Today, Kate takes us on a walk down memory lane…with Judy Blume.
For girls of a certain generation - mine, and those directly before and after - the experience of reading the novels of Judy Blume was a double-layered rite of adolescent passage: the books themselves were sacred texts, and the universal stories they told - of being teased, of being not the prettiest, of being kissed, of having your parents split up, of loving and being loved, and of losing (love, virginity, friendship, your lunch in public) - were the stories we were all living, vividly and in real time and with an empathy that our parents couldn't come close to.
Between the ages of eight and twelve, I read them all, and they've all stayed with me into adulthood. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret prepared me for the excruciating embarrassment of my trip to Filene's with my mother to buy my first bra (purple flowers, no support needed), Deenie taught me to avoid entering closets with roving-handed boys, and Forever... well, Forever... deserves its own sentence. For those who read it - and re-read and re-read it - it was The Sex One. The shocking one. The one that taught us that sexuality would someday not feel like an alien land, that we would want men to touch us and want to touch them back, and that we could do those things and still be good daughters and friends and go to college - that, in essence, a healthy sex life was part of a healthy life, and not something to be whispered about in the girls' bathroom or learned about from the scrawlings on pay telephones.
To capture and memorialize all of this, Jennifer O'Connell has edited and published Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume, which features essays from a range of women on their own personal experience of reading Judy Blume. For anyone who grew up reading JB, the essays - not all gems, but all evocative - will bring laughter and head-nods of recognition and memory, and will perhaps also inspire you to go back to the original books and read them all again, as we wait for our own daughters to be old enough to have their own formative Blume experiences.