Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret.

By Judy Blume. Published 1970.

Ok, y’all, time for a true classic.

Margaret Simon comes home from camp the summer she’s eleven to find out her family is moving from New York City to New Jersey. She thinks it’s to get her away from the influence of her grandmother, Sylvia. Her grandmother is a lot of fun, but also always wants to know if Margaret has a boyfriend and if he’s Jewish.

On the first day at their new house, Nancy Wheeler comes over to introduce herself and ask Margaret to come over to go through the sprinkler. Nancy acts very mature, and seems disappointed Margaret isn’t more so, coming from the city. But she’s nice enough, and wants Margaret to be in her secret club, as long as she wears loafers with no socks on the first day of school. Margaret also meets Nancy’s older brother, Evan, and his friend Moose.

Margaret does what she just calls talking to God, it sounds like praying to me. Her parents don’t know she does this, which she does quite a bit.

On Labor Day, Sylvia shows up at their house. They thought she’d never come, because she thinks trains are dirty. But she decided she washable, because she needed to see her Margaret. She says they can talk on the phone every night.

The first day of school comes, and Margaret doesn’t wear socks as she’s been told, and regrets it by the time she arrives at school. One of the best things about being an adult is not worrying about stupid shit like this anymore. Obviously, alcohol is also up there. But I remember how important that was back then. But then, I guess that’s really what this book is about. How important little stupid things like that are at that age.

They get a first year teacher, Mr. Benedict. He’s twenty-four. Good lord, he’s a baby.

Margaret goes to her first meeting of Nancy’s secret club. The other members are Gretchen and Janie. They name their club the Four PTS’s, for the Four Pre-Teen Sensations. Then they come up with all sorts of rules, like they have to wear bras, keep a Boy Book (a ranking of boys), and to tell each other when they get their periods. None of them have it yet. Margaret has to explain why she’s not anything religion-wise, because her mother’s Christian and her dad’s Jewish, and their parents weren’t thrilled, so they eloped.

That night, Margaret asks God to help her grow boobs. But she does get to go bra shopping for the first time that weekend, even though it’s totes embarrassing.

At the next PTS meeting, the girls check to see that they’re all wearing bras. Nancy has the biggest, and they do the “We must, we must, we must increase out bust” exercise. Unfortunately, Evan and Moose spy on them and make fun.

Mr. Benedict gives the class a yearlong project. It can be on anything, as long as it’s something meaningful. Margaret decides on religion, and begins by going to Rosh Hashanah services with her grandmother, who is overjoyed. She doesn’t get what she had hoped she would out of it, which was some kind of feeling. She mainly counts the different colors of hats.

She then goes to the Presbyterian church with Janie, and is surprised by the fact that it’s a lot like temple, except all in English.

Around Thanksgiving, the sixth grade holds a square dance. Margaret is thrilled when she gets to dance with Philip Leroy, the cutest boy in their class, but he’s a foot-stepper.

Norman Fishbein, the “drippiest” boy in the class has a supper party over Christmas break. They play Spin the Bottle, but only with cheek kisses. They decide that’s lame, and play Two Minutes in the Closet. Philip Leroy calls Margaret’s number, and he kisses her on the lips-twice!-but really fast. Then Margaret calls Norman’s number, and she tells him to just kiss her on the cheek. Back at Margaret’s she tells Nancy Philip was a really good kisser, and he did it about five times.

Margaret goes to Christmas Eve services with the Wheelers, and it enjoys it, because it was mainly the choir singing. But she still doesn’t feel God there.

In January, they split the girls and boys up, and the girls go watch a movie on “menstroo-ation” sponsored by the Private Lady Company. Margaret says it’s like one big commercial. A week later, Gretchen gets her period. She doesn’t have too many details to share, however. And the next month, Margaret gets a postcard from Nancy in Washington saying she got it. Margaret gets pretty upset, especially when her mother tells her she didn’t start until she was fourteen. She thinks she’ll die if she has to wait that long.

Nancy asks Margaret to go along with her family to New York. While at a restaurant, the girls go to the bathroom. Nancy freaks out while in the stall, and asks Margaret to go get her mother. Her mother tells Margaret Nancy has gotten her period. She asks if she’s always like this, but her mother says this is her first time. Damn liar. Nancy begs Margaret not to tell the others.

Mr. Benedict assigns a committee project, and Margaret is in a group with Norman, Philip, and Laura Danker, a very tall girl with a large chest, whom nobody is friends with, because there are rumors she’s goes behind the A&P with boys like Evan and Moose. Philip totally slacks off, Norman is slow, but Laura is a good worker.

One day Margaret and Laura stay late at the library to look up Belgium in the encyclopedias. Laura accuses Margaret of copying straight from the book (which she was, because she’s totally distracted by Laura), and Margaret accuses Laura of doing dirty stuff with boys. Laura leaves, quite upset, but Margaret runs after her, apologizing. Laura doesn’t forgive her, though, and goes into the Catholic church to go to confession. After a minute, Margaret follows her in. She sees Laura come out of a booth and leave, and then goes into the booth herself. She hears a voice that says “Yes, my child” and she truly believes it’s God at first, but then realizes in the priest behind the screen. She runs away, not knowing what to say.

Margaret’s mother receives a letter from her parents, whom she hasn’t heard from in fourteen years. She had sent them a Christmas card. They say they’re going to come for a visit during Margaret’s spring break, which means she can’t go to Florida to visit Sylvia like she had planned.

Her other grandparents are very Christian, and say Margaret must be a Christian, too. She gets pissed off, and says she’s not anything, and doesn’t even believe in God. She decides she’s mad at him, and won’t talk to him anymore.

She needs to get out of the house for a while, and goes to see a movie with Janie. They meet at a drugstore, and go to look at the sanitary napkins. They’re fascinated by them. Margaret decides they should be brave, and buy some. Janie’s too embarrassed, so Margaret buys some for them both. When she gets home, she tries one on, just to see how it feels.

Her grandparents decide to leave early and go to New York. Everyone is glad to see them leave, even though Margaret’s mad they ruined her vacation for nothing.

Then Sylvia shows up, with her man-friend Mr. Binamin in tow. She wanted to meet the other grandparents. She asks if any church stuff comes up, and says she always knew Margaret was Jewish. This makes Margaret mad again, and she insists she doesn’t believe in God. She misses talking to him, though.

At the end of the year, she just writes a letter to Mr. Benedict, saying she did not enjoy her religious experiment, and that if she has kids she’ll tell them what they are when they’re young, so they can start learning early, because twelve is very late.

Summer starts, and finally, so does Margaret’s period. She is over the moon excited. Her mother tries to show her what to do, but she laughs and says she’s been practicing for months. Then she checks in with God, and thanks him.

o   Nancy first comes over to Margaret’s because the real estate agent sent out a sheet on her. What the fuck is that about? Was this a thing back in the day? Seems creepy to me.

o   Room porn: Nancy has a dressing table with a heart shaped mirror and a fluffy organdy skirt.

o   I have both editions of this book, the new one with stick-on pads, and the older one, with the belt and pads. I can’t tell you how confusing the belt talk was for me when I was younger. It sounded so complicated. Hell, it still does.


  1. I read this in one night when I was about thirteen. I loved it and couldn't put it down. It was the version with the belt pads, though, and I was pretty confused for awhile.

    1. Thank goodness we've progressed since those confusing dark ages, right?

  2. The sanitary napkin belts confused the hell out of me too! And as someone who developed early, I didn't understand why someone would *want* their period (or a bigger cup size, heh). I loved this book, though. P.S.--I'm really enjoying this blog, lots of nostalgia! :)