Dear Judy,

I have been meaning to write you this letter for quite some time. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret has been front of mind as I mother my young daughter through her first years of adolescence.

Thank you for making the choice to courageously pioneer a voice for young girls in the throes of puberty. You helped so many understand that it is perfectly natural to wrestle with their emotions, feelings and sexuality.

Last spring, during our women’s circle, we shared memories and stories of our first menstrual cycle. I was blown away by the reaction to my personal story, and sad to learn how this beautiful rite of passage was addressed, (or not addressed at all) back in the day.

Our group determined that our parents were uncomfortable, uninformed, or had been taught that menstruation marks the beginning of something dirty or shameful.

An Open Letter to Judy Blume

The stories of silence, neglect, and shame shared in our circle made me cry. Out of eight women, only one had a positive menarche story.

I read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret around the time my mom was diagnosed with uterine cancer and experienced my first period shortly after she went through a full and successful hysterectomy.  I recall nonchalantly buying a pad from the bathroom dispenser at the movie theater (Grease was playing), then going to the store after the movie to buy my pads and take care of ‘it’. There was no celebration. I didn’t even say anything to my mom because she had so much going on at the time.

Eventually my parents found out and a lot of conversations about NOT getting pregnant followed.

All these year later, I realize that your book prepared me for my first menstrual cycle.

Carol, the wise grandmother of our group, found it interesting that your book played a part in mothering me through my first period. She recommended that I read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret again to get reacquainted with the story.

Reading your book again would be quite easy because still have my original copy! 

The picture above is my copy of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret with yellowed, dog-eared pages. My name and address proudly penciled in the back of the book. I’ve carted this book around for more than 30 years. Now I know why!

If anyone tried to determine the most common rite of passage for preteen girls in North America, a girl’s first reading of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret would rank near the top of the list. – Amazon

It was time to read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret again. Reading “We must, we must,  we must increase our bust” made me chuckle. I recall trying that exercise at 12 years old, thinking it was hilarious (still do). It worked! HA!

I remember feeling sad for the young girl, Laura who’s body developed quicker than everyone else. Laura’s character was similar to a grade school friend who was teased incessantly about the size of her chest. Kids used to ask her to jump up and down to prove that her breasts were real!

You explored religion from the perspective of an only child being raised in a nondenominational household. I found this most interesting as I was an only child, raised in a Catholic household. Today my husband and I choose to raise our daughter is a nondenominational household, with access to any religion she chooses. We practice loving kindness.

Funny story…

Around the time my daughter Marin turned 12, I uploaded Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret to her kindle as a special gift (that wasn’t received the way I hoped it would be). As a matter fact, the ‘gift’ created some significant drama around trying to make her read something she had absolutely no interest in reading. I was floored. After using her reaction as a teaching moment, I surrendered. The book would remain on her kindle unless she chose to delete it.

This summer,  I mentioned that I was writing a letter of gratitude to you and asked if she might review your story from a teenage girl’s perspective in 2014. She said “Sure.” My daughter agreed to read your book!

We each read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret in one sitting.  Marin on her kindle and me with my treasured original copy.

When we reviewed our experiences the next day, I learned that what initially kept Marin from wanting to read the book was the title. She thought it was going to be all about religion and God, which wasn’t something she wanted to read at the time. She quickly realized that this wasn’t a book about religion, but more about growing up, puberty and having a personal relationship with God.

Marin said that she could totally relate to the story and felt like you knew your audience. She liked that you knew who you were talking to and shared that a lot of similar experiences and shenanigans happen today in her school. She also felt sad for the Laura Danker character and said that Nancy’s character drove her nuts!

I learned that none of her friends ever talked about getting their periods or wanting to have them start, but handled this milestone in a matter of fact, “I got my period over the summer” kind of way. Marin said that she and one of her friends were the only girls in her circle that experienced a rite of passage celebration.  My husband and I celebrated our daughter’s menarche with a special dinner, flowers and sweet treats. Witnessing my husband give Marin roses and congratulate her on becoming a young woman busted my heart wide open.

Marin and I now have a ‘secret moon time box’ filled with sweet and salty snacks for women only! We’ve also made a family pact that the first day of our menses be a special ‘red tent’ day with plenty of quiet time to rest and nibble on chocolate.

While revisiting old memories and creating new stories, I wondered who else may have benefitted from reading your books.  I asked the women who frequent the Transformation Goddess Facebook page: 
“Did you ever read “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” by Judy Blume when you were young? If so, do you remember what you took away from the story?” The majority of women who answered my post had read your book!

Here’s what they said:

“I read it and I remember loving it. I remember it made me feel like there was someone else who had internal dialogues, confusion and angst about things. I remembering it being important to me way back then.”-Pam S.

