WEEK ONE

BOOKS REMAINING:  50

Current Book:  Are You There God?  It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

The first book on the list is Are You There God?  It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume.  This seems to be pretty much required reading for any girl of a certain age, so of course it is a re-read.  So far so good, that I was able to obtain it immediately through my local library’s subscription to the 3M Cloud Library and load it onto my handy but heavy e-reader.  Just during my lunch break yesterday (while partaking of the same seasoned chicken, Thai ribs, and pea pods that the office has catered by Zea’s for every Administrative Professionals Day) I made it almost halfway through the book.  More so far so good.  All the better to make time for those other two books I still have checked out.

The first thing that struck me was that the book was published in 1970.  I likely first read it around 1988, and even then it somehow seemed a little outdated or even “vintage.”  Especially, I recall, the part where maxi pads attached to a belt.  Weren’t they using adhesive by 1988?

The book is almost consciously intended as something girls of the same age can relate to, and I was surprised that certain things resonated with me this much later, since at my age I figured I’m way past puberty and first kisses and cliques and the other adolescent drama that I tried not to buy into even as an adolescent.

The story begins with Margaret’s move from the city to the suburbs and transition to a new school.  Moving was something I experienced when I was just a few years older than Margaret, although in my case it was a move from my hometown in the Midwest to the South, arguably an even more extreme transition than from the city to the suburbs.

When I was little I wanted a dressing table like that.  The kind that’s wrapped up in a fluffy organdy skirt.  I never got one though, because my mother liked tailored things.

I related to Margaret’s envy of things her friends had, including things that her parents would not or could not get for her, as I encountered this often while I was growing up.  As on my first reading, I empathized when Margaret was forced to forego a much-anticipated trip to visit her paternal grandmother in Florida, for an extremely awkward reunion with her maternal grandparents.  Family obligations just SUCK sometimes.  I also related to Margaret’s sense that everyone else was somehow “ahead” of her, although in hindsight I am more aware that most people put on an act at that age trying to be “cool” (as Margaret herself does) and I think I would tell my younger self not to be in such a rush to “grow up.”  I mean, for her to WANT to get her period?  I think most adult women would be glad to be rid of the nuisance!

She’s thirty-eight, but she tells us she’s twenty-five.  Isn’t that a scream?

Am I really about the same age as the friend’s MOTHER?  That’s just not possible.  I’m not going there.  Even though to have a child in your mid-20’s is nothing shocking, especially by 1970 standards.

Reading almost 20 — or 30? — years later, in addition to more clearly recognizing Margaret’s efforts towards her parents to assert her independence, I can better read between the lines of the dynamic that Margaret’s parents have with her paternal grandmother and their efforts to set boundaries against her intrusions, and I can empathize with the rejection of Margaret’s father by his in-laws (I should have eloped like Margaret’s parents did!)

In Margaret’s case, the issues within her extended family are largely because of her parents’ differing religious backgrounds.  (Margaret’s parents themselves handle those differences diplomatically and get along as well as any other parents, and they leave the decision regarding religion for Margaret to make once she is reaches an age to do so).  It seems like so many religions are supposed to teach tolerance but instead use faith as a basis for conflict.  Even faiths (like those of Margaret’s parents) which ultimately worship the same God — something which is hard to believe when witnessing the aftermath of terror attacks by Islamic radicals.  My husband and I discuss frequently in connection with the issue of same-sex marriage, that people who use Christianity as a basis to oppose those unions are not doing what Jesus would have done, given that he dined with lepers and washed the feet of prostitutes.  For me, that kind of hypocrisy is a huge strike against organized religion.  Having grown up as “nothing,” Margaret ultimately makes a decision regarding religion at the end of the book (at least for the time being), and as an adult I also ultimately made a decision regarding religion — I decided to be “nothing” in much the same way as Margaret.

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