Just now on the radio I heard the female host exclaim upon hearing that Judy Blume was going to be in Chicago for a book festival, She was instrumental in shaping me as a girl! I may not be quoting her verbatim, but the timbre in her voice told me everything I needed to know – she was a lover of all things Judy Blume.
Don’t get me wrong. I get why kids and adults love her. I’m not anti- Judy. My girls are welcome to bring Judy into our home, but it doesn’t change how the 12 year old girl in me feels about Judy; because despite what everyone tells me Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret is about, my 12 year old filters didn’t get the whole conversation with God part. They didn’t get the message I was supposed to get, I guess, that puberty is frustrating. They just got the part the part that Margaret was skinny and invited to boy/girl parties where spin the bottle or seven minutes in heaven were played, and that she wanted her period was thrilled to finally get it.
Margaret and I had nothing in common.
For one thing, I had breasts and a period, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why Margaret was so desperate to have either. For one thing, it meant worrying about whether I would start in the middle of swim practice – my biggest fear – or listening to comments from boys about what cup size I wore. It meant looking at all the skinny junior models in the JC Penney and Spiegel catalogs up in the privacy of my room, and crying because I had hips that wouldn’t fit into a pair of Jordache jeans and breasts that precluded me from wearing the fashionable halter tops in the summer because I was just so horrified by how I looked even though I wasn’t even yet a teenager.
Then there was Margaret’s fascination with boys – or at least that’s the message my young filters gravitated towards. I know now the book was so much more than that, but at the time, as a little girl, (And despite what society around me was trying to tell me, in my heart and in my spirit, I was still a little girl.) I didn’t. I didn’t give a rat’s ass about boys. Oh, yes, I thought boys were cute, and my crushes changed from week to week, but I didn’t want to do anything with those boys or be with those boys or touch those boys or have those boys touch me. I remember seeing one of my friends making out with her boyfriend at a swim meet and distinctly thinking why in the world she was rolling around in the grass with him in front of people, when we had a relay race to win in less than five minutes.
I wanted to laugh until I peed my pants with my best friend Kristi Wallace watching her do impersonations of anyone and everyone. I wanted to ride my bike with my gal pals in the neighborhood to the small gas station in Cammack and buy Fun Dip. I wanted to not pass out from sheer nervousness in the middle of my piano recital with my teacher, Miss Eberle. I wanted my big sister not to move out of the house. I wanted my parents to send me off to Eastland School so I could live with Mrs. Garrett and the girls. I wanted to stay up and watch Sammy Terry on Channel Four and see what the big deal was about his scary movie marathons. Boys just were not on my radar, and reading Judy Blume made me think there was something wrong with me.
One of my older sisters was always trying to avoid one wannabe suitor who sent her a rose every Thursday. Every Thursday the doorbell rang, and every Thursday there was a delivery person from the local florist bestowing my sister with a vase with a single rose in it. And every Thursday some poor kid shelled out a lot of flower money for the unrequited love of my sister. While this sister was busy answering the door, the other was busy answering the phone and talking for hours with her boyfriend, and there was always crying involved at some point usually because there was a fight earlier in the day at school. From what I observed, boys were something to be avoided not dreamed about.
Then there were my brothers – real boys – and from where I sat as the youngest in the family, I couldn’t see why I needed one more man in my life. They ignored me. They ate…a lot. They had friends over all the time to play football and basketball and listen to Chuck Mangione records. They also sneaked alcohol into their rooms, but, somehow, never got caught. The presence of five older brothers taught me more than I wanted to know about boys, and I thought Margaret would do herself well not to bother with them.
Judy Blume recently turned 70, and it seems this monumental birthday has once again brought out the accolades from people from all walks of life touting her contribution to Young Adult literature. I don’t begrudge her or them. I won’t argue that she’s made a name for herself in her life and in her work, and she should be congratulated.
I’m just not the one who is going to do that. I know this makes me unAmerican or unhip or unfeeling or some other un in millions of people’s books. That’s okay. I’m going to be true that that 12 year old girl back in Muncie, Indiana, – the one with hips and breasts and a period she didn’t really want but then thought something was wrong with her because Margaret did. That 12 year old girl was just fine the way she was. She was fine not wanting to grow up. She was fine not being in a hurry to be a woman. She was fine not caring about boys. It’s taken me 30 some years to realize this, but that 12 year old girl was just fine…period.
Maybe I should write a book about her.