October 3, 2009

Well Then, Which Was the One With the Party?

You know what book I thought of out of the blue the other day? Fifteen, by Beverly Cleary, the part where Janie is trying to knit a pair of argyle socks for boyfriend Stan and has to take out the stitches over and over again.

What I would like to know at this point, a good 25 years later, is how did I identify so strongly in the 1980s with a book in which the protagonist calls her father "Pop" and irons a dress before a date? And yet I did, and in fact I would go so far as to say it is the book that, more than any other, created my dating expectations. When I was fifteen years old myself, I arrived on the doorstep of dating fresh-faced and in an ironed dress (ironed turned-up-collared shirt, whatever), waiting for an ID bracelet. None of the boys I dated had ID bracelets, and why not? Bring sexy back, boys.

I also read Forever... by Judy Blume, and I read it at age 14 when it was getting passed around by the girls in my grade with the interesting sections pre-dog-eared, and yet that one didn't influence my views of dating. I read it with the same interest I read the sack of paperback romance novels my babysitting employer recommended to me, but didn't think to apply any of them to anything in my own life. It seemed to me that the book ended kind of abruptly: relationship, relationship, more relationshipping, off to camp and the sad necklace and the end. I was like, "Huh? How come they broke up? They seemed to be getting along so nicely." I do still remember what Michael's, er, little friend was named, do you?

I was interested in the idea of The Transition Into Womanhood but did NOT want to discuss it with my eager-to-discuss-it mother, so I think I read Judy Blume's Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret a dozen times. The discussions of various feminine hygiene product possibilities. "We must, we must, we must increase our bust" exercises. The friend writing "I GOT IT!" on a postcard and then crying in the bathroom when she really did get it. The grandmother saying that if Mohammad wouldn't come to the mountain, the mountain would have to come to Mohammad---and did they go on a shopping trip into the city? The big religious decisions she felt she should make. The...party with BOYS, and the girl with epilepsy? Or, no, I think that was another book.

43 comments:

Suzannah said...

Ralph!
(Right?)

may said...

I read "Are You There..." MANY times, too! And I was all, "What is with this BELT thing?" Do you remember that? And I think the girl with epilepsy was a different book. I do remember that the girls made up a club... I think they all had to wear a bra and they made up fake names. Margaret's was something she thought was lame, like Maude or something. What was it?? Maeve? Anyway, I was way interested in the Jewishness aspect, too. I don't think I even knew any Jewish people way back in the day. Thanks for the flashback. : )

Swistle said...

Suzannah- You rule.

May- YES, the BELT, I'd forgotten that! And then when I DID get to the Using Feminine Hygiene Products stage myself, I was wondering WHERE WAS THE BELT?

Leeann said...

Totally the name Ralph.. will always stay with me!
I was grounded for reading that book. My brother ratted me out.

Other Blume books: Deenie, Blubber, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great. I loved Judy Blume.

Leeann

Leeann said...

Oh, and if I ever wanted to put cologne on my (boyfriend's or husband's) nuts, I learned that wouldn't be a good idea from reading Forever as well.

The things that stick with you! lol

Laura said...

I loved those books! I totally relate to what you said about Forever though - I read it as...maybe a 14 year old? I was so far from having sex, it was like reading about people from another land. How about Norma Klein? "Mom, the Wolfman, and Me" anyone??

Babies on the brain. said...

Hmm. I never read FOrever. But I love are you there god. Still have a copy. And there was noone with epilepsy in it. The belt does make me smile. Young adult books were so much better then.

beyond said...

i still sometimes think back to the beverly cleary books i read YEARS ago. that must mean that she's a genius.
oh! and tiger eyes by judy blume. that's young adult fiction that i read when i was ten and it marked me profoundly.
(oh gosh THE BELT. geez. how many girls were confused by that? i'm guessing millions.)

Elizabeth said...

If you loved both of those books, you absolutely MUST read The Cheerleader. GET IT NOW!

http://www.amazon.com/Cheerleader-Ruth-Doan-MacDougall/dp/0966335201/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1254624549&sr=8-4

kirida said...

I think you would love the Fine Lines column over on Jezebel.com: http://jezebel.com/tag/fine-lines/

I love how the writer dissects the same books I read as a young adult, illuminating all the poignant details that type of literature holds. It's great. Here's the take on Are You There God:
http://jezebel.com/5235862/are-you-there-god-its-me-margaret-how-have-i-not-written-about-this-book-yet

Erica said...

I remember being SO! CONFUSED! about her description of the sanitary belt contraption. I wanted there to be a diagram or photograph somewhere in that damned book.

Also, oddly enough, I identified with the Ramona books more than any others as a young girl. Lately I find myself thinking of them more and more as Maddie starts to become interested in giving toys/dolls names. I keep hoping she'll come up with something awesome like Chevrolet.

Anna said...

I was going to recommend 'Fine Lines' on Jezebel too. I don't know if she does it every Friday, but the discussion of all those iconic books as an adult is really fascinating.

