June 21, 2010

'Forever' for ever

Like so many others, Judy Blume's Forever was my first taste of writing about sex and young people. I borrowed it from our local library (where, I'm pleased to say, it was shelved in the children's library, right next to Are you there, God... and Superfudge*) after my older sister had read it. I was 9.

Of course, the first thing I did was to flick through searching for the promised 'dirty bits' and read them. And re-read them. And read them again. I did at some point in the library loan period read the entire novel, but I must admit my interest in Katherine and Michael's love story was secondary to my interest in Ralph and the mysterious goings on between the sheets (and on the rug by the fire).

By the time I borrwed the book again (the same copy, bearing the dog-ears of many fascinated young readers after me), the story meant more to me. I was probably 12 by then, and eager to meet the boy of my dreams** and fall in love. I longed to meet a Michael of my own; cursed parents who didn't understand the power of first love; and wanted someone to pledge themself to me forever, preferably via engraved jewellery.

Re-reading Forever 28(!) years later, I was still struck by the sexual frankness***, but this time I was also transported back to when I first fell in love at age 16, and how overwhelming those feelings (both emotional and physical) were. Forever was first published in 1975 and, from what I can tell, has been in print constantly since. Its accessories may have dated (hooked rugs, hand-embroidered flares, fondue parties and vinyl records), but its messages haven't.

Thank you Judy Blume, for writing "a story about two nice kids who have sex without either of them having to die".

* But the librarian did raise an eyebrow and ask me how old I was - I said 12, which seemed a very mature age at the time, and was also probably the oldest I could have gotten away with.
** At 12 I didn't know any actual boys (thank you all-girls school), but the posters on my walls were of the non-threatening variety of pin-up: Rupert Everett, Lloyd Cole and Howard Jones.
*** Which, along with talking about contraception and abortion placed Forever on the banned  and challenged books lists of the past two decades: #8 for 1990-1999 and #16 for 2000-2009

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