Welcome to my Asylum!

A place to empty my head of the random musing and mumblings that populate it on a daily basis.

Thursday 28 March 2013

The Judy Blume Project

I follow a blog by Dana, entitled The Kitchen Witch.

Dana has recipes, some very funny stories, and an ability to write and draw people in so we feel like we have known her forever.  She also has some bloody funny people who follow her and write comments that crack me up.

A little while ago, Dana made a post about Judy Blume, which then spiralled out into comments about peoples memories of Judy Blume books they read as girls.  It kept on spiralling out until it became The Judy Blume Project. The Kitchen Witch - Judy Blume Project (you can get to the original and best courtesy of the Kitchen Witch herself here.).

Anyhow, I decided to write a piece, and here it is, for better or worse. (Thanks to Dana for the review and edits)

Dear Judy Blume….

Have you ever visited England, Judy?  Or I should say did you ever visit England in the 1980’s?
That’s when I was growing up in the North East of England.  If you’ve ever seen Billy Elliot, it was kind of like that, but with less people breaking into song and dance routines (unless you count 11.30pm as all the pubs close). Believe it or not, there really were some very talented singers listing up those streets around midnight, with their newspaper wrapped fish and chips, ink-stained fingers reeking of vinegar.

England was not the home of Judy Blume books in the way that the USA was, in fact, I only ever remember one of your books making it to my village by the sea.  That book just happened to be “Forever.”  Oh yes indeed, THAT BOOK!!

In class one day when I was 11, several of the girls at the back of the classroom were giggling over a book.  Guessing that they were not giggling over Beowulf,  I sidled towards them on pretext of sharpening my pencil. And there it was, my introduction to sex.  Now don’t get me wrong, my mother had been very informative whenever I asked a question, and I’d watched enough Dallas and Dynasty in my formative years to get the general gist, but this was different, this was from the perspective of a girl…. like me….

Sadly, the giggling  also alerted the English teacher and the book was swiftly confiscated  and banned. He was less than impressed with our choice of reading material.

Off I went to the library in search of this Holy Grail of Enlightenment, but alas, it was not available to anyone with a child library card (under 14 years old).
Thankfully, whist I was 11, I looked about 16 (scary, I know) so, the following Saturday, when my mother took a trip to the neighbouring town to do the grocery shopping, I went with her and asked if I could peruse the bookstore next door while she bought the food.  Thrilled at the idea of shopping in peace, she let me go.

The bookshop had a rack full of “FOREVER” books with a large sign saying ’14 years and older only’.  Now, back then, ID was not something many people carried unless they were driving, so the shopkeepers based it on the age you looked, and whether they knew your parents.  They didn’t know my parents (Ha!).  I procured a book.  I did the same the following Saturday…. And the Saturday after that… Then they recognised me and shooed me out the shop for good.
But Judy, those three books, dog eared and worn after their travels, made their way around to every girl aged 11, 12 and 13 in that school…  They educated all and surprised many.  They also shocked a couple of mothers who never spoke to me again, thanks to the quick pointing of fingers from their daughters.

We finally had a Sex Ed class in school when we were 12.  Had we relied on that, we would all be wearing enormous Dr White’s Sanitary Towels each month, and have a weird fascination with the sex lives of chickens, not to mention the belief that all people looked like something out of a 60s Swedish Porn Movie (all hair and beards, and not necessarily only in the facial area).
FOREVER is remembered with fondness by us all, and you were responsible for showing a generation of girls then, and many more since, that we were normal.  Our hopes, our fears, and ***whispers*** our desires, were no longer causes for shame.

 And yes, we all wondered whether the boy we’d surrender our virginity to would call his ‘thing’ a name…. Thanks for that too!!
By the way, I never did get those books back.  They were passed on to a new group of girls at the end of the year. I like to think that they are still making their way, torn and taped, educating a new group of girls, shocking their parents, being confiscated by teachers.  I like to think that they are the gift that keeps on giving.

Yours, ‘forever’,


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