Chapter 18 Summary
In March, Margaret has her twelfth birthday. She has long believed that people’s armpits start to stink at age twelve, but hers seem to smell fine like always. Still, at breakfast, she informs her mother that she is going to start using deodorant. Her mom laughs and agrees that this may be a good idea. She promises to buy a stick of deodorant for Margaret.
Margaret gets a lot of great birthday presents. Grandma sends her a savings bond, several homemade sweaters, a swimsuit, and a plane ticket to Florida. At school, Margaret’s friends give her a record album, and Nancy slips Margaret a separate card calling her “the best friend a girl could have.” Margaret takes this as a reference to the secret about Nancy’s lie.
Unfortunately, Margaret’s birthday takes a downturn near the end of the school day, when Mr. Benedict announces that the class is about to begin group projects about foreign countries. The students do not get to choose their own groups, which makes Margaret angry—especially when it turns out that her partners are Philip Leroy, Norman Fishbein, and Laura Danker. She dislikes Norman, and she is terrified of Laura’s bad reputation. Margaret has, in fact, managed to avoid talking to Laura until now—but the group project will make it impossible to maintain this policy of silence.
As for Philip, he is still the best-looking boy in the class, but he does not turn out to be a very nice person. As soon as the group starts its work, he sings the birthday song to Margaret—but he does not sing the real version. Instead, he sings the mean version about living in a zoo and smelling like a monkey. Then he pinches Margaret hard and says, “That’s a pinch to grow an inch. And you know where you need that inch!”
To Margaret, this teasing is absolutely unacceptable. She knows that Philip is only joking, but she is badly offended anyway. Huffily, she tells herself that she does not smell like a monkey, not now that she wears deodorant. Besides, it is none of Philip’s business that her breasts have not started to develop. She decides then and there not to like Philip anymore.
Margaret spends the rest of the day feeling cranky toward her group, and also toward Mr. Benedict for putting her in that group. She declares her birthday “pretty rotten” and ends the day feeling eager for spring break and the trip to Florida.