Growing up with Judy Blume

Friday, June 04, 2010 0 Comments A+ a-

Jennifer O' Connell, Editor of Everything I needed to know about being a girl, I learned from Judy Blume (Pocket Books) wonders "if Judy Blume really knows how many girls' lives she affected and how her books made a grown woman feel like she'd been a normal girl all along". Judy Blume is known for her young adult, poignant coming-of -age stories, that centered around teen puberty, sex education and other controversial matters like masturbation, divorce, bullying and teen sex. Her most popular novels having been released in the early 70's were so controversial in content (to some) were even banned! (Forever). For teen girls in the 70's, Judy Blume was their sex education teacher. Anyone who owned a Judy Blume book became part of a 'secret girls' club who hid their Blume books under bed mattresses, in wardrobes or high school lockers, it was the 'girl' version of Playboy but only visual in word description.

Everything I needed to know about being a girl I learned from Judy Blume is an anthology of essays written by twenty-four female authors. Each story is a tribute to Judy Blume and one of her books and how they helped these once young writers navigate their way through childhood and adolescence. Megan McCafferty's Then.Now.Forver tells us how Forever was known as 'The Sex Book', which details first time sex and how the book helped her make her own relationship dicisions, defining what 'forever' means to her. 
Megan Crane's A long time ago, we used to be friends essay talks about best friend break-ups and how it can make you feel like there has been a death, her essay focuses on her own BFF troubles that relates to Judy Blumes Just as long as we're together, while Meg Cabot's Cry, Linda, cry looks back on Blubber and school yard bullying. I also enjoyed Shanna Swendson's; Freak, geeks and adolescent revenge fantasies as she writes from a different perspective on the 'perfect' main character Deenie.
Jennifer O'Connel essay reflects back on her 'Judy Blume moments' at slumber partys (Deenie) and first times "A Judy Blume moment is realising that even as we get older, even as our lives snd people around us are changing- even as we're changing- we'll always be the girls who play in waves and giggle with our friends. Judy Blume moments are the experiences we know we're supposed to commit to memory, the days we're taught to believe are pivatol-our first kiss, our sweet sixteen, the first time we thought we were in love, and the inevitable first time our hearts break in two".

After reading Everything I need to know about being a girl I learned from Judy Blume, I decided to head to my local library in search for some Blume books, to read and reflect back on my own teenage journey and take a look at how her novels left a mark on me. At the young adult section I picked up copies of Forever and Are you there God? It’s me Margret. Reading through the contents of Forever it got me thinking; if Forever was first released now, people wouldn't even blink at its contents, with the way media has sexualized everything nowadays. While Judy Blume helped and informed teens about sex, making them feel comfortable with their own personal relationship developments, I think media and magazines makes it out to be more scary and degrading.....this doesn’t seem to have stopped teens from 'doin it' however.

I wish I had a copy of Are you there God? It’s me Margret back in high school as it would have helped with the 'puberty blues'. I must admit I never really read or was aware of Judy Blumes novels when I was a young teen. I only really knew about Tales of the fifth grade nothing, as it was read to us in Primary school library class. Maybe they also thought that the other Blume books like Forever and Deenie were too controversial as well.
I guess I didn't feel the need to fill the sex education void like teen girls did in the 70's. Born in the 80's and growing up in the 90's I had Degrassi and Dolly Doctor and Anais Nin in my older years to help feed me the info I needed-while the new generations have the internet, Cosmo and Sex & the City. I also had a somewhat askew boys perspective on the matter by playing Sierria's 1980's PC Adventure game series Leisure Suit Larry. While yes it was about a 40year old Leisure suit wearing, bolding dork 'loser' type character Larry Laffer on a mission to find love and seduce women it did teach me a thing or to about sex eduacation (what a condom was) and at least to be aware and never date men wearing leisure suits using cheesy pick-up lines!

According to Katherine in Forever though I was part of the 'nice' girl group; "In the old days girls were divided into two groups-those who did and those who didn't....Nice girls didn't, naturally. They were the ones the boys wanted to marry". (Yes I'm married now, to my real 'forever'). I guess I wasn't ready to go all out...and 'around the block' like some girls did. I was instead waiting for the 'one', I enjoyed playing my own made-up 'rom-com's senarios through my mind. I dreamed for a fairytale romance and I looked up to characters in books like Anne of Green Gables Anne Shirley, Jane Austen's Emma and Little Women's Jo March. I also read my fair share of mags like; Girlfriend and books like Sweet Valley High, The Babysitters Club and Emily Rodda's Teen Power inc.

The beauty of Judy Blume is that no matter what age you read her books she gives you the comfort of relateing and recollecting some of the most delicate and life-altering moments in young womans life....Thank you Judy Blume....just for being there.