Judy Blume, Roger, and Me by Fiona Ellis
Everyone has a Judy Blume story. Her books are well known in the young adult genre and most women readers have lasting memories of what they learned from Blume’s books, and her unique and honest style.
Growing up I didn’t have cable television so I couldn’t watch MTV. My mother wouldn’t let me watch Beverly Hills 90210 either. Too advanced for you, she said, and too trashy! As it turns out, to be a twelve year old girl without cable and no knowledge of the most recent episode of “90210” was 7th grade social suicide.
I tried to contribute to the schoolyard dialogue by talking about the latest Sweet Valley High book but that couldn’t compete with the Brenda-Dylan-Kelly love triangle. You are such a book nerd, my friends would say to me.
However, everything changed the day I showed up at school with a new copy of Judy Blume’s infamous coming-of-age novel, Forever. I had somehow managed to convince my mother to buy me the book on a recent trip to the bookstore. As any female bookworm knows, Forever, was titillating literary gold among a crowd of impressionable and inexperienced junior high girls. And it won me respect in the daunting halls of our school. I was suddenly the girl that owned THE BOOK; the book about young love and sex between two teenagers in small town New Jersey. When I had the book in my hands, I had power. During study hall, a small hand-selected group of girls gathered around as I read passages from the novel: Katherine and her trip to New York City, her first orgasm and, of course, “Roger.” Suddenly I was the mature one. In my most adult-like voice I easily channeled the emotions of the characters, expressing their love, pain and eventual heartbreak. To us twelve year olds, Katherine and Michael’s love surpassed anything we had seen in our young lives. And unlike watching Brenda and Dylan on television where no imagination was required, the book’s paragraphs allowed us, as readers, to imagine the scenes for ourselves. What did Katherine and Michael look like? And when they had sex, what did THAT look like? We discussed the words in detail, envisioning Michael and Katherine in love and making love. Over time the small book with a white cover was passed around from classmate to classmate; it was slipped through the opening in a girl’s locker or hidden between a stack of schoolbooks, waiting for its next young reader.
Months later, after the book had been read by every twelve year old girl in my class, it was left in my family’s mailbox. And my popularity waned once again. Eventually we all grew up and kissed boys (or girls), started dating and lost our virginity. And whether the loss of our virginity was exactly like the scene in Forever, or something entirely different, I do not doubt that the memories of the book came rushing back for all the girls who had read it in 7th grade.
Recently I asked my mother why she bought me a book that was about the loss of a young woman’s virginity. Judy Blume is a great writer and I trusted her, was her response. Looking back now, Forever, taught me a lot sex, womanhood, and love; but it also taught me about the power of a good book.
Fiona Ellis is a freelance writer and essayist living in Connecticut. She recently escaped the corporate jungle to focus on her writing career. You can read more of her humorous, embarrassing, and always dramatic stories on her blog or by following her on Twitter @fionaellis30.
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