"Well ram my face into a brick wall and call me Feargal Sharkey!"It is rather sobering to realise that it has now been twenty three years since I was in school, which means I've led more life out of school than the seventeen years within it. At almost-forty years of age, I'm now one of those Middle Aged Dags I used to detest so much - in fact, I'm only two years younger than my parents were in my last year of school. Oooh, that's not a very nice feeling at all.
Maybe it's time to return back to 1985 and see what my daydreams and hopes were, and how they stack up in 2008. So you're welcome to join me on this journey: way back into the mists of time when SAFM tops and paneled jeans were all the rage, a weird new drink called 'Diet Coke' was just developed and we thought that Katrina and the Waves were going to rule the charts for many years to come......
The name Sean was doodled, mostly in love hearts, all over my diary. He had done his year twelve ('matriculation') the year before; but had failed miserably due to the discovery of state rugby, beer and the regular availability of cute girls via his sister. I clapped my eyes on his rather snug little butt in his grey Levis' Californians whilst standing behind him at school assembly. When he turned around to say hello to his mate 'Sidey', the front of him looked pretty good too. All through Australian History and English, I sat behind him and enjoyed some rather adult daydreams that had very little do to with Albert Camus or Henry Lawson. He asked me to the senior ball and we were inseparable for the next couple of years.
Twenty three years on and I've been with Love Chunks for a total of 16 years, 13 of them married. I may not doodle his name on any of my shopping lists or notepads, but I've yelled it out in ecstasy a few times...! He tells me that he lost his hair as soon as he met me, but I haven't noticed. It's his beautiful blue eyes, strong arms, warm body and kind face that I am much more grateful for. 1985 versus 2008? 2008 by a landslide and hopefully I'll be able to write that in 2028 and 2048 too.
Despite my Dad's disapproval, I did all of my assignments in my room with my headphones superglued to my ears. Thanks to my Nanna and Grandpa going overseas in 1984 and taking my babysitting earnings of $400 with them, I was the very proud owner of a gold Sanyo ghetto blaster with detachable speakers and double tape player. Music dominated every activity of my young life. There were more blank TDKs in my music collection than originals and taping tapes was the ultimate in sophistication and money saving.
Key songs of that year for me - and be kind, they were new and exciting then and not on regular rotation by FM radio - included: 'Run to You' by Bryan Adams (would I ever!), 'A kind of homecoming' by U2 (Bono had the world's sexiest mullet), The entire 'Red Sails in the Sunset' album by Midnight and his fabulous Oils, 'We Close our Eyes' by Go West (on the strength of that song, I bought the tape. Bad move), 'Don't you Forget about me' by Simple Minds (loved the synth sound), 'Take on Me' by Aha (great film clip), 'Would I lie to you?' by the Eurythmics (great to dance to in my room when I was feeling full of energy but nowhere to go except into my geography books), 'I should have known better' by Jim Diamond (ay yay yay yaii yaaaiiiii ai ai ai ai ai loooooove you.....), 'Out of mind out of sight' by the Models, 'Live it up' by Mental as Anything (the first three times it was on video hits, at least), Everything from INX's 'Listen Like Thieves,' 'I know him so well' by Barbara Dickson & Elaine Page (it reminded me of my three-years-dead, all time favourite band Abba and was a great yearning song to sing along to in front of the dressing table mirror when I should have been reading 'Tender is the Night') Everything on the Angels' 'Five Minute Warning' album and 'Things can only get better' by Howard Jones.
Songs I really, really hated that year included 'Like a Virgin' (how many times was it played on tv and radio, sung by Madonna in her Lolita-girlish voice - yeeugh); Sussudio by Phil Collins (absolute dreck); We are the World (nice cause, but utterly crap song, only enlivened by Bob Dylan's stoned car crash of a solo); and 'Shout' by Tears for Fears (I wanted that Roland guy to fall off the cliff featured in the video).
Today, I rarely turn on the radio and have absolutely no idea what's in the top 10 or top downloads or online requests whatever it's called now. The few times I do bother to turn on the radio is when I'm driving and I immediately punch the station button to select another one if any of the 1985 songs are on (they were great then, but pleeeeease, FM, move on), advertisements, or anything featuring rap, Beyonce, R&B beyond the 1970s or dance/trance/hip hop/techno crap. Therefore, the radio invariably gets flicked off in disgust before the traffic lights have changed to green.
In addition, I don't feel as though watching 'Rage' is a suitable form of visual entertainment on a Saturday morning. The semi-pornographic videos are not something I want my eight year old daughter subjected to as an acceptable way for a homey to treat his woman/ho/bitch; nor do I want her to think that women must wear nothing longer than a belt or spider web and writhe suggestively around before we are willing to hear whatever the hell it is that she may be singing about - with or without being 'helped' out in her vocals through digital enhancement. 1985 versus 2008? 1985 hands down, if only for the memories each song evokes. In 2008 I'd prefer silence, because it's so rare to find it these days.
Fashion was extremely important for all of us in highschool, wasn't it? We all knew that the need to fit in and belong overrode any other anxiety or considerations during those years. End of term Casual Day became a sleepless week of worrying about whether my jeans were tight, baggy, dark, cool, loose, branded properly or paneled enough. Should I wear my latest sneakers (Nike, but only because I was also into long distance running), my desert boots (nah, because it was instant social death to wear something on casual day that you also wore to school) or denim kiaks - you remember them? Those stupid shoes made of thin foam with wisps of fabric sewn over the top that ripped within five minutes of wear? In 1985 I mostly chose my pale pink tennis shoes to kind of look cute and so they would match my skinny pink tie, worn with chambray baggy paneled jeans and a lo-o-o-o-ng light blue jumper. With my shoulder length spiral perm and dangly love heart earrings, I was happening baby!
