when spotted bathing by a suitor, turns the poor guy into a stag. I wanted my Lena to be less pleased with herself, though, and for her suitor to be more formidable. The story of Tibby and Bailey I based on the great, great movie It's a Wonderful Life. Bailey started out more like an angel than a person. I imagined her as an angel who revealed the cynical little prejudices and presumptions that I remember finding so seductive when I was fifteen. Carmen was the girl who said things I could never say and Bridget was the girl who did things I would never do.
Who are you most like: Carmen, Tibby, Bridget or Lena?
There’s a little bit of me in each of them. I would say I have more in common with Lena and Carmen than the other two. I have some life experience in common with Carmen, but we are considerably different too. I am a little like Carmen in that I sometimes feel as if I lose myself when I'm out of context. Also, I have dealt with issues of divorce and step families. For the protection of the innocent, though, I must say that my own family circumstances were completely different than hers. As for Lena, I guess I know what it is to feel awkward and inward sometimes, and romantically, to feel like a big chicken. Sometimes the girls provided me with an escape or a fantasy.
Why did you choose Carmen to set up the story?
Carmen struck me as the person who was most conscious–who recognized the importance of the girls’ friendship. She didn’t just live it, she knew it inside and out. I think she’s the most introspective of the four.
What do you think are the most important aspects of female relationships?
Loyalty and love. And I mean the kind of love that parents have–unconditional. So often, relationships become competitive or marked by pettiness or envy. For relationships to really transcend the negative stuff in life, they need to be without judgement. I wanted to create a story about a rare bunch of girls who didn't succumb to malice or jealousy and, instead, learned to grow alongside each other and in support of each other. I like the idea in this book, particularly for Carmen, that they are just going to love each other whole-heartedly, no matter what.
Do you think those things change as people get older?
I think that relationships do change over time. And that’s another reason why Carmen has the role she does. She has an awareness that the relationship is fragile and that so many other priorities, like boyfriends or distance, can get in the way. People’s lives inevitably go in different directions as they get older, when they stop having so much in common. They have to work not to let it go.
What do you hope teens will take away from reading The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants?
Honestly, I mostly hope they'll enjoy it and take pleasure away. I want it to be the kind of book that will stick with them a bit, the way books I liked when I was that age stuck with me. If there's a message, I guess it's just this: love yourself and your friends unconditionally.
Q. Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood takes Bridget, Carmen, Lena, and Tibby through their final summer together before they leave for different colleges. Did writing about this challenging, eye-opening time in the girls’ lives remind you of preparing to leave home for your freshman year? What were some of your expectations for your first year at college?
A. I remember thinking it was a huge deal to go to college. I just knew that my life would never be the same again–that leaving home would effectively divide my life into two parts. And it did. I remember packing my trunk and feeling nostalgic in an almost preemptive way. But then, I’ve always been susceptible to a malady I call over-dread, where you imagine and fear something so exhaustively that the real event, when it arrives, seems relatively easy in comparison. A few of my characters suffer from that same malady, I think.
In leaving home, I relished the opportunity to change everything about myself I ever disliked (quite a list). And yet I also wanted to take my whole self with me. That same incompatibility continues to dog me, as it happens.
Back then, I remember feeling as Carmen does a few times–if you take yourself out of your context of family and hometown and friends, who exactly do you have left?
Q. “Last time they had started at the end. This time they started at the beginning. You couldn’t erase the past. You couldn’t even change it. But sometimes life offered you the opportunity to put it right” (p. 325). Why did you give Bridget the challenge of Eric all over again, especially in this crucial summer before she leaves her home for a new experience?
A. Bridget is so gifted and so strong, and yet she’s the most fragile of the characters in the Sisterhood. I have yearned to put stable ground under her feet. That process really started in The Second Summer, when she developed her relationship with Greta.
A lot of readers asked me to bring Eric back, and at first I didn’t want to. There is the kind of love that takes and the kind that gives, and you don’t usually find both with the same person. But then I thought about it more and I realized that he offered this great opportunity for her to shore up her past, to demonstrate to herself that she’s grown, that she can be different. The first summer with Eric, she tries to captivate him with this false idea of herself. She ends up feeling frail and used. But it’s not fair to say that Eric used her, precisely. More painful is Bee’s knowledge that she used herself.
In this third book, Bridget presents herself honestly to Eric, both in strength and in weakness. She has to really fight with herself to keep honest, but she does. At the end of the summer, she knows he loves her for who she actually is. On a deep level she knows that’s the kind of love that sustains.
