Look back at your teenage years with a certain cringing or wide-eyed amazement? Jenny Eclair does.
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!
Enjoyed this? Help Standard Issue keep going by joining our gang. Click here to find out how.5261 Views
Veteran comic, writer, diver, knitter (amateur) and South Londoner, v short sighted ( -5 left eye), HRT fan.