For those of us who entered our teen years in the 70s and 80s, the book, “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret.” was a rite of passage. While the movie takes place in the 70s, the challenges that Margaret faces are very relevant for young people going through this stage of life today.
I attended the early screening of the movie on April 19, 2023 with six Candor team members. I have remembered this book with vivid details for my whole life and when I saw the movie all the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that I experienced as a young girl reading the book came flooding back to me. As I thought about the impact this had on our generation, I asked family and friends what their experience of reading the book was. The fact that so many of us can remember this book so well 40-50 years later is a testament to how important this information was and still is.
“I loved that book. Oddly, I remember it being sort of scandalous when people heard you were reading it. Like we kinda kept it secret from the masses but talked about it with our close friends. So funny how something so natural and normal was so taboo.”
“The book was a little racy and I felt like I was pretty cool.”
While the main plot of the book and movie is about a young girl trying to understand faith and her religious beliefs, the sub-plot is all about the physical, social, and emotional changes that Margaret experiences in her sixth-grade year. The movie addresses many of the physical changes that young people go through during puberty, including menstruation, breast development, body hair, and body odor. These topics are covered in a way that normalizes them during interactions between the characters in the movie.
Navigating relationships with family and friends is another critical piece to development during puberty and fortunately, young Margaret had a wonderful family who helped her navigate this formative time. The interesting thing about the book and movie is that Margaret is struggling with many things on her own. Her parents don’t know about all her struggles. Her friends know some things that she doesn’t talk to her parents about, but they don’t even know everything Margaret is experiencing. The movie reinforces many things that young people are trying to learn and understand during this time.
Adolescence is a time of profound, cognitive, biological, social, and emotional transformation. I think this movie does a wonderful job of addressing many of the issues that young people face as they are entering early adolescence. It is a great jumping off point for parents to have conversations with their young people, both female and male. Getting comfortable about these challenging topics is important for people of all genders and for those who love and care for them.
Young people are fortunate that conversations about these challenging topics have become so much more normalized in our society today. I was fortunate enough to attend a puberty program at the former Robert Crown Center for Health Education in fifth grade, but this book was another important resource for me in learning about my changing body. So many other young people who grew up during this time did not have a health education center dedicated to puberty and sex education.
At Candor, we work with almost 90,000 students each year. Discussions on puberty, human reproduction and embryology, and sexual health are what we do. We also share information with classroom teachers so that they can share information with parents. It’s our job to help young people learn to care for their bodies but we encourage and support parents and guardians to have discussions about these topics too. We hope this movie will encourage parents to initiate conversations because it can be very difficult for children to bring up these topics on their own. Just as Margaret’s mother did in the movie, you can be the type of parent who really supports your young person during this important stage of development.
Written by: Barb Thayer-Executive Director, Candor Health Education