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

9781481409940_p0_v3_s260x420 Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

by Judy Blume

Reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was a rite of passage when I was a certain age, and I remember reading it several times over.  As my twin daughters are approaching 11 and already experiencing some of the ups and downs of adolescence, I’ve been thinking back on that beloved book and wondering, first, how I might perceive it now as an adult, and second, if it would be a good choice for my daughters at this point.  Rather than digging my old hardback copy out of the dusty box on a high shelf in the garage where I’m pretty sure it’s located, I bought a new paperback copy to read, and then to pass on to my girls, depending.

Two things I worried about when I started re-reading it were: was it God-heavy? (It was hard to remember.) And, was it outdated?  I mean, let’s face facts: this book is now FORTY-FIVE years old.

Well, I loved it, I really did.  Yes, some things about it are outdated – like Margaret’s mother setting her hair in rollers (nobody does that anymore, do they?), “supper parties,” and plaid dresses with loafers.  But those are superficial things.  The story itself is timeless – a young girl caught in that angsty middle place of no longer being a little kid, but not quite being a young woman yet – watching her body change and wanting it to hurry up and change faster, navigating friendships and high emotions, and suddenly realizing that boys aren’t so yucky.

It’s also not at all God-heavy, as I feared it might be.  If anything, it speaks to the confusion and ambivalence kids and teens may have about God and religion.

I cried at the end when Margaret finally (finally?!) gets her period – even though I remembered that part, so it wasn’t a surprise.  Honestly, it just brought up a lot of emotions for me – remembering what this book meant to me when I was that age, remembering getting my own first period (and being thrilled, not scared!), and anticipating the changes coming down the pike for my own daughters.

In writing this book all those years ago, Blum really had her finger on the pulse of girls of a certain age.

I handed the book over to Daisy, one of my twins, this morning, and by lunch time she was halfway through it.  May it mean as much to her as it did to me.

Wifey by Judy Blume

Wifey by Judy Blume

Sandy Pressman has been a good girl all her life.  She collected cashmere sweaters as a girl, never let a boy go too far, married right out of college, and had the two kids, one of each gender, that was expected of her.  Now, after almost twelve years of marriage, Sandy is bored and frustrated.

So where did things go wrong, Norm?  So what happened?  It seemed all right then.  Comfortable.  Safe.  We had our babies.  We made a life together.  But now I’m sick.  You can’t see it this time.  There isn’t any rash, no fever, but I’m sick inside.  I sleepwalk through life.  And I’m so fucking scared.  Because every time I think about life without you I shake.  I wish somebody would just tell me what to do.  Make the hurt go away.  I wish a big bird would fly up to me, take me in its mouth, and carry me off, dropping me far away . . . anywhere . . . but far from you.  I want my life back!  Before it’s too late.  Or is it already too late?  Is this it, then?  Is this what my life is all about?  Driving the kids to and from school and decorating our final house?  Oh, Mother, dammit!  Why did you bring me up to think this was what I wanted?  And now that I know it’s not, what am I supposed to do about it?

Norm, her husband, is really kind of a dick, although I assume probably fairly typical for men of that particular era.  Set in 1970, Norm runs a dry cleaning business and expects dinner on the table when he gets home from work, a wife who puts out once a week whether she feels like it or not, and who doesn’t think or question things too much.  He’s also somewhat of a germaphobic priss – he rolls over onto his wife on Saturday nights, and then rolls back over into his own, separate twin bed to sleep, but not before vigorously washing up, gargling, and spraying the room with Lysol because he can’t stand the stink of sex.  And no oral sex!  It makes him gag.

What’s poor Sandy to do?

One morning, a man rides his motorcycle onto the Pressmans’ back lawn after Norm has gone to work, waking Sandy.  She goes to the window and watches him drop trou and get himself off right there on her lawn, waving to her when he’s finished.  Suddenly, Sandy is besieged by fantasies – and very real propositions from various men in her life, some of whom she gives in to, including her best friend’s husband, her sister’s husband, and an old flame from her pre-married life.

Originally published in 1978, this is one of the few adult books Judy Blume has written, and I remember very clearly that in high school, this one and Forever were the two everyone wanted to get their hands on.  I think I finally read Wifey when I was in my twenties (and already married myself), and being quite enamored of its raciness.  All these years later, the smutty parts still seem smutty, but all in all, it’s a goodhearted story of a woman with probably some very common struggles, especially at that stage of the sexual revolution.  Though I would definitely categorize this as an adult read, I wouldn’t categorize it as erotica.  Witty and slightly slapstick, it’s an entertaining and easy read, though I found the ending less than satisfying.