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Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret: 04/07/16

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume is one of those inescapable books if you're a girl about to hit puberty. Even if you don't want to read it, you'll be expected to. Even if you didn't like it, other women will assume you did.

The book was written at a time when there just weren't many books addressing what puberty is like for girls and parents were perhaps still not willing to discuss puberty to their girls. So there was a lot of misinformation out there and high rates of teenage pregnancy and STDs and growing up was a huge scary thing.

The book was aimed at the young end of the Baby Boomers (1943-1964) by a member of the Silent Generation (1925-1942). By the time I was reaching "that age" it was the early days of the Millennial generation and I as one of the oldest of Generation X didn't relate to either my generation or my parents' generation.

As an almost teenager, I found the only way to avoid being given a copy of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret was to say I had read it. To avoid having to make shit up when I'd inevitably be asked about my "favorite part" or whatever, I had to actually read the thing. So what I did is I hid in the least traveled aisle of the public library and I sped read it over the course of about an hour.

With Judy Blume having published her last novel last year and all the now middle aged (or older) women going gaga over the news, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret is being dragged out in nostalgic thrall. I decided to re-read it (this time as an ebook) to see if it was any better, and to prepare in case my daughter decided to read it (she is of course welcome to).

So there's Margaret who has recently been moved from the big city to a New Jersey suburb because her parents want to get her away from her over protective, very Jewish, grandmother. Margaret who hasn't hit puberty is brought into the fold of the Cutie Mark Crusaders (with apologies to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, where they discuss boys, makeup, and await their first menses. Oh GAG ME.

Meanwhile, Margaret's parents are trying to raise her an atheist as many blended marriages do. But Margaret falling to peer pressure and her grandmother's continued influence, because Grandma Jo-Jo (apologies to The Amazing World of Gumball won't be denied her granddaughter).

All these later still find the idea of starting a menstruation club bizarre — even in the context of adorable magical ponies. Maybe girls do things differently in New Jersey. In California, girls who hit puberty first were teased for their bra straps and their sanitary products. That teasing basically lasted from upper elementary to high school. By high school everyone had hit puberty so there wasn't anyone left to tease. Likewise, boys weren't discussed. Those who ended up in relationships did so on their own time. We were too busy instead dividing ourselves up in cliques based on what music we liked.

Now looking at my own daughter, questions seemed to be out in the open. If she has a question, she asks it and I answer it. There are no euphemisms. No whispering. No blushing. Maybe that will change when she actually hits puberty but I doubt it.

The Cutie Mark crusaders from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
A modern take on the same story told through ponies.

Two stars

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