Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Teen love eighties-style

Being the daughter of a high school teacher and attending the same school that he taught at pretty well curtailed any budding-but-faint teenage inclinations towards romance that I might have had. That and shyness.

Instead, I’d read ‘Dolly’ magazine from cover-to-cover and carefully cut out and paste photos of hunks into my homework diary to assure others of my firm standing in the ‘Has a libido, must be trendy’ pecking order. Yeah, like Ralph Macchio and C. Thomas Howell really stood the test of time.

Any crushes on real, attainable boys at school, church or in my tennis team were kept utterly secret. My fear of rejection, embarrassment – or worse, not knowing exactly what ‘to do’ in the physical sense – meant that I suffered in silence or went out of my way to utterly snub and ignore the object of my affections.

Being quiet and studious didn’t preclude me from observing the hormone-laden rituals of the teens in my class, however. The girls who were – ahem – ‘active’ from around fourteen years of age didn’t seem to be particularly fussy about who they would ‘go with’.

Murray Bridge was a rural country town that had a meat works. For kids who weren’t academically focused, it was the army, an apprenticeship or a job at the meat works that eventuated at about the age of fifteen or sixteen. Some of these heroes would cruise past the school or the drive-in in their dented, double-exhaust, 1960s Holdens and the girls on heat would answer their bum-fluff and bourbon-breathed bellows, strutting by the school fence with the waist-bands of their tartan skirts rolled up so that the hems would barely cover their knickers.

In 1983, the real sign of being a tart-in-demand - from my innocent observations - was the love bite. Preferably on the neck, freshly-made in the back of a car on Saturday night so that it was in full purplish bloom for bragging rights at recess time on Monday. They were either proudly displayed or hidden under then-unfashionable polo necks and whispered about in the school toilets after sharing a cigarette and spraying away the smell of smoke with Impulse body sprays. “Narelle says that you should rub some toothpaste on it, and it will go away.”
“Shit-a-brick, as long as it’s not there when the school photos are taken tomorrow or my Dad will kill me!”

Interestingly, even the ‘moles’ went for boys at least a couple of years older than they were and with the benefit of hindsight I can sort of understand why. Apart from having jobs and a car, boys their own age were going through the thirteen-to-eighteen year old growth stages that, unfortunately, rendered them at best, gawky, and at worst, monstrously unattractive.

For them it was a time of cruel contradiction: puberty was kicking in big and strong, as was their vague but clumsy interest in girls. Most had spotty faces which only served to highlight their big noses, chin hairs that were usually only visible when viewed against bright sunlight and overly-pointy Adam's apples that worked overtime to produce embarrassing yelps and squeaks in the middle of sentences. Their hands seemed to be huge, way out of proportion to even their noses, heads and feet. My theory is that God had designed it so that they had the best gathering tools for food. Or breasts, if they happened to have the ideal trifecta of being fairly good looking, the school sports hero and possess some acceptable social skills.

These objects of my hidden hormonal longings tended to be obsessed with sport; calling each other the all-encompassing term ‘poofter’ for any digression from the expected and regular display of social skills that included armpit farts, real farts, belching the alphabet, shooting spitballs out of bic pens onto the ceiling and ear lobe flicking a mate if they looked like they were actually trying to write something in their exercise book. Entering the audio-visual room after lunch with these sweaty brethren was a malodorous endurance session that reeked of Brut 33, Sherrin leather and damp desert boots.

And yet at times I had yearned for men such as these. Young, idiotic males who could barely operate a double-tape recorder, let alone pick up the vibe that Mr Read’s goody-goody daughter, Katherine, sitting two rows behind them, was desperately in love with their intelligent, sporty, funny, hunky side. As well as their ability to expertly throw chunks of chalk down Daniel Panizzi's unenviable bum cleavage during geography.

My first kiss was conducted away from my home town, or school or friends, at a drama camp that had representatives from a variety of schools acting in a play together in Adelaide during the school holidays. He was as inexpert and fumbling as I was and our kiss was a rather uncoordinated, slobbery let-down. Not that that was how I gushingly described it to my friends when after the school holidays had ended of course.

The second was nearly two years later, after the most wonderful night of my life up to that point – the Murray Bridge High School senior ball, 1985. It occurred after a year of yearning – no, pining – for Sean H. I had 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 to do with Albert Camus or Henry Lawson. He asked me to the senior ball and we were inseparable for the next couple of years.

