The Education of a Man

Fan Letters to Judy Blume

By CJ Evans

Dear Judy:
It’s creepy for a grown man to read a pre-teen girl’s coming of age story. Which is exactly what the saleswoman at Barnes & Noble said to me when I bought Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret a few years back.  I don’t think it helped that I had it tucked, pornography-style, between the two books I thought least suspect in my pile of purchases- Mann’s Magic Mountain and Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet.  Apparently, the presence of Germans doesn’t reassure people that you aren’t a weirdo.
xoxo, CJ

*

Dear Judy:
I was ten when I first read your book and only months removed from my first game of “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” with Sarah, the older and slightly developed girl next door.  I must admit the game raised more questions than it answered. I was confounded, but intrigued.  This was a situation that required research.
xoxo, CJ

*

Dear Judy:
As I sat in a hipster coffee shop in Portland reading your book for the first time since childhood I couldn’t but steal glances at the women around me.  I’m a bit on the shy side, and pretty girls with too much eyeshadow (a bit of an aesthetic of mine) tend to scare me.  It really helped me to think of these women as pre-teen girls, like the girls in the book, flapping their arms and chanting “I must, I must, I must increase my bust.”  I like to think I’m a little less awkward because of you.
xoxo, CJ

*

Dear Judy:
It was shortly before my first reading of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret that my mother bought me the sex education book with the line drawings of things that looked remarkably like the slides my teacher showed during our “Life Under the Ocean” week in school.  It clarified nothing. My research skills were failing me.
xoxo, CJ

*

Dear Judy:
Then I read your book.  You taught me some people bleed for no reason from their crotches, and, inexplicably, can’t wait for it to happen.
xoxo, CJ

*

Dear Judy:
I still don’t claim to understand anything about women (and, honestly, I’m still not sure where the pee comes out).  You laid the groundwork for my acceptance of this fact.  Somewhere since 1988, when I was ten, and now, you removed the part of the book about the belt to hold sanitary napkins.  Rereading it, I must say I miss those belts.  For a book that does so little to actually inform curious young boys about the actual goings-on of the female body, you took out the one thing I thought was coolest.  Clasps and hooks and mesh!  I thought women were like Robocop under their clothes.
xoxo, CJ

*

Dear Judy:
Sarah and Margaret were my first brush with how numinous the world could be. I realized through them that the world is filled with things I will never understand.
xoxo, CJ

*

Dear Judy:
I remain ignorant to this day.  Ignorant enough to walk into Barnes & Noble and conspicuously stand in the pre-teen section, leafing through your books.  Ignorant enough to write poems even though I have it on good authority that poetry is dead.  Ignorant enough to smile at the girl behind the counter (she was quite pretty) instead of apologizing I learned from you that she and I just wouldn’t get each other, and I could either explain my whole internal world or picture her doing the chicken-wing-boob-growing dance.  I think you know which option I chose.
xoxo, CJ
PS: Please, oh please put the part about the sanitary belt back into Are You There God?  It’s Me, Margaret.  It makes the world just a little more fascinating.

//

CJ Evans’s poetry has recently appeared, or is forthcoming, in journals such as AGNI Online, American Letters & Commentary, Denver Quarterly, LIT, and Virginia Quarterly Review.  His chapbook, The Category of Outcast, was selected by Terrance Hayes for the 2008 Poetry Society of America New York Chapbook Fellowship

This essay was originally published in Tin House Magazine, Issue 26.

(Pick up a copy of Blume’s Are You There God… here or subscribe to Tin House here)

This entry was published on September 27, 2008 at 5:44 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “The Education of a Man

  1. Pingback: <HTMLGIANT> » Blog Archive » Books That Saved Someone’s Life

  2. The belt part kind of scared me, but I tried out the “we must, we must, we must increase our busts” exercise quite a few times.

    xo,
    a

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