Ah, pre adolescence! What a confusing time for kids! Their bodies go through changes they don’t understand, they grow hair in places they thought they’d never have hair . . . and boys suddenly aren’t “gross” anymore? Crikey! What’s up with THAT?
Thank GOD I had someone to explain this to me!!!
Luckily children of this age have a light in the dark! A gentle hand to guide them through these tumultuous and baffling times! An unseen voice of reason!
And that voice belongs to JUDY BLUME!
Remember her? The worn out copy of *Forever* under your mattress? *Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret* in your night stand, right next to your flashlight? The one and only Judy Blume who taught you everything you needed to know? Ever?
I adored her! What a groovy, groovy chick! What would I have done without her? What would YOU have done without her? She taught you all the things your parents wouldn’t (or *couldn’t*) teach you and when it came down, it was either take her word or listen to the kids on the back of the bus: in effect, it was believe Blume . . . or believe a “blow job” was setting a boy’s underwear on fire and blowing it out.
I sided with Blume.
It was her and her alone who taught me everything I needed to know about raging hormones and puberty and how scummy men were, all of that! But she taught me too early . . .
And that was my MOM’s fault.
Not Judy Blume’s.
* * *
In the second grade, our reading material was simple- Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, Baby Sitter’s Little Sister, that sort of thing. No major plot twists, no surprises, Mickey Mouse stuff. A parent has to be careful with their second grader and usually they stick to an appropriate reading list.
But what happens when your seven year old CATHOLIC SCHOOL GIRL polishes off that “appropriate reading list” back in kindergarten? And she’s reading at a seventh grade level?
Well, APPARENTLY you go to the *Little Professor Bookstore* in Mandarin and you ask for a few seventh grade level books for your seven year old’s Easter Basket.
Then you buy her several volumes of young adult fiction . . . by Judy freaking Blume.
I ain’t talking SUPERFUDGE either!
* * *
DEENIE was the first one I read, if you can imagine that. It starts off like your average, run of the mill coming of age story- pretty girl with a crush doesn’t make cheerleader, has to wear a back brace, deals with sibling rivalry, etcetera, etcetera. Since I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary coming, I read it in school. Every Friday, all the students went to mass and I was reading my book before it started, as we were *allowed* to do. But my teacher tapped me on the shoulder:
“Brianne, put that book away. This is the house of GOD.”
“But I always read,” I countered innocently!
“We’ll talk later, missy. I may even call your mother. Now go on, put it away. Say a prayer.”
Mrs. Beaupre was a hip, hip lady and to be honest, I don’t know if she ever actually spoke with my mother or not, but that night at home, I got to *this* passage:
“As soon as I got into bed I started touching myself. I have this special place and when I rub it I get a very nice feeling. I don’t know what it’s called or if anyone else has it, but when I have trouble falling asleep, touching my special place helps a lot.”
I read that with an inquisitive look and an eyebrow raised, but the thing was I didn’t even *get* it! She was touching herself, okay . . .
(“Masturbation” wasn’t exactly on my spelling test that week)
I decided it was her ankle. It definitely had to be her ankle.
Problem solved. Moving on . . .
I moved on to *Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret,* which I also found among the jelly beans and Cadbury Mini Eggs of my second grade Easter Basket! Today I do not know ONE single female who has not confessed to huddling underneath her bedroom covers with a flashlight reading this scandalous book!
BUT *I* AM THE ONLY ONE WHO READ IT IN A CATHOLIC SCHOOL JUMPER AND PIGTAILS! DURING COMMERCIAL BREAKS FOR TINY TOONS!:
“Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. I just told my mother I want a bra. Please help me grow God. You know where.”
At seven, I was already in my first training bra and I wasn’t happy about it. My mom and grandma had picked it out for me at JC Penney while I stared at the ground with a bright red face! AND THEN THEY MADE ME WEAR IT TO SCHOOL! Changing for PE was already humiliating, why would anyone want to make them grow *faster*?!?
