Judy Blume Misled Me, Boobs-Wise

I thought I was a Margaret Simon, but I was a Laura Danker.

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I thought I was a Margaret Simon, but I was a Laura Danker. It’s taken me more than 30 years to know this about myself and countless readings of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret under my belt. The first being when I was in seventh grade, third in line to read our contraband, well-thumbed shared copy of Judy Blume’s masterpiece. At my little Catholic school in my little town where I was medium-liked and medium-smart and, oh yes, very big-breasted, this book was like the Bible.

The first thing that hooked me in this book was the bra-stuffing. This is where she first fooled me as a 12-year-old with cumbersome breasts. Not perky little buds, not bralette-type mounds. A full bosom. They shot up so fast it was painful and obvious and so unhidable, my face went red just looking in the mirror by myself in the mornings. I hated them both so much. I hated that boys kept poking me in the breast with their pencils or their fingers. I hated that they suddenly only noticed that about me, nothing else. That my family talked about them, joked about them. I hated that they were suddenly my only personality trait, that I couldn’t run in gym class without someone making that joke about getting a black eye, I’m hearing even now. I hated buying bras that felt like breast diapers for creatures I did not choose to have on my body.

But here was Judy Blume telling me that everyone, everyone, wanted what I had. The Pre-Teen Sensations were all stuffing their bras to get even half of what I had going on; they were doing those famous exercises even. “I must, I must, I must increase my bust.” I read every word of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret in one weekend and then read it again to make sure it was true. She got everything right, I thought. Everything. The period race my friends and I had and I won that one too even though I was dying to come dead last. Seven Minutes in Heaven with boys in closets that had become more hand-to-hand combat since the growing of these breasts. The fierce, intimate way of my friendships then.

And this was what Judy got oh so right. She knew we were all walking around wishing for something different about ourselves.

I figured she had to be right about the breasts, too. It was canon: My friends, indeed all of the girls I knew, were secretly coveting my breasts. When some of the other girls made fun of me about how my nipples were sometimes lopsided because I kept readjusting my bra, they were clearly just jealous. Just like my mom told me. And Judy herself confirmed it.

Except here was the problem. My insides were a Margaret, but my outsides were a Laura Danker. You remember her. The girl everyone was mean to because of her height and her breasts. The girl everyone assumed was making out behind the A&P with Nancy’s older brother. The girl who was instantly sexual because her body happened to grow breasts. When I read the book as a kid, I paid no attention to her, didn’t think twice about her. She deserved it probably is what I figured. I was a Margaret who just happened to already have those boobs and my period. I was the fully realized Margaret.

Isol Young plays Laura Danker in the film version of Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret.

I waited until my final friend finished the book, and we had our whispered discussion. I asked them all, real casual-like, what they thought about the bra-stuffing thing. And those 12-year-old girls looked at me with such sadness, such sympathy. Because no, they didn’t want what I had. They were busy worrying about their own bodies for different, pre-teen, universally unfair reasons. Nobody was secretly writing in their journal, Dear God, it’s me. Please can you deliver unto me the breasts of a 35-year-old breastfeeding mom like Jen’s?

It’s obvious now: They didn’t see Margaret when they looked at me. They saw Laura. Even though I was not sexy and didn’t want to be sexy and didn’t even know how sex worked. Even though I was so careful always to push my breasts down and be proper. Ashamed. I guess they figured I was also out behind the A&P doing mysterious things with boys. Or walking around my house in lacy bras with my nose in the air like I was a big deal. They didn’t want what I had, but what they didn’t know was that I didn’t want it either.

And this was what Judy got oh so right. She knew we were all walking around wishing for something different about ourselves. Different legs, different hair, different jeans, whatever. Because no matter what Margaret or Nancy or Gretchen or Janie or even tragic Laura looked like, it didn’t matter. We knew what was in their hearts absolutely. Without question. We’ve read about them under blankets and curled up in a corner chair and on the school bus and nodded to ourselves: Yes, yes, exactly.

Even me, the medium-liked girl with the oversize breasts hunching my shoulders and pulling at my sweatshirt. Judy even understood the heart of me. She knew I was a Margaret, that we are all Margarets. Even when we’re also Lauras. Maybe especially then.

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