Friday, 25 February 2011


There is an old saying, which we are led to believe and which, like many sayings penned over the years, is a load of old cobblers, that is: children keep you young. Balderdash. Their very existence is a daily reminder of your own immortality, your straight ways; the values you realise never knew you had, but lo and behold, which you actually hold dear to your heart and which when discussed amongst the mocking youth of today, are it seems, hilarious.
Never have I been made to feel more of an antique, a relic from bygone days than I have this week. It started off innocuously enough, chatting to the lovely Kat, who has been a Godsend in coming to the house early in the morning, taking the youngest girls to school and them reversing the process in the afternoon. She is only 18, and I have known her family for years. Over a coffee one afternoon, I asked her if she was courting. I might as well have been talking to one of my past, international student lodgers. Kat just looked at me blankly.
“Sorry, Alice”, she said, “I don’t know what you mean”. Luckily, my teenage daughter, who has finally finished her sponsored silence, offered her assistance.
“It’s ok Kat”, she soothed, “My mum wants to know if you are going out with someone”. They both giggled. Not because I’d intruded into the secret life of teenagers but because I’d used such an obsolete expression. Kat had genuinely never heard the word, ‘courting’ before. I was as astounded.
“Really? Never?” I asked her.
Still giggling, she shook her head.
“Well what does you mother ask you then?”
“She just asks whether I’ve got a boyfriend”. I was astonished. My daughter could tell and was a bit cross with me.
“Not everyone lives and speaks as though they are residents of Downton Abbey you know mother”.
Indeed. “Just answer me this then, what on earth do you think William said to his father Charles, after a succession of ‘dates’ with Kate? ‘By the way dad, I’m seeing this girl’? I can’t imagine that”.
“Mum, for heaven’s sake, you cannot hold up the way the House of Windsor may speak to one another as a modern example of family discourse”. She is a bright one to talk.
Kat was looking increasingly confused.
“So, courting is when a boy and a girl are going out?”
“Yes”, I replied.
“And what’s that thing when someone has to go with you every time you want to see your boyfriend? That’s really old-fashioned too, ‘shepherding’ I think it’s called”. I rolled my eyes.
“Chaperoning. Kat, my love, unless you are gypsy or from any other ethnic minority , I doubt it is something you need to worry about”. It was enough for me; I picked up my coffee and left them to their contemporary, and in my opinion linguistically undernourished domain.
The following day however and you must pardon the expression, but for literary emphasis it must be employed, the modern world literally grabbed me by the short and curlies. I was at Uni. It was lunchtime and we were in our room, chatting. Three of the group have already been for interviews and have secured jobs for September. They were sharing the horrors of being interrogated by a student panel when one of my fellow female students tore the foil from a packet of Ibuprofen and gulped down a couple with a few swigs from her Pepsi Max.
“Are you ok?”, I asked, “Nasty headache?”. She let out a feminine belch, “No, off to get waxed after Uni. The pain-killers help”.
Turn away now, anyone who may be squeamish because what follows will be a shock to some, but, here goes. It is now deemed fashionable, no, I’d go so far as to say, de rigeur for any young woman, or in fact any woman who finds herself back on the market, to have to remove all bodily hair, ‘down there’. When I say remove, I am not talking about a nice trim, lest you should horrify fellow swimmers at the local baths with an unruly mane escaping from your swimsuit elastic but a full on excisement of all pubic hair. I forget how this torturous approach to depilation came into my consciousness I only remember being so shocked that I felt the need to share it with my son. The conversation went something like this:
“Very soon now you may come into close contact with a young lady’s parts. If you do, you must be very appreciative of it and hold it in reverence and whatever you do and whatever you find down there, be it hairy or be it not, just be grateful for it at all”. The idea of him recoiling in horror because she had not felt the heinous peer pressure to follow ‘what everyone else does’, very much concerned me.
And so, it seems, this fashion is now the norm. When I mentioned, that lunchtime, that I favoured the more natural method and tucked any stray hairs into my bathers, I was met with cries of disbelieving horror.
“That’s disgusting”, shuddered more than one.
“You have hair there?” asked another, utterly amazed. Now, although by the end of our ‘sharing’ session we had laughed so much we had tears pouring down our faces, it’s not actually funny at all.
To be honest, I find it depressing and ultimately deeply distressing that years after ‘women’s lib’ did their damndest for us, is to realise that it can only be the preponderance of easily available pornography that has led a generation of girls to now routinely visit a beauty salon to suffer almost intolerable pain in the name of being sexy and normal. Worst of all? That for a grown-up, sexually active woman, normal and sexy is looking like a little girl. Germaine Greer, it seems you burned your bra in vain.


DL said...

Loved it, as usual, AB.

Best wishes,
D. x

Sally said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sally said...

I must admit that I had thought that my eldest two daughters were just a bit mad for undergoing such torture. They apparently are both seriously worried that they might be seen in a changing room when doing dance lessons. I had no idea that it was de rigeur. I can only say that I think that I am glad to be of the "tuck it in your bathers" generation. Apparently though, ED tells me that Kate Winslet had to have a wig made for "down there" for a film. She had had so many Brazilian waxes that it wouldn't grow back... :)