Are You There, Chloe? It’s Me, Judy
by Harper’s Bazaar Staff
Actress Chloe Sevigny talks to beloved author Judy Blume about fashion, fetishes, coming of age, and her latest novel, ‘In The Unlikely Event’.
Chloe Sevigny: First things first, I need to ask you about your sweater fetish.
Judy Blume: My sweater fetish? Do I have a sweater fetish?
CS: I don’t know, do you? All of your characters are always wearing sweaters, and talking about them. In your new book, In the Unlikely Event, there’s the angora in the freezer and the drawer full of cashmere…
JB: When I was growing up in the 1950s, sweaters were a huge thing. I always wanted to be a sweater girl, like the movie stars with big tits — which I never had. I wanted to look like Patti Page in a sweater and a bullet bra, with pointy breasts. Also, my mother and grandmother were both knitters, so when I first started to do publicity for my books years and years ago, I always wore one of my mother’s hand-knit sweaters whenever I went on TV, to please her — or at least to try to please her.
CS: There is also a simplicity in your characters’ outfits. When I was a teen, I always wanted to dress like Davey, from Tiger Eyes. I had this idea of her in these perfect jeans, a white button-down, and hiking boots. It seemed so pared down. I felt like I was always forcing it with fashion, whereas your characters were always very simple.
JB: Well, I like pretty things, but I don’t like to shop, so I kind of wish they would just appear in my closet.
CS: So you’ve never been that interested in fashion?
JB: Oh, I have! I loved it. All those years I was a proper married — I don’t want to call it a “lady” — a proper married young woman with little children living in suburban New Jersey, I absolutely paid a lot of attention to what I wore. But my style really evolved after I left New Jersey and wound up in Santa Fe in the ’70s. That’s my favorite look. My kids went to high school there with Tom Ford, and when he first went to Gucci I saw all those collections and said, “Oh, my God, that’s all Santa Fe in the ’70s! That’s the look!” — you know, cowboy boots and a long, tiered skirt just past the top of the boot and leather jackets. I still have such a thing for leather jackets. I have a closet full of them, and my husband is always saying to me, “Why do you need another jacket? You have plenty of jackets. So that, more than a sweater, is my thing now and has been for many years — the little leather jacket. Every few years that ’70s Santa Fe look comes back again, and I say, “Oh, good!” I was at my best in the ’70s. I’d turned 40, and that’s when I met [my husband] George, so it seems like a romantic, sexy time to me. He remembers the night of our first date: It was winter, and I took off my boots and didn’t have any socks on, and he thought that was the most amazing thing he had ever seen. Girl takes off boots, no socks — wow! That was something!
CS: Would you say your 40s were your favorite age?
JB: It was definitely a good time. But I’m 77 now, and I feel so lucky to be able to tap-dance and walk a couple of miles and work at the gym and look not bad. Maybe someday, if I get the chance, I’ll look back at 77 and say, “Damn, that was a good year.” But my early 40s were good because I was coming into myself and feeling more confident about my work. The ’70s was a great time for children’s books too, a very free era before the censors started coming in the ’80s.
CS: Did you ever mean for your books to have moral lessons for teens?
JB: No. When I’m writing I’m never trying to teach anything — maybe I’m trying to illuminate. I have always felt that my responsibility as a writer is to be honest. When I first started writing, I felt that adults hadn’t ever been honest with me or my generation. Our parents loved us, but their way of loving was to never tell us the truth about anything and to protect us from what they thought we shouldn’t know or the things they felt uncomfortable discussing. So I wanted to be honest for kids in my books, the way I wanted adults to be honest with me when I was growing up.
CS: Your new book is based on actual events—three plane crashes that took place in your hometown [Elizabeth, New Jersey] when you were a teen. Are any of the characters based on real people?
JB: All of the families and all of the characters telling the story are fictional, except for me — my father was a dentist, very much like Dr. Osner, and he was called in to identify the bodies in the planes three times. He was a very upbeat and beloved guy. All the kids loved him, and all my friends loved him.
CS: How did the plane crash affect your adult life?
JB: Here’s the interesting thing: My daughter became a commercial airline pilot right after college. She’s not any longer — she’s a therapist now, and she wrote a book about being a young commercial airline pilot, a very funny book. But I never told her about the crashes, nor did I tell my husband, George. I must have buried this so deeply. But when I did get the idea for the book, it went off like a pop. I thought about it for a weekend, and then on Monday morning I said “I have to write this book,” and I started my research. But if you had asked me before, I would have always said that the ’50s was the worst decade—it was so bland and so boring. But now looking back, I realize that there was so much going on, but it was all underneath because grown-ups didn’t talk to kids.
CS: Well, you should know that I used to sleep with a copy of Deenie under my pillow, because I had scoliosis like Deenie, so I have a strong connection to that book.
JB: Did you have to wear something for it?
CS: No, because we lost our health insurance right before I was supposed to get the brace. And for some reason it was never picked up again. I do a lot of exercises and things like that, and I wore a lift in one of my shoes for a while. But here’s something else I’m curious about: What would Margaret [from Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret] be doing at this point in her life?
JB: Margaret has to be 12. I get all these tweets, “You’ve got to write Margaret in menopause for us!” And I say, “No!” Not that I would never write about a woman in menopause, but it wouldn’t be Margaret. Margaret’s story ends with Margaret’s story, and that’s the only part I’m telling.
‘In the Unlikely Event’ will be published by Knopf on June 2 and is currently available for pre-order on amazon.com.
This article originally appeared in the June/July 2015 issue of Harper’s BAZAAR.
© Harper’s Bazaar 2015