Of all the rites of passage of a woman’s young adulthood—first period, first bra, first kiss—there’s one that is often left off the official timeline but that is no less crucial: first time reading Forever… by Judy Blume. As an awkward, book-obsessed pre-teen, I made my way through Blume’s tween oeuvre fast and repeatedly—Superfudge, Blubber, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret—but there was one Blume book that was not part of my canon.
My older sister had a well-thumbed paperback of Forever... with a photo on the cover of a girl looking wistful with all her recently acquired sexual knowledge. “This book is way too grown-up for you,” my sister informed me, as if she’d reached OT III in Scientology and now was far too wise to associate with a reader of my vintage.
Obviously, I had to know what racy content Judy Blume had reserved for Forever…, so, at age twelve, I filched my sister’s copy and read it, as tradition dictates, with a flashlight under the covers. Several times. I read the scene where Michael and Kath have sex on the floor pretty much every night for a month. By the time I had moved on to my mom’s copy of Hollywood Wives, I’d had the book so long I feared returning the book to my sister’s shelf would be too risky, so I took Forever… to school and threw it away in the cafeteria trash can.
Forever… taught me pretty much everything I know about sex—you should use a “sheath” or you’ll get “VD,” some people name their penises, and, as Kath’s mother famously tells her, “you can’t go back to holding hands.” But I learned important things from nearly all of Blume’s books. On the occasion of her 77th birthday, let’s take a look back at the most enduring wisdom.
The end of a friendship may feel like a fatal blow, but it’s not, and casual racism is happening all around you, all the time.
The guy next to me in class actually is picking his nose and saving the bounty on a piece of notebook paper in his desk.
There’s an actual word for “touching your special place.”
Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself
It’s okay to be Patient Zero for a lice outbreak (you’re welcome, Camp Laurelwood) and Hitler might turn out to be my neighbor. (Thanks for the nightmares, Judy.)
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
Some girls were dying to get their periods, not dreading it as I was. Getting your period is also not the definitive end of your childhood (or your life).
Then Again, Maybe I Won’t
Boys! Erections! Wet dreams! That guy saving his boogers was doing all of THAT?!?
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
Not all hyperactive younger siblings are as adorable and hilarious as I found myself. Also: cuteness is temporary.
Otherwise Known As Sheila the Great
Girls can be really mean to each other (ugh, that “slam book”) and they can also get over it and move on.
It’s Not the End of the World
See the title re: divorce. This one was a doozy. It’s weird to think of a time when I hadn’t heard this expression. It’s oddly comforting as a quick, if cliché, perspectival balm, even still.