06 November 2010

Are You There Title? It's Me... Bailey

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (published 1970, Yearling)
A review by Bailey Kelsey

I got a little story for you, readers!

When I was almost twelve, I was Margaret Simon.  I don't care that Blume's Margaret Simon was almost-twelve in 1970 and that I was almost-twelve in 2000.  There are several dozen social and political differences that make the time when Margaret Simon was almost-twelve and when I was almost-twelve very different.  

I am twenty-two. I just read Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret for the first time. And while I was reading it, I kept asking (out loud, of course, and yes, I was alone in my apartment. No, I don’t see a problem with that) “Why on EARTH didn’t I have this book when I was ALMOST-TWELVE?!” So what if my neighbors thought I’d gone off the deep end, shouting about books while alone in my apartment-- This was an important question! I’ve been looking for an answer to it all week. Why didn’t I have this book, and what kind of an impact would it have had on my life had I been given a copy? Let’s take a look back, shall we?

Here are the facts of my almost-twelve life:

I had no religion. I remember calling my friend in the sixth grade and asking if she wanted to start a religion with me because "I wasn't born into one."  She informed me that she had been born into a religion and that her God didn't want her worshipping anyone besides Him. Aside from being forced into starched dresses for Easter and Christmas services at my grandparent’s church*, this was my first introduction to religion. And it was that she had a god and I... didn’t.

Margaret struggles with understanding how and why people feel a need to form religious communities to talk to and reach and understand God, because she has always spoken to God right inside her head, and felt his responses right in her soul.  Margaret's naivety and separation from any one religion is a necessary reminder that God is not a religion.  God is a power, an entity, a something that exists first WITHIN each of us.

*I don't really think that these attendances, or my subsequent begging not to attend church services, should really count into my religious experience.  I was a small child.  The two most unparalleled evils in the world were putting on a velveteen dress and tights, and then being forced to SIT STILL for what felt like HOURS ON END.  I have since removed these memories from my outlook on all things religious.

I was small.  If you haven't read the book, by small Margaret is referring to having small breasts.  This still remains true about me, but unlike when I was almost-twelve, I don't get made fun of for this at twenty-two.  I was mercilessly teased at almost-twelve.**
Margaret prays to God throughout the book that He will help her grow.  I must say, praying to God didn't even OCCUR to me at almost twelve, but in hindsight maybe it should have.  However, that chant the Four PTS's (the Pre-Teen Sensations!) repeated throughout the book? We must--we must-- we must increase our bust!?  Oh yeah, my mother taught me that when I was almost-twelve; my friends and I definitely did that one.  Not sure that ever helped, but nature and maturity did eventually just take over.

**A short story:  I was so mercilessly teased by a particular girl in the seventh grade (she started a rumor that I stuffed my bra) that the school threatened to move one or both of us from the middle school locker room to the high school locker room.  She dropped the rumor and I stopped crying about it because high school girls were a threat of mutual destruction to us.  We stayed in the middle school locker room; thus began our subtle destruction tactics of one another.

I kept a boy book. Oh yes, I did.  With my best friend, who shall remain nameless here.  But we called it something different (something less original, but also, less obvious).  We used to map out plans in that book.  We would pass it back and forth each weekend-- she'd have it one week, I'd have it the next week, etc.  We would talk on the phone for hours at night, or AIM later on, and whoever had the book would record our plans.  There were plans about getting crushes to birthday parties; how to rig Spin the Bottle so we'd kiss said crushes; rankings of the cutest boys in our grade; first date plans; get ex-boyfriends back plans.***
Margaret is required to keep a boy book by the rules of the Four PTSs.  However, Margaret is never completely honest about her boy book because she has a crush on her friend's older brother's friend.

***We still have that book.  We now mail it back and forth, and we still plan.

Here in the Present...

I knew the life that was laid out before me at twelve was vastly different from the life laid out before Margaret Simon.  And yet, reading this book at twenty-two, I ached to have had it at almost-twelve.  Of all the things I LIKE about Margaret, of all the parallels I can draw between her sixth grade experience and my sixth grade experience, the thing I like most about Margaret is that she keeps things private. She is learning how to be her own person, and she turns inward, as well as outward, in learning who she is.
Margaret believes throughout the book that personal secrets and private moments are important.  She wonders a few times whether or not the other girls’ are keeping the same sorts of secrets, but its a curious wonder not a judgmental wonder.  The difference in that is important.
There is a level of honesty and curiosity with which Margaret faces the world.  This doesn't make the challenges of a pre-teen any easier, but it does make her a good role-model character.

I may not have had the guidance of Margaret Simon at twelve to let me know I was normal, but it's nice to know, in hindsight, that I was.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah...I think it would have taken an army of Margaret Simons to make me seem normal back when I was twelve.