I had forgotten our first encounter, when I was just seven. Come to think of it, I've forgotten most of the characters in Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret -- save Margaret, the confused 12-year-old heroine.
I'd forgotten her quirky grandmother. Her distant mother. Her more distant father. The all-important role bras and menstruation played in her life. Perhaps if I had remembered the latter better, I would not have chosen this particular novel as our next book club selection.
What I did remember was her struggle to understand her religion, or at least where religion might fit into her life. And, of course, the tension of her parents' relationship.
Anyway, I would like to introduce you to Margaret's Nancy Wheeler:
"Do you always wear your hair like that?" she asked me.
My hand went up to the back of my neck. I felt all the bobby pins I'd used to pin my hair up so my neck wouldn't sweat. I knew it looked terrible. "I'm letting it grow," I said. "It's at that in-between stage now. My mother thinks I should wear it over my ears though. My ears stick out a little."
"I noticed," Nancy said.
I got the feeling that Nancy noticed everything! (p. 8-9)
My Nancy Wheeler was ever-so-slightly less passive aggressive. When we were in the third grade she renamed the trash can on the class computer's desktop "Trish."
I would like to say it turned out years later we were great friends, a plot twist you would see on TV, but really, I'm still not quite over it.
Of course, in the real lives of children, there are no villains or heroines. There are just lots of little girls trying to figure out who they are, sometimes by cutting each other down. Two decades later I'm still struck by the chilly reception the worst women can give each other, just because we all have that teeny competitive streak, or the memories of Nancy Wheelers we should protect ourselves from.
Lucky the girls who spend recesses playing ball with boys....