This is a bit of a cheat. I wrote this as a guest blog for Liz at My Favourite Book many, many months back and I've decided to repost it. Enjoy :)
I am going to make a confession. I was always the square at school, the kind of girl that other kids mocked and laughed at as they drew squares in the air with their pointer fingers. I always did the right thing, finished my work, used my manners and was rightfully stroppy when the boys would try to snap my bra strap. But there was one time I got in trouble in grade seven, serious trouble, straight to the deputy principal’s office kind of trouble.
Have I captured your attention yet? I sure grabbed his as I sobbed uncontrollably, shocked that my mere presence had passed through the threshold of that dreaded office. Having sat in that chair, in that office and in that position, I now know that he would have been just as uncomfortable as me ... but for completely different reasons.
The book was written by Judy Blume, the fabulously delightful and uber-iconic Judy Blume. I wasn’t trying to increase my bust or relate to the sibling issues of Peter Hatcher – though I had done both in the years before this incident. No, I was expanding my knowledge of sex by reading about Katherine, Michael and Ralph in Forever. Of course, being the very sheltered, inexperienced kid that I was, I couldn’t help but pass on this novel to my friends for them to read too.
I didn’t get into any real trouble as I spooked easily. I can’t even remember the (probably) stilted and embarrassed discussion with the Deputy Principal about the “inappropriateness" of this book. I just know that I felt bigger because I had read that book. Bigger, older, more mature.
It didn’t make me want to rush out and have sex. It made me want to wait for someone to come along that I liked a whole bunch. Someone who wouldn’t eventually be a tool like Michael was. I got more information on birth control and responsible decision making in the pages of that book then I did in all the brief sexual education lessons that I ever sat through in primary and high school combined. I felt that I was worthy of sharing this knowledge with.
Looking back on it, as an education professional I would have had the same reaction to a twelve year old passing that book around. I would have been immediately concerned about parental reaction to their child being “exposed” to this material. There is nothing scarier than an angry parent; it’s ten times worse than being in the principal’s office. Ultimately, reading that book made me more realistic and less idealistic about love and the physical manifestation of it. Maybe that’s a loss but I think it stood me in good stead through high school.
Here I am, fifteen years later, and I am still the same square I was in seventh grade. I haven’t read Forever since then (perhaps I am seeing it through rose coloured glasses) but I remember it fondly while also recalling myself dissolving into tears in that office. I had to look up the main character’s names but I remembered Ralph – who could forget him? I can also recreate word for word the sister’s apartment where the deed was done that first time. It’s weird how a person’s memory works.
Forever was seminal in my adolescence. It was the cause of twenty minutes of uncontrollable sobbing and a week of wretched embarrassment. It was also the foundation for many of the fantastic decisions I made in high school. Judy Blume wrote many great books, many that I can remember with startling clarity and recommend to my own students but Forever will always have a special place in my square heart.