Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Are you there God? it's me, Sophie

"Are you there God?  It's Me Margaret." by Judy Blume.

The Cover I remember

Back when I was in 5th grade, all the girls in my elementary school read it (back in the 70s) but, being a victim of testosterone poisoning, I did not.  They read it; shared it; talked about it.  For them, it was a window to their future.  It was, in Spring City Elementary, a rite of passage.

Fifth grade.  I'm front row, second from right.  At least 4 of these children are now dead.

I read this as a "rite of passage" as well.  I figured every other girl in my class did, so I should too. 

I see why they read it. It touches on menarche as an important milestone, but that's not the whole point, is it? It talks about the importance of Family, and of that slow detachment that adolescents must experience- family to friends. Religion? Yes, it's a major theme but I see it as a metaphor for family.

So now I've read it. There are touchstones that I will never experience, being trans, but I can still appreciate their importance and beauty.

So the book is about Margaret, a 6th grade girl who moves from NYC to a New Jersey suburb, where there are social hierarchies, etc.  This book was first published in 1970, and things were VERY different back then.  Like for example, the suburb is lily-white, and there are no mentions of people of different ethnicities.  It's like economic segregation.  

Come to think of it, things WEREN'T so different.

In any case, Margaret talks to God a lot.  I wouldn't call it praying, just talking.  She talks to God about life, her parents, grandparents... everything.  I got the impression she was really quite lonely and sheltered in NYC.  

Her father is Jewish and her mother is Catholic.  The parents have raised Margaret to make her own decisions.  Enter the grandparents on both sides; both very dogmatic in their particular religions.  It didn't escape my notice that the Jewish grandmother was FAR more tolerant of interfaith marriage than the Catholic one.  Funny that.

Margaret spends the entire book focused on three major topics:  her religion (or lack thereof), her period (or lack thereof), and her "club" of friends.  A sub topic of the friends part would be her obsession with the cutest boy in school.

The book is predictable in many ways.  There is a subplot that struck home for me though.  Laura Danker is one of the minor characters.  She is tall and preternaturally developed for a sixth grader.  I learned in my fancy book lernin' college stuff that early developing girls and late developing boys have the hardest time socially, especially in Middle school.  As such, all of the other girls shun her and spread rumors about her.  

Like many transpeople, I know what it's like to be shunned.  As a "late developing male" I was ridiculed.  I couldn't get a date even if I hung a necklace of $100 bills around my neck.  Not that it would've done any good- my idea of a "fancy" date was Pizza Hut or Dennys... after all, they actually had wait staff!  I graduated high school 5'6" and 120 pounds.

Oh to have transitioned then!!


Having read this book at the age of 49, I think a lot of the magic was lost on me.  (Similar to seeing ET for the first time when in my 30s:  meh)    However, it is well written, and I can see why it touches so many hearts.

That said, it made me feel very "left out" for missing all that growing up female meant.  

Such is life.

Be Well


  1. Very good Sophie... This is Diana Lynn Langton... I watch your growth. We've never really chatted or even met although you went right past me three Harrisburgs ago... my one and only conference... Kristin Beck was there as was Nicole Maine's dad... I think you are amazing, brave, and most certainly beautiful. I enjoy your blog too! :-)

  2. I'm not sure if I ever read Margaret. I know I read "Then Again, Maybe I Won't," Blume's novel from the male perspective. I know most of my friends read Margaret, but there was just something more appealing about the "opposite" side for me. /shrug (also, I was also 5'6" and 120 lbs when I graduated high school!)