dear niece, when i was your age (a new series) – part i of viii

It’s that time of year again, everyone. Yes, the leaves have changed color and white people all over the world are making sure you know about it, but that’s not actually what I’m referencing in this instance. It’s that glorious time of year I impart my auntie wisdom and advice upon my niece on the occasion of her birthday. Only this time around I’m 30. An actual, real-life grown ass woman by most social and economic standards. Finally. It’s only taken 11,040 days, a lot of therapy and 11,041 bottles of wine to arrive here, but I have. Please understand that when I say “arrive” I also mean “crash landed”. Like a damn rover on the surface of Mars. But not the soft and powdery part of Mars where I land with a cute little “pooft”. This felt more like if Mars were made of dry, ashy elbows. (Right? Did that come across right, you guys? I don’t actually know. That was my attempt at a witty and nerdy comparison because I’m in the middle of The Martian. It felt wrong. I take it back.)

This year, instead of boring you with all of the things that I know (which, I can’t emphasize this enough: is everything), I decided that I’d take a look back at what was happening when I was about the age Brooklyn is now, and what I can remember going through. Brooklyn just turned 8, so by using my below-average math skills, I determined that I was this age for the majority of 1993 & 1994. It immediately dawned on me that this was most definitely the prime of my life. I had recently started taking jazz class and been the star of a gangster rap rendition of Goldie Locks and the Three Bears. This was a time before I knew what insecurity or heavy petting was, so needless to say: I was fearless. (Apart from that whole “Bloody Mary” thing, of course.) Through the art of the Google search, I soon after discovered that this was also the height of American pop culture. For example, it was around this time that Friends premiered and though in the shadows of my rising stardom, they did the best they could, guys.

All of this to say, I have plenty of childhood memories, but I’d say that this era is where most of my consistent, clearer memories begin. I started writing this a few days ago and it was getting long pretty quickly. Everyone knows that no one likes a wordy post, so I’ve opted to do this as more of a series. In a few separate posts, I’ll share some memories and musings of what I was knowingly (or unknowingly) learning around this time in my life with the 90s happening all around me. In a time where “Creep” by TLC was a new song on the radio, it was understandably hard to decide where to start. After much consideration, however, I figured I’d go with a relatively universally accepted truth such as this: “Judy Blume is a queen.”

Sometime in 1994: I’m in my school library on whatever day of the week is deemed “library day”. It was my favorite thing about school apart from spaghetti and canned peanut butter day in the cafeteria. (I can’t explain it, y’all. There was something about that combination that was delicious to my mouth.) Sure, books were swell, but the very best thing about library day was that I wasn’t restricted to a desk in a classroom. The teacher couldn’t possibly keep her eye on 25 students at a time roaming between the shelves so I could walk my curling-ironed bangs by my crush as many times as I wanted to within a 45 minute timeframe. If I had to guess, this boy was probably wearing a Houston Oilers Starter jacket and a bowl cut. I was probably picking up a magazine with Brett Favre on the cover making sure I talked to him about sports, so beginning my ever-lasting residency in the friend zone. It was a beautiful time. Totally.

On this day, however, I stumbled upon an author named Judy freaking Blume. The title of the book was Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. I don’t know if any of you have read this book or anything by Judy Blume, but like most American girls of the 90s, this day changed my life in more ways than one. Because it was labeled a “young adult novel”, I felt wild even checking it out. It was written in the 70s and likely too mature for me, but I took this book home feeling proud. This wasn’t my first time checking out a book that was a little beyond my assumed reading level. I did this thing for a lot of 1994 where I would check out a book about Nessie, the Lochness Monster along with some book with no pictures like The Secret Garden. I thought that carrying around at least one fat book made me look cool to the older kids that sat towards the back of the school bus. (Confession: I still haven’t finished that book. It may have looked great in my backpack but it bored me senseless.) Anyway, that night, I laid on a bed of laundry I was supposed to fold and opened my first Judy Blume book. The rest is a blur other than I know that I spent the entire night in that position, hanging on every word she said. I read about bras, and periods, and boys, and even God. For the first time in my life, though I likely stumbled through understanding parts of it, I felt the feeling of not wanting to put a book down.

You might think that I told you this story to reveal a pivotal time in my life that I fell in love with reading and everything changed, but that’s furthest from true. The point of this memory is that I distinctly remember how fascinated I was from that moment on by what was ahead for my body and all the signs that I was growing up. In retrospect it seems that all at once after finishing this book I was ready to carry around car keys that jingled with trendy key chains and wear a sweet-ass floral vest like the girls in an All-4-One music video. Thanks to Judy Blume, it was around this time in my life I craved puberty. I craved it hard. I started counting the days until I could kiss a boy, buy a training bra, shave my legs, and start buying sanitary napkins. This is also an anxiety I would regret for many broken hearts and menstrual cycles to come, but that is neither here nor there.

Next up in the series: Beverly Hills 90210, Mashed Potatoes, and Humor

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