Judy Blume will be speaking at the University of Hartford on June 21st as a fundraiser for The Mark Twain House & Museum. I’ll be interviewing her onstage and taking tons of audience questions. In preparation, I will be reading her complete works and blogging about the experience. Get your tickets here.
I read this book in a bar, cover-to-cover, after work one afternoon. An acquaintance of mine walked in and said, "oh, hey, Judy Blume. One of my students brought in a book of hers for silent reading time and my principal pulled me aside and told me she really shouldn't be reading it. I think it was about sex."
"Had to be this one," I said, holding up Forever... (ellipses part of the title).
"We made love on the bathroom rug, but just when I was getting really excited, Michael came. I wondered if it would ever work out right between us."
Forever... is one of the most challenged Judy Blume books. At this point in her career, she'd only written books for children, and I'm certain that many kids and teenagers were shocked by the content they accidentally discovered in the pages of their favorite author's latest novel. A penis with a name, for instance. The slow and mature decision of our heroine, Katherine, to lose her virginity, read up on sexual health, and go on the pill. Shocking!
I recently recorded a podcast about the first in the Sweet Valley High series. Revisiting those books, I was struck (as no doubt you would be too) by their complete absurdity. There's nothing resembling real experience there, as much as I wanted my life to be that exciting when I was fifteen. Forever, on the other hand, burns not with lust but with familiarity. The ordinariness of teenage sexuality. The reason and logic of seventeen-year-olds. The self-righteous feeling of "I'm in love and my friends don't understand since I'm an adult now." Oh, and also: "this is forever."
Any adult can see the writing on the wall, in those ominous ellipses. But I'd be willing to bet that a young teenager wouldn't. Everything seems like forever during that time-- or at least we want it to be. But of course it isn't. No matter how kind and sweet Michael is, and how reasoned and mature Katherine is, teenagers grow apart. That's as good a lesson as all of the other tidbits in this book.
I'm still friendly with my high school boyfriend, Dave. We rarely talk, but I like knowing that he's out there, happily married, taking a little bit of the love he practiced on me and giving it to someone much more deserving. It seems long ago that I believed anything would be forever. But you know what was? The feeling of giving myself entirely to another person, the joy of comforting another, of being always around for them, of the comfort of a physical touch. The knowledge that being an adult means making a vulnerable space within yourself, and that love is filling in other vulnerable spaces with good things instead of bad. That knowledge was forever.