©Evan Nichols, 2011

with apologies to the Title 9 catalog of the same name


The summer after third grade, I participated in our public library’s annual Summer Reading Challenge. Mrs. Rose, the librarian, would write your name on a construction paper leaf for every book you read, and staple the leaf to a wall-sized bulletin board decorated with a construction paper tree. There was some kind of prize at the end, probably, but I can’t remember caring about it. I was just happy to be given the imperative to read as many books as I could, and hopeful that I could read more books than any other kid my age.

In order to get your name on a leaf, you had to tell Mrs. Rose about the book(s) you had just read. I loved bringing a big stack of chapter books to the library week after week and clonking them down in front of Mrs. Rose, who sat smiling behind the desk. “You’ve read all of these books already? My goodness, you’re fast,” she would say, and I would smile back modestly. She would act appropriately impressed when I recited summaries and answered every question she posed about each book. I was sure that she had never known such a clever girl.

One week, though, I brought back a book that stumped me.

I stood at the desk as usual and worked my way through my stack, offering up glib summaries of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Harriet the Spy, The Secret Garden, and Little Women to the smiling Mrs. Rose. Finally, there just the one book left. I stared at it sitting on the desk between us and considered telling her I hadn’t read it. But I had my reputation to uphold, and I really wanted another leaf. “Um…” I began, blushing furiously, “Um, it’s about this girl named Margaret who…um…wants to grow up…” I trailed off, wondering how to continue.

To my great relief, Mrs. Rose nodded and said, “Well, that sounds about right. You don’t have to tell me any more. I trust you.” She gave me a sympathetic smile and whispered. “It’s a little tough to talk about, isn’t it?”

Still blushing, I nodded.

The book I had checked out was Judy Blume’s Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. It held me spellbound, but I agonized for two days over how I was going to summarize it to Mrs. Rose. I mean, it was about boobs, for crying out loud, and trying to get boys to like you, and kissing, and men-stru-a-tion, a new word for me. Ugh. I was embarrassed to even think about it.

The parts about getting (or not getting, or lying about getting) one’s period were disturbing but manageable. Maybe it was the novelty of the information, or the fact that you could keep it all a secret if it happened to you. And the part where Margaret plays Spin-the-Bottle at a party, though shocking, stayed within the realm of possibility. I’d seen enough Disney movies to know that I, too, wanted to kiss a boy one day, though a palace or enchanted forest would have been far preferable to a basement closet with giggling friends outside.

No, for me the worst parts of the book were the scenes in which Margaret and her new circle of friends sit in a room and do exercises to enlarge their breasts. They hold their arms bent at chest level, as if resting them on a counter, and then pull them rhythmically back and forth, like doors opening and closing, chanting, “I must, I must, I must increase my bust!”

So many things wrong with that, I thought.

1.    What kind of idiot discussed her boobs, let alone their size, with anyone?
2.    How stupid were these girls, anyway? How could they have reached the age of eleven and not known that all that energetic stretching was an exercise in futility?
3.    Who in their right mind could chant those words without dying either of laughter or of humiliation? And finally,
4.    What were they thinking, wanting their breasts to grow at all?

Why would anyone waste their time and energy worrying—praying, even—about the size of something we all had to cover up anyway? If we were supposed to cover them up and be embarrassed about them, it made no sense at all to want them to stick out. Besides which, why would anyone want their body to start looking like their mom’s? Jeez, I thought. Come. On. If a girl were going to pray for anything, it should be that her body not change.

©Misa Sugiura, 2011

Misa Sugiura (BAWP ’00) raises children, plays water polo, wears a bra, and writes in Los Altos, California. Visit her blog http://newsfromthetreehouse.blogspot.com/ to read the next installment of ((Bounce)).

One Response to “((Bounce)) by Misa Sugiura”

  1. Theresa Sanders Says:

    You echoed my thoughts on the matter exactly!

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