“Yup! I read it and no, I don’t really remember all that much BUT I do remember that I can talk to God anytime I want.”-Peggy N.

“Oh my goodness I have to laugh and grin and chuckle! I’m doing a life assessment as preparation for an advanced program next month and I just went through the pre-pubescent period of my life. What I took away from this book is my mom had VERY FEW Resources to support her during this time of my life.” -Laura C.

“I did read it – several times in fact. You would think I would remember more of the content. The title makes me think that I wanted God to notice me – may have been feeling lonely or invisible!” -Sheila C.

“I LOVED that book! I look forward to reading it with my daughter when the time is right.” -Dina O.

Judy, thank you for having the courage to explore topics that were taboo back in the day.  Your stories stand the test of time. I will be forever grateful that you and your beautiful books showed up in my life more than 30 years ago and again today.

With Big Love and Infinite Gratitude,

SVL

Shann Vander Leek, Mother of a Teenage Daughter

Judy BlumeAbout Judy Blume
Judy Blume spent her childhood in Elizabeth, NJ, making up stories inside her head. She has spent her adult years in many places, doing the same thing, only now she writes her stories down on paper. Adults as well as children will recognize such Blume titles as: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret; Superfudge; Blubber; Just As Long As We’re Together; and Forever. She has also written the best-selling novels Wifey; Smart Women; and, Summer Sisters. More than 75 million copies of her books have been sold, and her work has been translated into twenty-six languages.

Thank you so much for reading this post! Please, share this article on your favorite social networks. Every share, like or tweet helps me reach more women who need a soulful place to explore and remember their divinely feminine nature. I truly appreciate you!

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About Shann Vander Leek

Shann Vander Leek

Shann Vander Leek is an Award Winning Podcaster, Best Selling Author, Voice Over Talent, Podcast Coach, and Media Expert.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Reba Linker Sep 4, 2014, 12:30 pm

    Hi Shann, What a beautiful post! I never read the book, nonetheless, I was so touched by your memmories, and especially by the lovely experience you have built around your daughter’s menarche. It is so important to teach our daughters – and ourselves – how to be kind and gentle with ourselves. So lovely. Thank you! Reba

    • shannvanderleek Sep 4, 2014, 5:07 pm

      Hi Reba, Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed my letter to Judy Blume. I agree that we must teach our daughters to celebrate the blessings of being a woman in a loving and gentle way.

  • Donna Hudson Sep 4, 2014, 12:54 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this book, I don’t think I ever read it. I do remember when I did get my period, not knowing exactly what to do. I confided to my older sister who proceeded to yell for my Mom that I had started my period. My Mom just handed me a pad and didn’t even explain what to do with it. I remember being very embarassed and so I didn’t ask her any more questions. My best friend told me when she started her period and was curious why I hadn’t told her that I had already started to have it. There was no celebration, just alot of unanswered questions. I’m happy you celebrated your Daughter’s passage into becoming a woman. Right on for you.

    • shannvanderleek Sep 4, 2014, 5:10 pm

      My pleasure Donna. Thank you for your kindness and for sharing your personal story. Young women deserve to experience a sweet rite of passage. I invite you to write about how you wish things would have happened back in the day. Recreate your story!

      • Donna Hudson Sep 5, 2014, 9:45 am

        Thank you–Shann, I will write my story about what happened back then. Thanks for the great idea to Recreate my story.

  • Amethyst Sep 4, 2014, 4:54 pm

    I loved, “Are You there God? It’s Me, Margaret!” Thanks for the reminder. I’ve been revisiting childhood stories (Choose Your Own Adventure books, Sweet Valley High, and the like). I’ll definitely add this to my list! 🙂

    • shannvanderleek Sep 4, 2014, 5:11 pm

      Amethyst,
      I know right?! Glad I could bring Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret to the front of your mind. Thank for your comment!

  • Andrea Sep 4, 2014, 5:14 pm

    What a beautiful post! I never ‘met’ Judy Blume and her stories as a girl but will now add ‘Margaret’ to my pile. Thanks!

  • Tonya Sep 4, 2014, 5:50 pm

    It never even occurred to me that there might be another way to deal with this right of passage until we shared our similar experiences. Here’s to changing this for girls in future. Marin is blessed to have such a wonderful family!

