Growing Up Weird

Growing up in the 60s and 70s. Platforms, hotpants, spacehoppers, big hair, weird toys, orange, yellow, short skirts, long skirts, pop music, Tiny Tears, roller skates, magazines….. Everything you needed to be cool. But what if your parents were so anti-cool, they were practically in the furnace?

My parents were anti-tinsel. This made the annual Blue Peter advent candle holder a bit of a flop. I remembered this when John Noakes died this week.

When I say anti-tinsel, I guess they thought it was brash and garish and didn’t want to spend money on the stuff. But it’s difficult to know. They were also anti-American cartoons, soap operas and ITV in general. We watched Crossroads at my Grandfather’s, but I could always tell my mother was holding in a tut.  They were anti Hughie Green, anti-Radio1, and definitely anti-watching TV while eating tea.

Other things my parents didn’t approve of: girls shoes (too high, to impractical, too pink), pop music, blancmange, church, chewing gum, long hair, Enid Blyton, frame tents, Frank Sinatra, pierced ears, Sindy Dolls. It difficult to know, as a child, which they held a strong principle stance on, which they just didn’t like. The result was the same: don’t do it, don’t ask for it, don’t even LIKE it. Enid Blyton for instance: all I knew was I wasn’t supposed to read her books. Luckily, when I smuggled one in the house from the school library, I found I actually didn’t like it, so that was OK.  If a poor start to my rebellion.

Girls shoes and long hair weren’t sensible, and sensible was important. Boy’s shoes were flat and practical, but I hated them. At school my short hair and hand-me-down trousers were bully-magnets. Once I thought I’d get my own back, by laughing at a boy for wearing “girls” wedge shoes. Turned out they were the latest fashion in boys’ footwear. How the hell was I supposed to know this? I wasn’t even allowed to watch Magpie. Because it was on ITV.  That was the last time I indulged in any fashion-based bullying that’s for sure. I know my parents wanted us growing up more concerned with intellect than looks. But did they also want all the other kids at school to take the piss?

As for cartoons and ITV, too silly? Not educational enough? Too, well, American? Dunno, just knew they were taboo. I never saw JR get shot. I had no idea who was in the Top 20. And I never got to see a complete episode of Scooby Doo.

The Seventies were not gourmet years. My family liked nice food, but it was mixed up with the usual fare of the decade. Pek ham, tinned peaches, evaporated milk. Instant Whip was fine, but definitely not blancmange. Blancmange is pretty nasty, but its not a Nazi sympathiser or a friend of the Mafia. Best not say you like it though, just in case. Strangely, though, Smash was OK. It makes me wonder how many of my rules make sense to my child.

And this was only the start of it. The left wing politics and the lack of church (my mum was called a “Pagan” by one of the neighbours, and she wasn’t being nice about it!), the feminism, the meetings, the friendships with all the other Differents and Weirds in the street: the Indians and the students mostly.

Ok, so my parents were a bit odd, (aren’t everyone’s?). We survived though, read some really good books, listened to a wide range of music, got a healthy grounding in social justice and standing up for other people’s rights, learned to appreciate different cultures and ways of life. We had fun, opportunities, we laughed a lot and had some great adventures.  Nowadays we’ve got pretty good feet, and are not that scarred by the bullying.  We both have long hair, but not high heels.

My folks had an aversion to all things that are cool and make other kids like you. The rules made me feel weird and different and I always knew I wasn’t going to fit in, pretty much anywhere. Actually I still feel like that. But maybe everyone does? After all, what exactly is a normal family?

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