The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS -

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.

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