Most days, I found myself in an archetypal scene; I held a fresh, chocolate-coated Long John in one miniscule hand and a heaping packet of cursive practice in the other. The no-longer-foreign stench of body odor, which remained unheeded due to the still-undiscovered deodorant, slightly nauseated each third grader. Along with increasingly uncanny aromas, a black hole of endless insecurities and body consciousness familiarized among multiple growing children. For some in my class, this year, 2010, was the beginning of the end; the closing up of a blissful, innocent lens, and the opening up of social anxieties. For me, 2010 was the year of my encounter with Judy Blume’s Blubber. The third-grade version of my mom lost herself in the pages of Blubber, and over thirty years later when she passed down the book, the third-grade version of me nestled in my elementary school's library and fell into the same literary hole. Although I have survived years without rereading Judy Blume’s heart-rending literature, I consider the fictional characters who bettered my persona and showed me the immense power of actions and words daily.
As an utterly petite child who constantly faced the arduous task of transcending the fifteenth percentile for weight until the age of eleven, I can’t say that I’ve suffered through the taunts and teases that Linda Fischer undoubtedly has due to her overweight figure. However, I didn’t need to surpass the fifteenth percentile to unravel the malice behind the actions of Linda’s fifth-grade companions. By Wendy’s invention of Linda’s nickname as “Blubber” page five, Blubber had become the first book that provoked genuine empathy in me. Before my eyes absorbed the overwhelmingly cruel comments that Jill, Wendy, and Caroline created, I had lived unexposed to the potential danger of words, and before the same girls attempted to undress Linda and reveal her supposed blubber, I had lived unexposed to the potential danger of physical harassment in any form other than a fist-fight. Through this sudden exposure, Judy Blume awakened a lasting moral compass within me as she produced dialogue and actions that showcased the power hiding beneath each young girl’s tongue and on the surface of their hands.
Only a single week after beginning to internalize Blume’s words, my eyes met Blubber’s final page. However, the end of the story was the auspicious beginning of my mindful lifestyle. I was still as tall as a mailbox, but I newly possessed a colossal amount of might. The morning after I gave Blubber a permanent home on my mahogany bookshelf, I sashayed into my third grade classroom and generated one compliment to deliver to each of my classmates. Whether I complimented a peer’s smile or simply their pair of neon Osiris high tops, I remained motivated to be the exact opposite of who I saw Jill, Wendy, and Caroline to be throughout the rest of the day. I can’t say that I continue to actively distribute an empowering message to every one of my classmates each day. Just like I finally grew to hit over five feet, the size of my class essentially quintupled. Although I haven’t picked up Blubber since third grade and didn’t even continue this uplifting complementary-compliment ritual for another day, thanks to Judy Blume, I consider my words more than I ever would have without the experience of Blubber in my hands.
It’s indubitable that Blubber continues to alter the way I treat others, even if those alterations are subtle and not quite as transparent as a compliment for each classmate. It’s also indubitable that Blubber continues to alter the way I live with myself. When Jill eventually grew to become Wendy’s newest target and a number of her friends discarded her from their lives, she finally accepted that seeking a friend within herself was pivotal. During my time as a lost reader in the literary hole of Blubber, I examined the moment when Linda became Wendy’s closest companion and later returned back to her socially-isolated state, when Jill had experienced losing and gaining friends, and when Wendy’s best friend revolved regularly. This tornado of social chaos passed by Blubber’s last words, but the friend that Jill found in herself remained even after she ended up with her best friend, Tracy. I recognized Jill’s newfound-independence and developed into an independent girl myself with friends by my side as a bonus, just like Jill.
I can ponder hypotheticals for decades, but I will never truly know what my life devoid of Judy Blume’s literature and creativity would have looked like. Wendy’s malice, Caroline’s lack of independence, and Linda’s fragility modeled everything that I ultimately aimed not to become. Jill’s strength when letting go of popularity and Tracy’s dedication to Jill modeled everything that I aimed to become. As a third grader, life still maintained its wonderful yet deceiving simplicity. However, the moment I flipped to the first page of Blubber, my world complexified. I realized that even the littlest of girls who solely worry about racing to put on winter boots for recess can feel desolate. Simplicity is blissful, but it’s not always the truth. Blubber explained to me the truth, and possessed the power to set off a moral compass inside of me that continues to point due north.