Q. Tibby, Carmen, and Bridget find love in Girls in Pants. Lena is the only one of the four left without a romantic relationship. But Lena was the one who originally had the most trouble believing in love, and letting herself fall for Kostos. Why did you choose to leave her out of a new experience in love?
A. Love-wise, poor Lena has been through the wringer. Because I am supposedly the ruler of their world, I mostly try to arrange love to happen for them when it is right and good. And I think Lena has a way to go before she’s ready to try it again. She’s been too much defined by the people she loves, too much at the margins of her own life. I think she needs to take herself seriously, to take more of a stand for herself, which is largely what she’s up to in this third summer.
Q. Throughout Girls in Pants, the girls seem hesitant about how their relationships with friends and family will change when they’re apart for the year. How did your relationships change when you left home for your first year of college?
A. Inevitably, relationships do change. I’ve held on to some good friends, and a few others have gradually slipped away (I from them or they from me– it is always hard to say). Relationships in close proximity seem to roll along with a certain organic momentum. Relationships at a distance require a bit more prodding. They are more likely to slow and stop, and you need to be ready to restart them. I’m not so great at that.
It’s funny. I’ve always idealized great relationships as a meeting of minds and souls, but as I get older I realize how much it matters that you get to gossip over donuts.
Q. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, your debut novel, became a major motion picture, bringing even more acclaim to your already successful series. How did it feel watching your story unfold on the big screen?
A. It was thrilling and also strange. Watching the movie, I felt connected to it, but I also felt like it was something apart from me and the work I do. It’s fascinating to have a lot of creative minds lend their gifts to a project like that. It gave me insight into the story and characters. It allowed me to see it in different ways.
Writing is solitary, of course. Sometimes you feel like your ideas echo around in your brain, and you wonder if they relate to anything real or meaningful in the world. The quality of the movie, the hard work it represented from the director and the actors and many others, made me feel like I had played a role in something both real and meaningful.
Q. Would you eventually like to see Second Summer, Girls in Pants, and Sisterhood #4 made into movies? Do you think about how a director would interpret your story while you’re writing Sisterhood #4?
A. I had such a good experience watching the adaptation of the first book that I would happily look forward to more. I trust that a movie can absolutely do justice (and more) to a book. At the same time, my books and characters have lives apart from movies. They will go on, unimpeded, whether or not they ever get filmed again. As a writer, I think in terms of books. I leave movies to the experts.
Q. The fourth Sisterhood book is the last you’re planning to write about these characters for now. Are you ambivalent about leaving them? Do you wonder how their lives will turn out, if their dreams will be realized? Would you want to revisit the girls of the Sisterhood as adults at some point?
A. I am terribly ambivalent about leaving them. I love thinking about them and writing about them. I love seeing what they will do next.
At the same time, I think it is good for any literary enterprise to have a shape. The shape of this one–beginning, expanding, and ending–is four books. I wouldn’t feel like a real storyteller if I just left it open-ended, following these characters somewhat aimlessly into the future. Granted, life does tend to amble aimlessly. But my business thus far is fiction.
That said, I do intend, at some point, to figure out what happens to these young women. I am too invested in their futures not to care. I think I would like to march ten or twenty years into their lives and see what’s happened. Maybe there will be a novel in that. Maybe not. I sort of hope there will be.
Q. How has your success influenced your writing, or has it? Has the success of Traveling Pants, Second Summer, and Girls in Pants influenced how you’re approaching Sisterhood #4?
A. I love the fact that my books have connected with a lot of people. That is the luckiest and nicest thing, and I appreciate it all the time. If I forget to appreciate it, even briefly, I give myself a little kick to start again. That lovely feeling of connection has made subsequent books harder to start (the pressure) but somehow easier to finish (I imagine a lot of company along the way).
But success is a term I don’t completely absorb. I have this odd idea that success will mean that brownies won’t make you fat and fashion will become natural to you and that jars of spaghetti sauce will open for you without your having to shout for your husband. I think it should mean you don’t doubt and falter and do incredibly stupid things. In that sense, I have not achieved it.
Q. What types of projects would you like to work on in the future? Do you worry about being able to please all your Sisterhood fans with the next book you write?
A. There are so many other things I want to write. One of them is a freestanding novel–a sort of love triangle with lots of romance and tragedy. I’ve been thinking a lot about that one recently. I can’t wait to start it.
And, yes, it is hard to move beyond the characters of the Sisterhood. But then, I expect those girls to go on to bigger and better things. I ask the same of myself.