In fact, I routinely prayed for my chest to *stop* growing!:
“I must, I must DECREASE my bust!”
Eventually my wish was granted; not a day goes by I don’t regret THAT little prayer!
“Gretchen, my friend, got her period. I’m so jealous, God . . . Nancy’s sure she’s going to get it soon too! And if I’m last, I don’t know what I’ll do. Oh, please God. I just want to be normal.”
Ewwwww! Yucko patooey!
Why would any kid be anxious about Aunt Flo? Who wanted their period?
Ugh. Maybe it wouldn’t happen to me if I didn’t let boys go up my shirt behind the A & P!?
Geez. I was still afraid of BLOODY MARY!
* * *
All that was kind of enough, but there was ONE more; I swear to god and everybody, NOTHING (Nothing! Nothing! Nothing!) could have prepared me for the cherry on top of this cake! The most baffling book a SEVEN YEAR OLD CATHOLIC SCHOOLGIRL could ever read in her life!
*THEN AGAIN, MAYBE I WON’T!* BY JUDY BLUME!
It was the story of a pre adolescent boy’s struggle with puberty and his perplexing transition into manhood. It also deals with serious race, religion and “keeping up with the Joneses” issues, but I didn’t notice any of that- I mostly wondered why thirteen year old Tony tried to *change his sheets* every morning before the maid saw them!
ThIs was a humdinger, man. I read part of it in the back seat on a road trip to Chicago! We were listening to the CHIPMUNKS GO COUNTRY! And Raffi, man . . . RAFFI!
I tell ‘ya, the term “wet dream” is not one you want to come across for the first time while listening to BABY BELUGA!
HE MUST BE DREAMING ABOUT CREATURES IN THE DEEP BLUE SEA! AND WATER PARKS!
Then thirteen year old Tony goes up to the blackboard to do a math problem, but won’t go back to his seat? He finally sits down, but holds his math book in front of his pants? So no one will think he’s sick?
Oh, boy. He must have peed his pants.
Then he won’t go to school without an old raincoat? In case he “goes up”? That *has* to mean peeing his pants! THAT’S why he changes his sheets!
EUREEKA! A WET DREAM IS A DREAM WHERE YOU PEE YOUR PANTS!
I felt smart figuring that out, so one night I crept out into the hallway in my nightgown to look it up. Then my grandfather catching me in the ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA at 3am!? Looking up the phrase “nocturnal emission”?
Wowzers. I could have gone the rest of my life without that happening!
(GOD WILL GET YOU FOR THAT, JUDY BLUME!)
So this Tony Miglione charaçter was all upset the neighbor boy (whose parents incidentally had a *round bed* and *mirrored ceilings*) was stealing and lying and getting drunk? Making crank calls? He feels like all THAT’S immoral, yet he’s asking his parents for binoculars so he can watch the neighbor girl undress!? Telling them he wants to watch birds?!
What a stand up guy! Really!
In a way, it was like being let in on a big secret, though it was a secret I didn’t understand and one I didn’t want to know. If I learned anything from that book, it was to shut my blinds real tight so no perverted neighbor kid could spy on me with his binoculars! While he fantasized about me! And peed his pants!
As you can see, my “Prince Charming” dreams were shattered very early! ALL boys were sex obsessed, lying, binocular holding, window peeping perverts who peed their pants all day! I had it in WRITING!
* * *
Ladies, there you have it! That was my premature love affair with the books of Judy Blume, the woman who would eventually guide me through puberty! From my first kiss to my first Wonderbra, that angel never let me down! Now more than twenty years later, I am still grateful to the special lady who first told me all boys were lying, sex obsessed, binocular holding, window peeping perverts who peed their pants all day!
SO THANK YOU, JUDY BLUME! NO ONE ELSE ON EARTH WAS EVER GOING TO TELL ME THAT!
(And god knows BOYS haven’t changed!)