“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” Healed my Girlhood

Last weekend, I took myself on a date to the Alamo Drafthouse to see “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” 

The film instantly transported me back to my fifth grade self, when my mom sat me down and handed me a light blue book with an open notebook and heart on the cover. I remember how excited she was for me to read this book. It was like a rite of passage. Little did I know how right she was.

“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” is a film adaptation of Judy Blume’s book, originally published in 1970. The story follows sixth grader, Margaret Simon, who wrestles with adolescence, puberty and questions about religion due to her parents’ interfaith relationship. 

The first time I read Blume’s iconic book, I was an 11-year-old, and just a few months ago, I turned 21. Watching Margaret, played by Abby Ryder Fortson, made me internally reinhabit my own middle school self: ignorant about a lot of things, but full of imagination, curiosity and a desire to be liked. However, as I left the movie–in tears, of course–there was a pang in my heart as I realized that I wasn’t 11 anymore…10 years had passed since I last was. 

As the academic year comes to an end, and I confront the fact that I will be a senior in college next year, it’s safe to say I have been experiencing a full range of emotions. From accepting that many of my friends are graduating and won’t be on campus next year, to realizing I actually do like college and tearfully coming to terms with not living with one of my best friends next year, I have generally had to give in to one universal truth: I am getting older. 

Sometimes it is easy to forget that I am in my twenties and I still view myself as that fifth grader who was excited to be given yet another book to read. That fifth grader who felt like high school was eons away and really just wanted to spend her days having endless sleepovers with her friends. The girl who wore plaid skirts and bright green Converse to school every day, and spent every spare moment she possibly could squeezing in just a few more pages of a good book. The girl who didn’t yet know that growing up is one of the most painful, yet rewarding things that people ever get to experience in life. 

However, there are times in my life when that 11-year-old version of myself makes an appearance. I am reminded of her when I read a really great book and feel that rush of excitement to steal moments of my time to read more. When I strap on my Mary Janes. When something that I never understood finally clicks. When I am giddy about seeing my friends. There are moments when I glimpse that girlhood joy.

Unlike Margaret, I am not still the girl wondering when she will get her first period, or writing weekly “crush lists.” However, I can admit that sometimes I am still the girl staring in the mirror and wondering if this is really how flatchested I am going to be for the rest of my life–unfortunately, the answer is still yes. I don’t think we ever really leave our past selves behind. We take them with us and grow up with them still inside. 

I miss my childlike curiosity, and I miss the feeling that my twenties are years ahead. I miss being embarrassed about telling my mom that I desperately want a bra. I miss basking in my imagination and feeling like the entire world is at my fingertips. However, I take comfort in knowing that my childhood self never really left, and never really will. My adolescent self still lives inside of me–she’s just in the process of growing up.

This adaptation could not have been released at a more opportune time. Since its initial publication, the book has been a topic of controversy given its honest discussion of menstruation and religious curiosity and feels extremely relevant to the current conversation about book banning

More importantly, this is a film I needed at my present stage in life as a college student, but I wish I had this movie when I, too, was on the cusp of 12-years-old. We need more coming of age stories that take place before high school. We need stories about first periods, first kisses and every other embarrassing trait of being in middle school. However, we also need these stories to be honest. “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” perfectly encapsulates the awkward and authentic experience of being a pre-teen girl. 

Today, I am closer to Margaret’s mother’s age than I am to Margaret, and I am slowly coming to terms with this. Yet, I take comfort in knowing that years from now I may have the opportunity to be the cool mom who passes down a worn out copy of “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” to my own daughter. Hopefully, she will like it as much as I did.