Like most girls with a mission, I thought that it was my fashion choices that were the key factor in attracting Sean’s attention. Fashion was extremely important for all of us in high school, wasn't it? 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. My hard-earned babysitting money was always relied upon to save the day after the inevitable discussion with Mum saying, "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......"
I eventually settled on my pale pink tennis shoes so they’d match my skinny pink tie worn with a chambray shirt, baggy paneled jeans and a long light blue jumper that hung below my knees. With my shoulder length spiral perm and dangly love heart earrings, I was hot and yes, he asked me to go with him to the senior ball……..

The luxury of reminiscing about these painful crushes over two decades later has shown that I should be grateful that they were mostly innocent and usually fruitless. My husband tells me that for boys at that age a girl would have to strip naked, shove a slab of beer under one arm and write 'Take me, Stud' on her breasts in liquid paper for them to grasp the idea that she might possibly be interested in snogging him behind the bike sheds after cricket practice.

It was much simpler in the


LJP said...

Shooting spitballs out of bic pens... that brings back memories!!

Kath Lockett said...

Yes it does, LBJ - such a romantic way to get a girl's attention, wasn't it?

franzy said...

Tarts in tartin?
Tartin tarts?
Tartined tart
Tarty tartin?

On another note: skinny pink tie?!?!???

Pardon me while I roll around screaming with laughter and attempting to beg a balloon animal and a pie-fight routine from you.

Pardon me while I ignore the fact that I had more pairs of happy pants than was considered sane*, a hyper-colour t-shirt and a hair-cut that gave me the look of a boy whose head was being vigorously seen to by a stoned wombat.

Cat J B said...

Ooooh, long spiral perm and skinny ribbed jeans, that was me, we were so cool!

I am eternally grateful I don't ever have to be a teenager again, in the 80's or any other time for that matter...looking back, it was fairly excruciating...

River said...

I had a crush or two in high school, but they didn't last long nad no-one but me ever knew about them. I was so far out of the "cool" crowd, I might as well have been on another planet.

Benjamin Solah said...

Ah, high school romance. It was such a pain. I had too many crushes to name and the majority of them I barely told. I was always too shit-scared.

And a few of them I even found out years later liked me to, but we were both too gutless to say anything. Weird.

Helen said...

There are days when I'm so glad that I was only born in 1985 and therefore remember very little of the 80's! I used to wear my hair in a side ponytaila dn ay with snap-bangles a lot. And I admit to owning a pair of poolka-dot pants. But I was 4!

Lad Litter said...

Haha! Your description of adolescent boys must have made quite a few of us blokes squirm.

My HSC class photo from Flemington HS in 1977 shows me in a loud Hawaiian shirt. And I was one of the ones who dressed down!

Baino said...

You're so good at remembering the details. I loved the 70s cos I didn't have to pay for a spiral perm. I think the hitched up tartan skirt has a lot to do with male schoolgirl fantasies these days actually! Our classroom ceilings were covered in spit balls and it took ages for me to realise what they were. I never actually saw anyone do it. I'm very glad the 'high pants' look never returned with the platform soles.

Anonymous said...

Love chunks is right, when I was that age I had the hots for many in my class but had no idea what to do, it took me 2 months to ask some one out then she turned me down.

When sapphire starts like my eldest to be picky over what she waers and being seen out with dad in certain places, while I am wearing something she disapproves of, you know she is starting that phase, still we all look back on it fondly when we get older and ??wiser


Kath Lockett said...

Franzy - Tarty Tarts, how's that? Yes, a skinny pink tie. And Love Chunks tells me he had a skinny black tie at uni.... Oh and can I admit that I want happy pants to come back - they were damn comfortable and very forgiving...

Excruciating is the word, Cat JB. I see teens walking to the high school in our street and want to rush over to them - esp the gawky boys - and say, "Don't worry; you'll look, feel and behave better in a couple of years." But I won't because most of them already regard me as the woman who doesn't brush her hair in the mornings (before my run time, y'see), is sometimes found collecting rubbish with BBQ and has a friendly orange dog that lots of them are inexplicably terrified of.....

River, I wasn't ever cool either. Being cool meant being a sports star, cute or stylish; or preferably all three at once. How many of us could achieve even one of them in our teen years?

I hear ya, Benjamin. We just didn't have the social skills then. Boys would mostly grunt and girls giggle - I think the virginity and never-been-kissed level was/is a lot higher than reported. I mean, LOOK at them!

Helen, your get up sounds adorable! I used to have some navy blue and white polka dot shorts that I wore with a navy singlet and flats. I was TWENTY!

Lad Litter - I hereby dare you to post me that photo or send me the link to your blog!

Baino, I spent an utter fortune on spiral perms from the age of sixteen and beyond and would have envied someone like you. Still would today, actually because you have HAIR instead of flaccid cobwebs...

Oh Nutty - at least you had the bravery to ask her out and I bet she's regretted not saying 'yes' as she got older....?