These days, I may have more than my babysitting money to spend on clothes other than what my Mum was prepared to buy for me: "Look, I don't see why these nice target jeans aren't good enough, so I'll put in $14 for those and if you insist on having those ridiculous Corfu ones, you can find the extra $24 and as for wanting Adidas Romes instead of these perfectly fine Dunlops, well that's up to you......" Now I have about as much interest in what's in and 'out there' as our dog does in her weekly bath.
Instead the bulk of mine and Love Chunks' incomes go to the mortgage, petrol, food (we love our food and will not scrimp on anything that's below perfect), DVDs, wine (29 dozen at last count) and of course school gear, clothing, outings, toys, books and other necessities for our little girl. I can not see the point in spending $200 on a pair of jeans that leave most of my gut and arse hanging out. Nor am I prepared to wear a poncho the second time around - the photos of me with a pom-pom laden one from 1974 was bad enough, thanks very much. As for those ultra-pointy high heeled shoes, well, being a size nine would just mean that lift doors would ping shut before the rest of my body had entered. 1985 versus 2008 - Hmmm. 1985 for the interest and enjoyment, but 2008 wins out for the realisation that the length of my hair, skirt or brand of shoes just doesn't alter my life a jot.
Entertainment for a shy, bookish goody-goody like me back then (before I'd fully snared Sean) was mostly confined to videos at Jill's place (our family didn't own a VCR), or a night out at our town's only cinema. Police Academy 1 and 2 were playing at the Cameo Cinema (remember when you'd get two movies instead of just one?) and boy-oh-boy, that was some groundbreaking comedy! Real Genius (the introduction of Val Kilmer before he got nasty); The Breakfast Club (which I still like); St Elmo's Fire (hasn't dated at all well); Ladyhawke (an ethereally gorgeous Michelle Pfeiffer); Out of Africa (very boring, but made interesting by going to see it with Sean at the drive-in); Cocoon (cool) and Back to the Future (when Michael J Fox was a hot little thing and riding on his star turn as Alex P Keaton in Family Ties).
My favourite television show of the time was The Cosby Show, but even then I wondered at the sheer gaudiness and awfulness of the woolly jumpers that each character except Mrs Cosby was forced to wear. St Elsewhere - involving stories, strong characters and featured the first story about a character contracting AIDS; Cheers (still great - gotta love Cliff Claven); and Night Court (on in summertime hell, but hilariously sleazy).
Love Chunks and I bought our huge LCD widescreen digital TV with surround sound and DVD last Christmas, eagerly embracing the new technology. The reason for this is that we are parents. As such we don't ever get to see an adult movie together, so we figured that we might as well recreate the cinematic experience at home, minus the black-market snack bar prices, smelly popcorn and big genetically mutant heads in front of us. It's a thrill to see Gladiator and hear the magnificent orchestrals swirling around the room, to absorb, laugh and wince at American Beauty, This is Spinal Tap, High Fidelity, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Donnie Darko......worth every single penny.
Television hours have greatly reduced - I'd rather read a book than just sit there and watch whatever excrement is dished up. However, LC and I both love Scrubs, Survivor (so? it's mighty fine viewing), The Office (Original UK version only - even when it's repeated over and over); Spicks and Specks (funniest quiz show ever); Seinfeld (each series on DVD is greatly anticipated); Dexter and The Flight of the Conchords. 1985 versus 2008? Too easy - 2008 for the vast selection of old and new movies available at any time, in great sound, picture quality; and for the fact that I've not seen Steve Guttenberg on the screen since Three Men and A Baby.
Current events - like, what were they to a sixteen-going-on-seventeen girl in 1985? I watched most of Live-Aid over the entire weekend when I should have been studying up for my mid-term exams; saw my Mum's shock and disappointment at discovering that Rock Hudson was gay and had AIDS; remembered that the nasty-pasty Frenchies had bombed the Greenpeace boat 'Rainbow Warrior' in NZ and that there was some discussion in the paper about the hole in the ozone layer. To be honest though, the biggest news event of the year for me was that tickets for Midnight Oil were on sale at Memorial Drive on the night of my final exam - yee hah!
Today I've become what I used to scorn my parents for - an avid reader of the daily paper and watcher of the nightly news on ABC. In fact the computer age has made me worse than them - I read the Melbourne Age online, subscribe to several UK papers, scan the google news and even manage to sit through the 7:30 report every now and then. 1985 versus 2008? Tied, I think. 1985 for blissful ignorance and 2008 for (hopefully) some increased interest, maturity and wisdom to know what to care about.
There is no earth shattering conclusion here, but 2008 is preferred to 1985. It's a relief to discover that I no longer need to worry about what Sean thought of seeing me in my above-the-knee school tartan skirt; whether I'd ever get to understand the words of Australian Crawl songs; learn how to pash properly or be part of the cool crowd. Oh no, now it's so much simpler - coping with stress, burnout, parental worry, the River Murray, Kevin fulfilling his promises, petrol prices, the futility of the Iraq War/Sudan/Iran/Megan Gale and Jennifer Hawkins; unaffordable house prices, interest rates, cholesterol, irritable bowel, weeding, what the hell do I want to be when I grow up.......... And turning forty.