Steph said...

I LOVED those books, too! Defining books, truly. My mother had "the belt" so I knew what it was and was glad not to have to use it. I also remember we started sex ed in Grade 5 and they gave all the girls a pretty little powder blue booklet (sponsored by Kotex) called "It's Wonderful Being a Girl" that described the joys of womanhood. That book and all the Judy Blume stuff made it truly SEEM wonderful! And now, after decades of PMS and the associated joys, I have to say I'm not feeling the magic. ;)

Kelly said...

OMG the belt. Thank God for adhesives.

I think "Are you there, God..." is the best book ever!!! I loooove it!!!
I remember me and my little friends all reading it ravenously and anxiously awaiting our periods. oh the innocence of youth. Then in your 20's you skip the yellow pills so you can skip your period, and then you get pregnant and have babies and miss your 20 year old periods. Then, waiting for me around the corner...some sort of pre-menopausal hell like the long drawn out homicidal Lifetime movie that my mom went through.

Are you there, God, its me, Kelly. Can we skip menopause? The hot flashes of my almost 40 is enough. really.

sigh.

thanks for the trip down memory lane, swistle!! love those books!

Leslie said...

I loved the Donna Parker books, which were *really* old-fashioned. In one she has a boy-girl "make your own sundae" party. I considered that the height of social interaction when I was nine. Hmmm. There might be a correlation there about why I was dateless as I approached college.

Swistle said...

Oh, Kelly. We TOTALLY need a new book, this one by menopausal Margaret. I think it would be a huge seller.

Nowheymama said...

Yes! about Fifteen. Also, Jean and Johnny and The Luckiest Girl.

Anna said...

I was going to comment 'Ralph!' but am too late. Why is that kind of information burnt into my brain?

And how about Paula Danziger? In particular I remember one about a girl who went to live on the moon. And her mother could read her mind.

Laura said...

Can I just take this opportunity to say to Kirida, that OMG I totally owe you a beer?? I LOVE that fine lines column on Jezebel! I have read all of those books, and just spent a happy couple of hours perusing that site. Thanks!

Kim said...

When my god-daughter turned 12 (two years ago, eeek), I bought her the Judy Blume boxed set. I told her the books were "old-fashioned" (and of course had to explain those sanitary belts were even before MY time) but that all of the things the girl characters go through still apply to this day. I think of those books as kind of defining my adolescence and reread them sometimes even now.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone read The Pistachio Prescription? A Tree Grows in Brooklyn also did a lot for me... Reading was my salvation, totally...

Jess said...

I remember reading the book "Forever" in 8th grade. stayed up all night and read the whole thing. My poor little innocent self was pretty scarred. I was expecting something a little different from Judy Blume, somewhere along the lines of Superfudge. Didn't quite happen. But it didn't stop me from reading it. My mom read it after me and was pretty surprised it was in the middle school library.

minnie said...

I don't think I read Fifteen or Forever. And the belt thing was really confusing because I was picturing tampons and a belt?! wha?

For some reason the book Blubber was my favorite and otherwise known as sheila the great. and then (not JB) harriet the spy, the long summer and Sport.

God, I love YA fiction. The Saffy's Angel books are really good.

Swistle said...

YES, the Pistachio Prescription! Cassandra/Cassie, was that her name? Loved that book. After reading it, I tried to choose a Signature Snack Food of my own, but failed.

Shelly Overlook said...

Why can I remember "Ralph" more than 25 years later, but not what my daughter asked me to do for her 15 minutes ago? I remember the girl in that book noting that the BF's sister was overwatering her plants, but she asked him not to tell his sister that b/c then the sister would know they were there, doing It. Clearly not an important part of the book, yet it is taking up important memory space in my brain.

I heard somewhere that Judy Blume updated "AYTGIMM" to make it more current (the belt) but I haven't seen an updated version yet. I can't wait to get to re-read all these books with my kid.

I also remember a book along the lines of "Forever" that was naughty. I think it was called "Sooner or Later" - about a girl who had an affair with her guitar teacher. I think there was a sequel and they even made a movie out of it.

Melessa said...

The girl with epilepsy was a book called What If They Knew if you are talking about the one with the girl named Jeremy, her twin friends, and the obnoxious little girl named Carrie that followed them around. (Why I remember this now I do not know.) I also highly recommend The Cheerleader though I haven't read it since the late 80's. I had forgotten the "little friend's" name. Even though I remembered all about the girl with epilepsy. Wonder why that is?

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

I didn't really read those Judy Blume books -- only Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Superfudge, haha. Never ended up reading her YA books. As for Beverly Cleary, I only ever read some of the Ramona stories.

I was really into The Baby-Sitters Club, and Sweet Valley Twins or whatever it was called (not Sweet Valley High though)... and then a bunch of random stand-alone novels -- I can't even remember the various names of the authors. Oh, and I also loved these random books called Girl Talk, which I do believe were somehow related to the board game...or that was just coincidence.

mom huebert said...

