All I really remember from having read AYTGIMM is that it’s about Margaret (duh) who is a young teen who moves to a new town. She’s not sure if she should be Jewish or Christian and she and her friends are desperate to get their periods.
On re-reading, I realized it’s basically exactly how I remember it. It starts with 11 year old Margaret Simon praying (although Judy Blume never actually uses the word pray), to God to let this year be good. She has just moved from NYC to suburban New Jersey. A girl from down the street, Nancy Wheeler, stops by and introduces herself. Nancy and Margaret end up in the same sixth grade class along with their other friends Janie and Gretchen.
The four friends start a secret club which they dub the PTS’s, which stands for Pre-Teen Sensations. One of the rules of the club is that they all must wear bras and tell each other when they get their periods. They talk about other kids in their class, namely Laura Danker who is the only girl with big boobs. At this first meeting, we are introduced to the trouble Margaret has with religion. Her dad was raised Jewish, her mom Christian. When they fell in love, the mom’s parents disowned her and would never accept a Jewish son-in-law. The parents decided to raise Margaret with no religion at all and allow her to chose for herself when she gets older. But Oh Noes! In this town everyone joins either the Y or the JCC. What is our little non-religious gal to do? Their sixth grade teacher, Mr. Benedict assigns a year long project for each student, allowing them to chose a topic of their own. Margaret decides to spend the year searching for her religion and at the end of the year she will decide if she should join the Y or the JCC.
Margaret is very close with her Jewish grandmother, and attends Temple with her on Rosh Hashanah. You can tell that Sylvia Simon is all atwitter that her Granddaughter might want to chose her team. Margaret is terribly bored at Temple and spends the morning counting hats. She also at various points in the book attends some Protestant Church services with Janie and Nancy (I believe it’s mentioned that Gretchen is Jewish). Margaret is similarly bored at these services. She just doesn’t feel close to God like she does when she silently talks (i.e. prays) to him in her bedroom.
Meanwhile all kinds of doings are transpiring in the sixth grade. Norman Fishbein, sixth grade moron, hosts a fancy-shmancy dinner party at his house for the entire class. Margaret stuffs her bra and gets to play Two Minutes with Philip Leroy (squeeee!), the handsomest boy in the class. But she also has to play with Norman, so it’s kind of a wash, I guess.
The sixth grade girls also get to watch “the video.” (No this is not the same “The Video” I have often talked about that my husband and I had to watch on our last day of childbirth class). This “The Video” is all about periods. A week later Gretchen gets hers and the other PTS’s are all kinds of jealous. Well, mostly Nancy who is a little bit of a bitch. Shortly after that, Nancy and her family are out of town for the weekend and she sends Margaret a postcard with the words “I GOT IT!” Margaret is wicked sick over this and talks to God (i.e. prays to God) about why isn’t she normal and what’s wrong with her, etc. etc. Then Margaret goes out to dinner with Nancy’s family a few weeks later. She and Nancy hit the ladies room and Nancy starts pitching a fit in her stall, and Margaret goes to get Mrs. Wheeler. Turns out Nancy totally lied about getting her period and she was just now getting her first one!
Mr. Benedict separates the class into groups for a group project. Margaret is in a group with Laura Danker, she of the massive chest. Margaret is feeling in a bad mood, basically calls Laura a slut (not in those exact terms) and Laura gives Margaret an earful, the struts of to Confession. Margaret decides to try confession, but can’t say anything to the priest and runs out. She is furious with God for not showing her the way to her religion.
Meanwhile, Jewish Grandmother is living in Florida for the winter. I guess she’s a snowbird, although I don’t think that is specifically mentioned in the book. For Margaret’s birthday in March, JG (Jewish Grandma) sends Margaret a plane ticket to come visit her and her….ahem…man friend Mr. Binaman (rhymes with Cinnamon we are told). However, Margaret’s mom had sent her estranged parents, we’ll call them CG (Christian Grandparents) a Christmas card, and they decide they want to come visit. They don’t ask, they TELL the Simons that they are going to come visit on April fourth. Margaret is relieved that she won’t have to visit with them because that’s when she will be visiting JG. Margaret’s mom puts the kibosh on that trip though, which is pretty shitty of her. Her parents disowned her 14 years earlier, then decide they are coming without asking if it’s a good time for the family. Why should Margaret change her plans?
The visit with the CGs is pretty disastrous. They pretty much immediately try to convert Margaret to Christianity. Margaret hates them, they leave early, meaning she could have gone to visit JG after all. Then JG surprises her with a visit and acts all superior because Margaret didn’t convert to Christianity and calls her a “real Jewish Girl.” At this point Margaret is sick of religious people. I hear ya, Margaret. Margaret believes this whole thing happened because God is punishing her for being mean to Laura. She is seriously contrite, this one. We never find out, but I hope Laura forgave her. Margaret has a serious case of the angries at God.
It’s the end of the school year, and Margaret is packing for camp. When she finally GETS IT!!! Our little Margaret is now a woman. And we end with Margaret talking to God (i.e. praying). So I guess she’s over being mad at Him. Nothing will make a lady love the Lord like menstruation!
*Margaret’s parents are real assholes. Margaret believes that they moved all the way from NYC to the Jersey burbs so Margaret wouldn’t see as much of her JG. Wahhh??? Then they are really prickish whenever she would go to Temple or Church. Hello, you want your daughter to choose her own faith, let her try things out for crying out loud.
*I was surprised on re-reading this book that Margaret and her friends are only 11 years old at the beginning of the book. When I was 11, I certainly knew what a period was, but the idea that I would actually get one someday was pretty far from my mind. And I thought it was icky.
*Right on page one, Margaret asks God to “not let New Jersey be too horrible.” Too late on that one. (Joking, joking…I kid because I love……)
* Really? Everyone goes to either the Y or the Jewish Community Center? I’m sure there are other non-religious people around.
* Why was Margaret embarrassed to meet Janie on her bra-shopping trip? Wasn’t this one of the PTS’s rules?
*”We must increase our bust!” Tee-hee. I always heard a longer version.. “We must, we must, we must develop our bust! The bigger the better, the tighter the sweater, the boys like us better, we must develop our bust.” I never did it (and you can tell!)
*The period movie was sponsored by a maxi-pad company. Margaret points out that it was like “one big commercial,” and will make sure to never use that brand. Very astute, Margaret! Fight the power! The lady who gave the period talk was some kind of company spokesperson, and she “doesn’t recommend internal protection until you’re older.” No tampons for you!
*When Gretchen gets her period she tells the girls that her mother told her she now needs to wash her face everyday-with soap. Um, Gretchen, what have you been washing your face with, and how often have you been doing it???
*I hate Nancy Wheeler. Girl is a straight-up bitch and I like to think that in four years she will be knocked up by her brother’s friend.
*I am furious with her mom for allowing her parents to visit. The dad didn’t want them to, and no wonder. He’s Jewish and they are obviously anti-Semites. Once you get married, your allegiance is with your spouse….a lesson she clearly learned after the disastrous CG visit.
*Margaret’s letter to Mr. Benedict is actually pretty touching. I think Margaret had a wonderful close relationship with God and trying to find a religion sort of screwed that up. And that, in a nutshell is most likely why this is one of the American Library Associations most challenged books ever. And why I love Judy Blume…she is very strong anti-censorship voice!