    • shannvanderleek Sep 4, 2014, 7:30 pm

      Tonya,
      I know right?! I think that women’s circles like ours can make a big difference.
      Thank you for your kindness. I love you! XO

  • Debra Reble Sep 5, 2014, 7:43 am

    Thank you Shann for this heartfelt post that touches all women. It reminded of how difficult a time adolescence was for me and yes, I discovered Judy Blume’s books as well as solace for such a tumultuous time. There was rite of passage or celebration ritual for me coming into my only fear and no one to guide me through. I was just writing about my experience yesterday for a chapter in my new book on vulnerability and then you posted. Perfect timing and a perfect culmination to my story too. Again thank you for putting your heart and soul into this post. I feel it and so do others. Hugs and blessings Debra

  • Veronica Sutherland Sep 5, 2014, 9:36 am

    I love your post Shann. So many of us have been prepared for this rite of passage solely in an effort to prevent pregnancy. I am happy that you and your husband have made it a celebration in your household. Your daughter is a lucky young lady. You have set me off thinking of how I can make a difference for other young ladies.

    Blessings for the difference you are making.

    • Shann Sep 5, 2014, 10:27 am

      Hi Veronica,
      Thank you so much for your kindness. I’m glad this post inspired you to think about how you can support young women. They need us!

  • Maryellen De Vine Sep 5, 2014, 10:14 am

    What a beautiful gift you are giving your daughter by honoring (and encouraging her to honor) being a woman! Thank you for shining your Light as you do!

    • Shann Sep 5, 2014, 10:29 am

      Maryellen,
      Thank you. I’m grateful to have the resources and experience to support my daughter to walk in beauty.

  • Peggy Sep 5, 2014, 11:39 am

    What a beautiful letter and walk down memory lane. Maybe I need to revisit her book and of course, with your letter came the memory of my own first period….something I never even discussed with my mother. I told my older sister instead.

    xo

    • Shann Sep 5, 2014, 12:23 pm

      Thank you Peggy! I am floored by the number of women who never had a conversation or celebration. I’m super grateful to break the chain in my family.
      Create a great weekend. xo

  • minette Sep 5, 2014, 3:36 pm

    Shann, I loved your letter and while I never did read the book, I resonated with your story. my mom never told me anything and she didn’t believe me when i told her my period had started. I have done things so differently with my daughter who is 12 and just waiting for her period to start, with some trepidation but lots of information and confidence about who she is. I look forward to celebrating this important rite of passage with her. We read a wonderful book created by the American Girl company called the Care and Keeping of Me that was a wonderful jumping off point for answering her questions and teaching her to care for herself.

    • Shann Sep 5, 2014, 4:01 pm

      Minette,

      I love knowing that your daughter is being supported in such a beautiful way. What a precious gift. Create a great weekend!

  • Laurie Seymour Sep 5, 2014, 3:58 pm

    I loved reading about your memories. There are a few authors who touched me deeply growing up—I was a HUGE reader. My daughter followed suit.

    I have always felt the importance of celebrating with her the unique moments of womanhood, even though my own entry into was different. I remember not telling my mother about my first period until the second or third day after it started. She had given me a booklet telling me what would happen, so I wasn’t surprised. But I didn’t feel connected enough with her to want to share it. I am so grateful that has been different with my own daughter.

    • Shann Sep 5, 2014, 4:05 pm

      Laurie,
      Thanks for your kindness. It’s a wonderful thing to be connected and open about feminine milestones with our daughters. We are transforming things is a beautiful way for generations to come. XO

  • Sue Kearney (@MagnoliasWest) Sep 6, 2014, 11:32 pm

    Shann, I never read the book either; as I look back I remember feeling too grown-up to even give it a glance. I’m reserving it from my library now.

    Thanks for inspiring me, gorgeous!

    Blessings,
    Sue

  • Suzie Cheel Sep 7, 2014, 8:32 pm

    What a beautiful post Shann and I feel so blessed that my Mother prepared me for that menstrual time. Thank you

  • Kim Turcotte Sep 10, 2014, 10:33 am

    Shann,

    Thank you so much for writing this! I have such fond memories of this book. My elementary school library had only two copies and they were kept behind the front desk and you had to be in fourth grade to take a copy out. I remember putting my name on the list to read it the first or second day of fourth grade. The book helped me feel comfortable in my body. I was the one who blossomed early and was always teased about the size of my breasts by classmates.

    I was lucky enough to have a mom and step mom who both honored my “becoming a woman”. I was with my Dad and Stepmom when I started and I remember her taking me to the store, making a big deal of me buying my first box of pads, then we went for ice cream to celebrate. My mom was a little disappointed that is wasn’t her who got to share this special moment with me, so when I got home we talked and the next day, we went out for a ‘women’s’ day, just the two of us.

    Looking back I realize how important this book was and is for young girls to read. Thank you for bringing up some great memories that I hadn’t thought about in years.

    Blessings,
    Kim

    • shannvanderleek Sep 12, 2014, 5:39 pm

      Kim,

      I ‘m so glad you have fond memories of this book! I love your story. Thanks for sharing. XO