I disliked "Are You There God?" and I didn't read "Forever," but I LOVED "Fifteen" for some reason. I still remember (and use!) a phrase out of that book: "fluffy and not very bright"-- describing how you feel around someone who intimidates you.

Daycare Girl said...

Shelly- AAHH! Sooner or Later! With Jess and Michael Skye, and she took this weird pregnancy test that was like a chemistry lab with test tubes and crystals. Sequel was called Now or Never, I think.

I also loved To Take A Dare by Crescent Dragonwagon. Anybody read that one?

Astarte said...

Hmmm.... I don't remember a JB book with epilipsy, but I do remember one where the girl was in a scoliosis cast - Deenie.

I can't believe I'm coming up on the AYTG phase with Josie.

Anonymous said...

Okay, have any of you read WIFEY by Judy Blume? Got my hands on that puppy way too young - TOTALLY fascinating. Crying laughing reading your post, Swistle, and loving all of the subsequent posts that follow. You are the awesomest person ever. Can we start a Swistle Book Club of favorite YA memory books? I will be one of your charter members! PLEASE organize it! ~Jenny in MD

Anonymous said...

Theo called. (The last line of Forever, if I recall.) My fellow 7th graders and I were SHOCKED at that turn of events.

I think it was in Are You There God - that there was a reference to kids making out behind the A&P, which I've since learned is a supermarket chain. Where I lived, we didn't have an A&P. The context didn't work for me, so I found myself on a years-long quest to find out just what this A&P was. I didn't dare ask...I suspected it was dirty.

I read JB's adult novel Summer Sisters in the 90's when it was published. Nothing could transport me back to my 1980-ish yellow vinyl beanbag chair, which is pretty much where I read all of JB's earlier work, more than that. I loved it!
-- Laurie

Maria said...

Swistle, With regards to the one that dealt with epilepsy I’m pretty certain you’re referring to My Darling, My Hamburger by Zindel. I remember SO many of those books. I know someone’s already mentioned it, but my first real shocker was when I got a hold of my mom’s copy of Wifey. It was Judy Bloom after all!!! Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Superfudge were my favorites!!!

Back to Wifey, I will never forget reading about the dude on his motorcycle doing…you know. I think I was about 13 and I was BLOWN AWAY.

Alice said...

oh man, i read AYTGIMM with REVERENCE at the time, since i desperately wanted to experience all of those things and was soooo faaar from any of it happening to me... i'm totally in for a YA book club!!

Lawyerish said...

I am dying over here. THE BELT. (I was SO CONFUSED by that.) RALPH. The book with the girl with epilepsy! I remember all of these things.

I'm not sure if I ever read Fifteen, although I can't imagine why I wouldn't have since I devoured everything else in the J and the Y sections of our library.

A friend passed Forever to me on the sly, and I read it surreptitiously and found it a little horrifying, actually. I think I felt like Important, Grave Things were treated too cavalierly or something.

Remember "Starring Sally J Friedman as Herself", where she thinks Hitler lives in her building and her mom is always telling her she'll get trench mouth (?) from water fountains? (I could go ON.)

Brenda said...

I didn't read of any of these books..... and now that I'm dealing with menopause.... do they have a book for that? Cuz I could sure use one... or drugs.

willikat said...

We're doing a YA book club at work for these very reasons; to revisit fun memories, to see these stories through an adult's eyes, and because they're low committment, high fun. I hope my future children love reading as much as I have my whole life.

mamarose said...

Good God, have I not read "Forever??" I thought I had, but that does not sound familiar at all, and I think I would remember! I wonder if my sex life would be better if I'd read it - must read it right now!

Also, to Steph - I totally remember that little blue booklet, all those happy little illustrations - loved it!

Secret Mom Thoughts said...

I loved all those books too. I bet it is interesting to reread them now.

el-e-e said...

Mandy asked me just the other day if I wanted to borrow AYTGIMM and I said I didn't. But... I might be changing my mind after reading all these fun comments.

And I totally remember What If They Knew with the epilepsy. (Well, I remember the premise, not any of the details.)

Allison said...

I LOVED "Tiger Eyes." And "It's Not the End of the World" about this kid whose parents were getting divorced always depressed the hell out of me. Man, I love YA literature. Guess that's why I teach 7th grade.

Cate said...

The book I remember about epilepsy was A Handful of Stars by Barbara Girion. The girl has epilepsy so she can't stay at a slumber party, she gets kicked out of the drama club production, etc.

Val said...

I love this thread. My niece will someday be getting a huge Judy Bloom collection from me. And I thought I was remembering Fifteen, Swistle, but maybe not. What is the old (and 1950s-ish) YA book in which the girl gets stood up for her much-anticipated date? I just remember that her parents were at home waiting with her for him to show up, and I was really embarrassed and sad for her.