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Monday, February 26, 2024

Real Life – Tuning in

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A radio interview with the now-85-year-old author Judy Blume motivated my friend and me to make a midweek cinema date to see, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.

It unfolds in 1970, when Margaret is eleven, entering sixth grade.

I would have been 17 then, but since the story was set squarely in my growing-up era, for one hour and forty-five minutes on this evening, I went back in time.

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Early in the film, when Margaret’s parents spring the news of their impending move to New Jersey without discussion or forewarning, I felt a strong reaction. I thought it was dismissive of Margaret as a person, at minimum. If nothing else, one might think her parents might have anticipated the horror with which a kid of this age would react, if they had reflected on their own youths.

However, I also remembered that authoritarian parenting was more common then than it may be today.

And yes, I was raised that way.

We were really on our own in those days, which is to say, we didn’t have social media, cell phones, the computer, and all the resources of the internet at our fingertips.

Eleven-year-olds made plans on the playground or on the bus, and if we lived in the same neighborhood, we biked over and rang the doorbell. In contrast with today’s interconnected world, it wasn’t so easy to maintain relationships without proximity.

We relied on friends to share confidences, and to figure life out. If we wanted to find information about things we judged to be too embarrassing to ask adults, we could always go to the library—and we’d share that, too.

Life in the digital age is quite different, of course, and the proliferation of screen-culture brings its own concerns. But authors like Judy Blume offer a timeless snapshot that should remind us that growing up is not easy.

Across the generations, we can lend an ear. ©

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Patti Koltes
Patti Koltes
Real Life © by Patti Koltes. Contact her at pkoltes@gmail.com.

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