"Blubber" Friends vs. Real Friends: Thank You, Judy Blume

Judy Blume has been one of my favorite authors since third grade. Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great  was my first Blume book, then Freckle Juice, followed by Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret.  I remember waiting for a bit in fifth grade before I tackled Blubber as a friend told me "girls are mean to one girl then they choose another one to be mean to."

When I finally did read Blubber, I was on the edge of my seat. Linda, a classmate of the main character, Jill, never did any harm to her classmates. Yet she became the target of their bullying simply because she was overweight and the topic of her oral report was about whales. Later in the book, alliances change and Jill finds herself as the one being bullied. The book has been embedded in my memory as the years have gone by.  So many girls, teens, and young women have experienced a "Blubber" moment no matter how big or small it is. She could have been a perpetrator, or in most cases, on the receiving end of someone's cruelty. The question is: when does it stop?

I thought it would stop past forty. Especially when making new mom friends. After all, we have so much to laugh about and vent about....and learn from each other, right? One would think that would be the case. Except when the venting is about fellow moms. Once I attended a play date where a mom got up to take her little one to use the bathroom only to have her parenting methods ripped apart while she was gone. Then another mom excused herself and her child was discussed in a negative manner. The only thing I learned from my peers that day was to save bathroom breaks for home to avoid being the topic of conversation.

Not too long ago, I bonded with a fellow mom over a variety of shared interests, including books, current events, and pop culture. She took the mundane out of the day to day routine of motherhood. However, I would often hear rude comments about other parents. So much so that the comments began to dominate our conversations. I began to wonder if I was the next target on her list. My intuition was right as I became "de-friended".

Like Jill at the end of Blubber, I felt angry and sad. But I was very optimistic. Much like a newly-single woman ready to move on after a break-up, I approached the mom friend making scene with a good attitude. The results have been positive so far since the new year began. I have made a few new friends and I really enjoy their company. We chat about so many things and support each other when we have a stressful day...sans backstabbing other parents around us. 

One of the good things about being past forty is experiencing how the bonds have strengthened with the  girlfriends I still keep in touch with from childhood and college. We are tied to each other and we don't take each other for granted. "Blubber" friends are not real, healthy, or sustainable. I'll treasure my true friends: those I have had for years and those who may enter my life soon. As Bob Dylan says in one of my favorite songs, "Come in, she said, I'll give you shelter from the storm."




Karen Y. Brown

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