Are You There Childhood? It’s Me, Carol…

I took a little walk down Nostalgia Lane last night, and went to see the big screen adaptation of the adolescent girl’s bible, “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret.” After 50+ years, they made it into a movie. It was truly must read stuff back in my pre-teen days. I think every girl I knew read it, and I think most of us kept from our mothers that we did. I seem to recall sitting in my best friend Chrissie’s room hiding out with it, we did not want her mom to know what we were up to. With talk of periods, training bras, boys and religion, it was some pretty scary stuff to parents of young girls.

The movie was sweet, and it kept pretty well to the book. Judy Blume was a producer, so she surely wanted to keep it real with the book. I think I was 10, or barely just 11 when I read it, at the age when things are starting to happen for a lot of young girls. I was an early developer, and I got my period just before my 12th birthday. So it was like a handbook for me. I remember reading it and not understanding at all about her religious struggles, particularly the Jewish aspect of her family. And she went to Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes, which sounded like the most magical thing in the world, even if I wasn’t exactly sure what it was. They did a great job in the movie of matching all of it to my memories, it was how I had pictured it when I read it forty some years ago.

I giggled during the scenes where the girls are so concerned about their lack of growth in their chest regions. The “We Must, We Must, We Must Increase Our Bust!” was just hysterical to me. How funny to think that all girls really go through this kind of angst. I remember us doing that, and I must have overdone it, given how things turned out, cleavage wise, for me. But it hit it pretty well on the head, because we did hope for a blessing there.

I don’t recall the hoping for my period to come the way they do in the movie and book. I think it is a huge deal, but I remember reading about it in the book, and dreading that it would ever really happen to me. Then it did, at a sleepover, which is like a nightmare. The whole passage into “womanhood” might be a good thing if you had a mom like the one Margaret had, but most of us were not that lucky, and here I am forty one years later still hating it. I think it sucks that a few days a month dominate your life the way it does, for most of your life. That’s a whole other trauma for a whole other post. But it’s a big deal to the girls in the book, and I think the movie did a good job of that too.

Going to the movie last night was a real treat. That book was just the best thing ever for girls at that age, when I was that age. I don’t know if young girls still read it, but I hope they do. It kind of gives the struggle of that adolescent a voice, a place to be understood. If your mom is an open and accessible source for you, it can be a great conversation starter for a young girl hitting that time. That spot where you are still a kid, but changing, but not yet a young woman. The awkward spot. It really gave me a sad smile, because that time for me was rough, as my mom couldn’t quite be what a young girl needs at that moment in life. It put me in that place for a couple of hours, where I was sad about that time, but at the same moment made me smile that I made it through. That’s nostalgia, isn’t it? Looking back and saying, I made it through that time, and here I am now, a better person for it. For me, it is.

I would say “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret” is a sweet little movie. It likely won’t stay in the theaters long, there are no super heroes in it, or Mario and Luigi, or explosions. But it’s spot in the universe for me was just wonderful. A little escape to a time in the late 70s or early 80s that was my life, at that awful, awkward time before you are who you are going to become. When you first discover not all boys are stupid, that getting your period will not happen at a convenient time, and your life is a mess, but so is everyone else’s too. I left the theater, came back to my adult life, and had a little smile for young Carol, who is still here, but with a mortgage, a job, a dog and a pretty good life. Still a little awkward too, but that is a whole other blog.

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