As I enter the phase of life where my period is ending, how appropriate now to look back at my anxious preteen years when my cycle first arrived. No person helped an entire generation of girls’ transition to this new challenge more than Judy Blume.
A goddess to Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, Blume stripped away the mystery and taboo of the menstrual cycle in her book, “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.” First published in 1970, it’s the story of young Margaret Simon and all the “firsts” that come with being a girl in the middle school arena, especially those things not easily expressed to friends. The trailer for the movie adaptation was released recently, and even in 2023 there isn’t enough open conversation around the menstrual cycle except in hushed or offended tones.
Seeing the news surrounding the movie makes me think about my 50th birthday in Key West. It was my first time in the Keys, and I invited several friends to go with me. During my research, I noted several places I wanted to see, including the Southernmost Point and the Hemingway Home. But I found something else that topped even those famous destinations for me: Blume’s bookstore, Books & Books.
I knew the chances she would actually be there when we visited were slim, so I didn’t go with high expectations. A male companion on the trip had no connection to Blume, but could see how hushed we were entering the building, as if going to church, so he decided to “I Spy” his way around the bookstore in search of its owner. A few minutes later he whispered to me, “Is that her?”
Sure enough, in an employee lounge she was spotted talking to a colleague, and our group nervously requested an audience. She was gracious enough to comply, asking we keep our distance due to the mysterious new COVID-19 threat. A great way to do that was for her to help check us out, and so we each got to speak with her individually across the counter. I asked for her autograph in a new copy of “Are You There, God?” and this is what she wrote:
You & Margaret are the same age!
I confess there were tears in my eyes as she wrote this, watching this petite woman who served as such a giant figure in my young life. And it wasn’t lost on me that I was exactly the age she had in mind for Margaret back in the ’70s, so no wonder the book spoke to me like no other.
When we celebrate romantic love this time of year, there is always the message you are incomplete without a lover to make you feel appreciated and beautiful. But in my time alive, I’ve learned that you attract what you are, and if you don’t have much love for yourself, then you’ll end up with people who don’t really care about you or serve your needs. That’s why I honor Blume and her works for young women, because she wanted us to understand that you must love yourself before you can truly love anybody else.