Written by Jenny Eclair


I was a teenage cliche

Look back at your teenage years with a certain cringing or wide-eyed amazement? Jenny Eclair does.

lllustration by Louise Boulter.

lllustration by Louise Boulter.

Born in 1960, I officially became a teenager in 1973. All teenagers should come of age in 1973; it was the most achingly teenage year ever.

For starters, we had the Bay City Rollers, hoorah, not only a band with easy-to-dance-to numbers and catchy choruses, but with a uniform. What a relief. As long as you had some tartan, you were in the gang. Not that gang, not the Gary Glitter gang, that was the wrong gang, I didn’t want to be in his gang.

But I was pant-wettingly excited to be in the Tartan Army and I remember going to see them at Preston Guildhall. I pushed my way to the front and pretended to faint so I got pulled out of the crowd and taken backstage to recover on a cold hard linoleum floor.

Having not properly fainted, I soon ‘came round’ and sneaked off down a maze of corridors to find the band’s dressing room. I had recently turned 14 and I was becoming more cunning by the day.

Sadly, I never made it to the dressing room. A bouncer sussed me out and I was slung back into the pit of sweating teenage bodies screaming at the stage, whereupon I attempted the whole ridiculous charade all over again.

Cunning and stubborn.

Snogging was a big part of my teenage life; I’m surprised I didn’t drown in saliva. Everyone tasted of fags and chips. We didn’t have Wi-Fi, so snogging and petting became my new hobby. I was terribly promiscuous and lived in a seaside town where even nice girls were allowed to be slags.

By the time I was 15, I had no real idea of who I was. The puppy fat and plaits had given way to cottage cheese lunches and a curly perm. I lied to boys about that perm, swearing blind it was natural, finishing with a boyfriend when it began to drop out, rather than let him realise the truth.

“I was so bored, I got this illness the doctor suspected might be glandular fever, only my glands weren’t sore and I didn’t have a fever. I can tell you now, it was just boredom.”

I might have been a good snogger but I was a terrible liar. I lied all the time, mostly to my mum, about where I’d been and who I’d been with. All those times I was supposedly doing my geography projects at Gill’s, I was actually sleeping with an older man in a bed he shared with his girlfriend in Blackpool.

Sweet 16, my arse.

Meanwhile, at school, I was mostly wasting my time. I liked art and sometimes English was OK, but I liked it better when you were allowed to write your own stories. In the sixth form, there was no creative writing, just reading other people’s stuff. God I was bored.

I was so bored, I got this illness the doctor suspected might be glandular fever, only my glands weren’t sore and I didn’t have a fever. I can tell you now, it was just boredom. I was bored out of my fucking mind. Too bored to do anything. For a while, I just lay around being bored until even that got boring and I kind of bucked myself back up, had another perm, went back to school and fell in love for the first time.

I was 17; he was older and looked like David Bowie but with nicer teeth. He was a musician and an artist and his brother was a well-known actor that, weirdly, one day in the future I would work with and pretend to be his wife.

He left me to go to live in London with his brother just before I started my A-levels. In response, I took a swig from every bottle in my parent’s drinks cabinet and attempted to throw myself down the stairs (and this was years before Princess Di).

I was so busy crying and writing crap poetry I completely forgot to read Bleak House, which I attempted to speed-read the night before the exam. I got a Grade D for my English A-level which, on reflection, was kind.

I was lucky: the 70s were generous to idiots and with my two A-levels and a fruit cake my mother had baked for me, I was able to waltz off to Manchester Poly to study drama for three years on a full grant, which comfortably covered rent, cider and soft yellow leather tap shoes from Anello & Davide.

I was 18. On my first day of drama school I wore khaki dungarees and an army shirt. I carried my worldly goods in a wicker cat basket rather than a handbag.

I wish I could say that I saw out my teens with a newfound independence and maturity, but I didn’t.

Half way through my second year, I developed anorexia. I was 19, and suddenly I hadn’t a clue who I was. I was scared stiff of what might happen and even more frightened that nothing ever would.

It’s only now, 40 years on, as a chunky middle aged woman, that I can look back on my teens and realise I have spent the rest of my life, trying to sort myself out!


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Written by Jenny Eclair

Veteran comic, writer, diver, knitter (amateur) and South Londoner, v short sighted ( -5 left eye), HRT fan.