ALIX & DOTTIE: We must! We must! We must increase our bust!!
ALIX: Oh, hey! We didn’t see you there. We were just uh….you know. Chatting.
DOTTIE: Yes, that’s right. Chatting. Ahem.
ALIX: So as you all know, Dottie came up with a fabulous idea to re-read some of our favorite books from childhood.
DOTTIE: Aw thank you. Well I have so many books that I just adore, but haven’t cracked open in years. I was curious, would they hold up? Where they really as fab as we remembered?
ALIX: It’s true. Many times things we loved as a child aren’t QUITE as great as we remembered. May I refer you to an ill-fated viewing of Purple Rain I sat through a few years ago? I looooved that movie. Truly. And while the soundtrack still totally rocks my socks, the acting in that film was makin’ more than doves cry….if ya know what I mean.
DOTTIE: Hee! (Alix, you slay me!) But back to today’s session. We thought we would begin with one of my all time favorite authors: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by the one and only Judy Blume. And let me say, it did not disappoint!
ALIX: Oh, I know. It was SO good. For those who have never read it, here’s a lil synopsis:
Margaret Simon, almost twelve, has just moved from New York City to the suburbs, and she’s anxious to fit in with her new friends. When she’s asked to join a secret club she jumps at the chance. But when the girls start talking about boys, bras, and getting their first periods, Margaret starts to wonder if she’s normal. There are some things about growing up that are hard for her to talk about, even with her friends. Lucky for Margaret, she’s got someone else to confide in . . . someone who always listens.
DOTTIE: So, lets talk about the club Margaret and her new bestie Nancy form—the Pre-Teen Sensations (aka the PTS’s)! This really impressed me. I don’t think my friends were so clever to come up with a name for ourselves. I mean, we did come up with fake band names, but that’s a whole other story.
ALIX: I had forgotten that they all decide they also need new “fancy” names for during the club meetings, and Nancy picks Alexandra.
DOTTIE: Hah! Yes!
ALIX: I remember having mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, NO ONE had my name Alexandra in the 70s. I didn’t meet another one til college. So it was a thrill to see it in print. But then I didn’t like the implication that it was a snooty name!
DOTTIE: So Nancy is the ringleader of the PTS’s and she decides Margaret and her friends need to have bigger bosoms and every day they do a special exercise while chanting, “We must! We must! We must increase our bust!” It’s utterly hilarious.
ALIX: The PTS’s gave me a big flashback. It totally made me remember the girls in elementary school who always knew more about boys than I did. Fifth and sixth grade are such odd years. You’re still young but feel this internal pressure to be grown up. I have to say I was a late bloomer in the bust department but I don’t really remember having a big desire to have big boobies. How about you?
DOTTIE: I was an early bloomer but was so delighted when I received my first bra. I remember that mixed feeling—on the one hand, “I’m proud, but dear God, please don’t let anyone say anything about it!!” Just act normal, folks!
ALIX: Haha! I remember going to a week long camp in 6th grade and begging my mom to buy me some Jean Nate roll-on deodorant, which all the cool girls already wore! Which she did…bless her.
DOTTIE: I remember DESPERATELY wanted Tickle deoderant! You DO remember Tickle?
ALIX: OMG YES!!!!!! Wow. I just had a flash back.
image: randy randall
ALIX: OK, but back to the book. There are lots of great “adolescent moments” throughout the story as Margaret worries about being the last of the PTS’s to get her period and nervously crushes on various boys.
DOTTIE: My favorite was Margaret’s crush on Moose. MOOSE! That budding landscape entrepreneur… I love how she told the PTS’s she had a crush on the most popular boy in school instead of the guy she actually liked. I remember doing that! Everyone HAD to love Todd Ferguson, but I of course had a crush on some other fellow. Sigh.
ALIX: “Some other fellow”?? Who?? We want names!! haha. OK. so I also loved when they had to watch their first sex ed film, and it was sponsored by the “Private Lady Company”. And Margaret vows to never buy their “feminine products” but instead opts for “Teenage Softies”.
DOTTIE: Which is totally going to be our band name.
ALIX: HAH! That’s brilliant! This book really had me smiling. I think Margaret is such an excellent character. As she struggles with growing up, she makes real observations that make her totally likeable, but then she also makes mistakes which make her feel very honest and “real.”
DOTTIE: I thought the exact same thing. We’ve all had that feeling. She’s not necessarily particularly fascinating or even someone you want to be, but she is joyously relatable.
ALIX: Speaking of joyous, can we talk about Margaret’s GRANDMA for a moment? I loved her! I had forgotten how great she was. You know she would be featured on Advanced Style if she were here today.
DOTTIE: ZOMG, I loved her too. Sassy and stylish. And going on cruises. My grandparents went on cruises—it seemed like the most glamorous thing a person could do. And then on top of it all, Grandma meets a nice gent too. GO GRANDMA!!!
ALIX: Margaret and her grandmother are extremely close. For some reason one of the things I always remembered was that she hand knit sweaters for Margaret with tags that said, “Made expressly for you….by Grandma” inside. Whenever I’m thrifting and I see a tag like that, I think of this book. I have to say Grandma was much hipper than I remembered!
DOTTIE: One of things that really made the book so much more for me was not just the whole puberty thing, but Margaret’s budding interest in different religions. Poor Margaret—as if puberty weren’t enough for her to wrestle with, she has to deal with all of these feelings around religion. As a girl who didn’t grow up with much religious knowledge I remember relating to Margaret’s confusion over the different religions.
ALIX: This is where the book has gotten a tad controversial. Margaret’s Dad (and beloved Grandma) are Jewish, and her mom is Protestant. Her mother’s parent’s disowned their daughter and as a result, the parents aren’t religious at all and have a “Margaret can choose when she gets older” stance. Margaret does believe in god, and has candid little “talks” with him. I can’t imagine a book today being so frank and open about these things—a book that is geared towards younger readers, that is. It’s really terrific. (I know today’s Young Adult books are very sophisticated and tackle all kinds of racy issues….)
DOTTIE: There was a lot about that book that made it kinda controversial. In fact NPR did a great interview with Judy Blume discussing this book and others. Certainly worth a read/listen. You just gotta love Judy Blume. And you have to love Margaret. I bet we’d totally be friends with her today, don’t you think, Alix?
ALIX: Oh totally! But enough of our chatter. What did YOU think? Did you re-read it? What did you remember? And if you didn’t get a chance to pick it up, what are some of the things that stand out in you memory? I have to say this was actually better than I remember and I was sad to see it all end.
Stay tuned to see what next month’s selection is going to be!