Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: Are You there, God? Judy Blume CHANGED “Margaret”

AreYouThereGod_5x5    I have often told the story of the night I was at a friend’s house and was introduced to the book that would change my life forever. Oddly enough this was the same friend that caused me to experience ASMR for the first time…funny how everything ties together, isn’t it? It was a purple book with an art deco design on the cover and it was called “Are You There God, It’s me, Margaret.”

Margaret was the first literary character I identified with. Though she was older than I was at the time (Margaret was 11 while I was 7) I felt an odd kinship with her because her parents were of two different religions and she was supposed to choose her own way, if she wanted to, when she was older. Though I had become Catholic a year before discovering this book, I certainly understood Margaret’s confusion and the private way in which she spoke to God inside her head. Her prayers were honest, direct, and innocent, ranging from boys, to her impending development, wearing a bra for the first time and her confusion about what religion is right for her. I saved the $3.50 for my own copy and read he book so much that it fell asleep between chapters 13 and 14 (which, if you know anything about that book- are the BEST chapters.) I also read it so much that I have huge sections of it memorized. My kids say it’s creepy when I start in: Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret. We’re moving today. I’m so scared God. I’ve never lived anywhere but here. Suppose I hate my new school? Suppose everyone there hates me? Please help me, God. Please don’t let New Jersey be too horrible. Thank you. (Feel free to look it up, but I swear I typed it from memory!)

So the other day I happened to be in my local Books-A-Million when I saw a copy of Margaret on the shelf next to Judy Blume’s latest release, In the Unlikely Event. I was so excited to see my old friend even though she’d definitely gotten an upgrade since my early 1980’s Dell Yearling edition. My husband was sweet enough to buy me the book because he knew Margaret and I had some catching up to do but I was chagrined a few hours later when I discovered that Judy Blume CHANGED it.

Before you get your knickers in a twist, the plot is the same. Margaret is not suddenly Catholic or starring in a reality show and  is still obsessed with a certain punctuation mark that is code for a biological condition, but it’s been updated to reflect current products in this area of feminine hygiene and I can’t help feeling a little uneasy about this. I mean, when Forever was re-released (in its original form, mind you) there is a whole disclaimer at the beginning explaining that it was written prior to the AIDS epidemic and does not reflect the current practices encouraged today. But there was nothing to suggest that there was anything different about this version of Margaret so you can imagine my shock. I kept re-reading one section over and over again thinking I was missing something. When I finally realized (after remembering the original line in the book – yes, I really am that sad) that I was right, I shouted, “She changed it!!” and woke the whole house up in the process.

I guess I am just a creature of habit, but Margaret is like the Bible to me. It’s sacred and even it is a little out of date (heck, some of its language was out of date when I first read it) I hate being blindsided by the change. I wouldn’t want Adam and Eve to suddenly be named Tyler and Karen or for Mary and Joseph to make a long trip to NYC to have their baby so I don’t want Margaret to be different. I understand it’s like comparing apples to oranges, but that book is tradition to me…same as the Mass, the sacraments, and everything I love about my faith and when traditions change, it’s hard to adjust to. Though the world will still keep turning, I don’t think I will feel the same until I find an original copy where the words read like they used to and everything is as it used to be.

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