I just saw on CNN that the greatest writer for tweens who ever lived (no, not the Twilight woman), the iconic Ms Judy Blume, is finally having one of her epic novels adapted for the big screen. Relax, it’s not the one you probably think if you were born within 10 years of me. Yes, I am talking about ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’. No, it’s ‘Tiger Eyes’ which came out long after I graduated to SE Hinton and the rest of her good time crew. At least it isn’t one of the fucking ‘Fudge’ books, of which there are 152 or thereabouts, the most recent of which is ‘Fudge In His Depends’.
The reason I bring this up is because I know, and don’t lie to me here, that I’m not the only one bummed that it wasn’t ‘Margaret’. I swear by all that’s holy, if I don’t get at least one “I loved that book too!” comment, I’m totally going to lose it. So not cool to make me feel like a jackass freak here on my own blog. So yes, there is my big admission. At the age of 10 or so, I considered it the best book I had ever read.
Going back a few years, my sister received a box set of Judy Blume classics. It included ‘Margaret’, ‘Blubber’, ‘Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing’, and ‘Shelia the Great’. She actually read them first for a change and laughed so much I felt the need to check them out even though in my opinion I had totally outgrown such childish literature. I think I read ‘Blubber’ first and was incensed at the cruelty of the characters. You don’t see a lot of first person narratives where they are such a royal B, but she gets her comeuppance in the end. I also read ‘4th Grade Nothing’ and ‘Shelia’, but held off on Margaret at first. I can’t specifically remember if I was told I shouldn’t read it because it was inappropriate for me, or it was simply suggested, or it was in my own head that this was definitely not something I should be gushing over on the living room couch. Within a few months my sister lost complete interest and the box set ended up in the basement. I snagged ‘Margaret’ up to my room and hid the box set, so the empty slot wouldn’t be noted.
I kept it hidden in the wooden microscope case in my big pile of crap, where I also hid a few articles of clothing. Every chance I got where I thought I would not be disturbed, I took it out and read it. Up to that point, I don’t think I ever identified so closely to a literary character. I very much wanted to live Margaret’s life. I wanted dress up and go to a party where exciting things might happen. I wanted to increase my bust. I even wanted to put a napkin on a belt, even though I wasn’t completely sure what they were even talking about. I also knew I would never, ever get to do any of those things. When you think about it, the whole thing is a huge tease to a trans tween right on the cusp of an incredibly shitty puberty process that would have zero overlap to Margaret’s.
Sometimes though, the vicarious experience is enough to help. Most tweens will never meet a sparkly old vampire who clearly has a fake ID but doesn’t make himself 21 for some reason and still has to take algebra tests. Most will never be whisked away to a magical academy where young children are made to fight ancient, unspeakable evil. Nor will they get yanked into some wrinkling of time business or fly on the back of big furry Bichon Frise looking dragon. And I was never going to wear a pretty dress to a party, watch my chest fill out, or worry about belting on a sanitary napkin when the flowering of my womanhood came about. It was OK though; these things allowed us to go to sleep at night with warm thoughts of what might have been.
I reread it until it was dog eared and the spine began to separate. Then my parents announced a worrisome plan to have my sister and I switch rooms, just to keep things interesting. This put me in a minor panic because I knew that in spite of promised oversight, they were just as likely to just go and do it one day when we were at school. Lord only knew what I had squirreled away in there that I really didn’t need anyone stumbling across. Clothing went back into the Am Vets bag, my sisters cast off magazines were disposed of late at night, and Margaret was reinserted into the box set after being smuggled down under my shirt. I was right to worry, by the way. We came home after a weekend at my grandmothers to find the room swap fully executed. By then the first threat of stubble began appearing on my face, and my voice began to break. Margaret stayed in the basement.