KITCHEN SINK DRAMA
Iam sitting in a car outside St Mary’s rugby club, waiting for The Youngest to emerge from the disco. Once upon a time, my dad sat in this very spot, ready to flash his headlights as his daughter and her hysterical friends spilled out the gate and into the waiting warm car. He didn’t mark time there for long, though – by the time I turned 14, I’d managed to convince my parents that I could walk the short distance home, which, of course, opened the door for all kinds of memorable malarkey. We actually live closer to the disco now than I did back then, but The Youngest is not yet in the market for malarkey, and so I am collecting her and her Best Friend from their very first foray into the mad, mad world of teenage dating.
And it is mad. On the plus side, The Youngest has been well warned, especially by The Boy, what to expect. Her older sister has also cautioned her that she doesn’t have to “meet everyone”, with the rejoinder “like I did” unspoken.
And sure enough, when they clamber into the car, they are full of stories of meeting and being asked to meet, and one girl who was determined to meet one particular boy and then met somebody else and then the boy she originally wanted to meet asked her to meet and she didn’t know what to do, etc. It is riveting stuff.
Meeting (in case you are lucky enough not to have teenage children) is what the current generation calls French kissing. If you are from the country, you probably called it “shifting”; we city kids referred to it as “getting off.” In my time in St Mary’s, the getting off generally happened during the evening’s slow sets. The boy – always the boy – would ask the girl to dance and if she consented, they would smooch ineffectively around the dance floor until he lifted his head from her shoulder and went in for the full tongued groove. It was far from beautiful, but at least it wasn’t as clinical as the whole meeting business, which, from what I’ve been told, can involve either the boy or girl (hurrah!) approaching a stranger and simply asking them to meet. If consent is given, they then snog on the spot, before
It all sounds very tricky as they tell me about another friend who had her
first ‘meet’ that night and the boy
bit her tongue
returning to their friends and making themselves available for their next meet. We are a long, long way from the Ballroom of Romance now.
Anyway, neither The Youngest nor The Best Friend meet anyone, though they do get asked “11 or 12 times,” which I am stupidly pleased about. I think I probably got asked to dance 11 or 12 times in my entire Mary’s career, which lasted about three years, so already, without even pursing her lips, The Youngest is ahead of me. Still, it seems that meeting can be a tricky business, as they tell me about another friend who had her first meet that night and the boy bit her tongue. I know this particular girl’s mother well, and I already know that the next time I see her, I will be able to think of nothing else.
It’s funny that my children go to the same disco as I did. But while I went religiously – every Friday and most Tuesdays during the summer holidays – and built my entire week and love life around this place, none of my three is married to the irregular disco nights here. The Teenager went a couple of times, The Boy only the once and with The Youngest cautioning against boys biting your tongue, I can’t see her troubling Mary’s sturdy doors too frequently in the future. Still, I’m glad that they’ve experienced the same sort of teenage hormone fest here as I did, even if it’s to a very different soundtrack – it was all Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple back in my day – and with an entirely new sort of social etiquette.
And I’m thinking about all of that, waiting in the car outside the rugby club, and all the long ago nights of scandal, intrigue and occasional romance. I’m thinking about teenage kisses and walks home that took longer than was strictly necessary. And I’m wondering what I would have thought if somebody told me then that one day, I would sit in my father’s place in the queue of cars outside, waiting for my own children to appear. I wouldn’t have listened, though: back then, with boys waiting to be kissed, we had much more important things on our minds.