In an old attic, a woman in her late 30s opens a dusty cardboard box, reaches in and pulls out a tattered copy of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. She flips it over and blows a layer of dust off the back cover to reveal an author portrait of Judy Blume, circa 1983.
Hey, old friend. It’s me. I know, I know: It’s been a really long time.
Come on, don’t look at me like that.
She sits cross-legged on the attic floor and props up the book on an old crate.
We used to have such long, meaningful chats in junior high. Remember? Yeah, high school too. I must have delivered you a panicked monologue about my microboobs every 12.4 minutes. Sorry that I made you think about my microboobs so constantly and thoroughly. That may have been weird for you.
I know it must feel like I just dropped off the face of the earth. I guess once I got to university, I replaced you with a whole other omnipotent source of knowledge and wisdom: Google. When I needed an IUD, a therapist, an apartment, a new job? Google. Actually, for the first couple of years it was Ask Jeeves. Ha! Remember that guy? But really, I’m sorry — especially because anytime I put “remedies for mild, persistent headache” into WebMD, the answer was always: “You’re dying of triple-hepatitis.”
And so now I’m up here, Judy. Looking for you.
“Last week at work, Nicole took a tampon to the bathroom that was so big, so super-super-plus, she required both hands to carry it.”
I mentioned them at my last physical. The headaches. I also kind of laughed awkwardly about the random insomnia that’s arrived out of nowhere. My doctor shrugged, said “It’s probably just stress” and left. It felt … not right. So I Googled it — “late thirties headaches insomnia maybe stress” — in my Uber. The first result took me to a violently floral website called “The Change Before the Change.” It played tinkly piano music, Judy, with no option to turn it off. But once I started reading about said change, well, WOW: I think it changed me, Judy. And I will say, certain things are starting to make more sense.
Like how every day, Annie’s been showing up to the office in a spaghetti-strap tank and shorts. In January. IN MINNEAPOLIS. And last week at work, Nicole took a tampon to the bathroom that was so big, so super-super-plus, she was physically unable to do the thing where you furtively conceal it in your fist so as to be respectful of the patriarchy’s adorable discomfort. She required both hands to carry it. The tampon dragged on the ground behind her as she walked, ripping up the carpet in her wake. WHAT THE HELL IS THAT ABOUT?? Is it that before we get to spend 20 to 30 years period-free, we have to spend a decade in some kind of weird, perpetual liquidation-blowout week?
My sister Cora straight-up forgot my name last weekend. Let me repeat that: My literal flesh and blood, my DNA, who was in the room when I was born, FORGOT MY NAME as she introduced me to someone at her karaoke party.
Also, when I snort-laughed at her weird mistake, she burst into tears for 47 minutes. But she did seem happy when I gave her the birthday present she had specifically asked for: pajamas made out of 92-ply Bounty paper towels to absorb her night sweat. I found them on Etsy. Then she told me she LOVES Etsy because it’s where she found the neon-orange leopard-print jumpsuit she was wearing. It says “F–K THIS SH*T” across the back in the same font they use for the musical CATS. And Judy, the super scary part is that she totally pulled it off.
Things are NOT normal around me, Judy. The women in my orbit seem somehow to be simultaneously coming undone and morphing into astonishing she-creatures so formidable and powerful they strike terror into my little 38-year-old heart. Will I be like them too, Judy? Will I lash out at the people closest to me? Will I also find myself aggressively elbowing some 14-year-old named Jayydenn in the aisle of a drugstore to get the last tube of zit cream? Will I still be myself but, like, a force? What will happen to me?? Judy, I’m scared. But kinda intrigued?
Are you still writing books? Any … I dunno … any possibility of maybe writing one for 38-year-olds who’ve got some pretty big questions?
She waits, then slowly turns her gaze upwards, as if hoping for the Word of Judy to descend from the heavens. She sighs, then places the book back into the cardboard box beside seven pairs of jelly shoes and a Paula Abdul cassette tape, which she closely inspects.
What about you, Paula. Got anything?