A couple of weeks ago there were a number of stories in the media about a new musical – featuring choreography by Arlene Phillips – being built around the 1970s magazine for young teenage girls called Jackie. Some of you may remember it as a ‘feel good’ publication all about the latest heart-throb pop star crushes, fashion, ponies, gossip (you know the sort of thing).
I was reminded of this today when spotting the following piece by Jan Moir on the website of the Daily Mail – see here – DAILY MAIL
It brought back to me an episode from my earlier life as a single parent when, a year or so after the death of my wife, my twelve year old daughter went to her new, boarding, school.
There were the inevitable ‘settling in’ problems. After one tearful ‘homesick’ telephone call with her a fortnight into her first term I had rung her housemistress to share my concerns, only be told that such emotions were perfectly normal for new girls and that in fact in this respect my daughter was ‘one of the better ones’, a thrust that was happily borne out when (only about a week later) she was almost reluctant to come out on her first exeat because she was having such fun with her mates who would be staying in at school that weekend.
As it happened my daughter loved her new school and thrived there. One minor feature of her routine was that, every time I went to see her and/or she came out, I was required to buy a Jackie-type magazine for young girls called Sugar to which she was devoted.
Until she reached the age of fifteen, rising sixteen, at which point I was already in a new relationship with a lady who – thankfully – got on like a house on fire with her.
After one weekend exeat at the conclusion of which my daughter had once again returned to school with her habitual latest edition of Sugar, my ‘other half’ idly asked whether I had ever examined the contents of said publication. I replied truthfully that I had not, in fact I had never given the prospect the slightest consideration. Why would I need to – it was all about teenage pop idol, make-up, fashion and ponies.
Not quite so, I was informed. Apparently a fair proportion of it was devoted to dating, the pursuit of boys, contraception and indeed the best way to please boys (not least the basic ins and out – if that’s the right phrase – of performing oral sex and other sexual practices).
I was absolutely stunned.
I would never have been so pompously arrogant to imagine that I was a ‘good parent’, however one might define that term.
I’d go so far to say that to some extent I was a product of my own upbringing, under which boys were boys and girls were girls – which basically meant that, whilst the unfathomable depths and mysteries of the female mind were beyond the ken of the average male like me, I shouldn’t worry about it.
However, the thought that, for three years now, I’d been regularly purchasing for my fifteen year old daughter a rag that – to all intents and purposes – was now revealed as essentially a teenager’s sex manual did rock me to the core for a while.
Happily I eventually grew out of my concern and mild self-flagellation on the subject. As far as I could tell my daughter was a hard-working, well-adjusted young lady with a wide range of healthy interests and pursuits. We were (and are) extremely close and enjoy each other’s company.
I guess it’s possible that – had I been a more vigilant or ‘micro-managing’ father – I would have been more protective of her and thereby made a better fist of bringing her up.
But then again, perhaps, the fact that I was a trusting, ‘eye off the ball’, laissez-faire sort of a parent may have actually encouraged and enabled her to grow up as she did.
We shall never know, of course, because it’s impossible to go back over your life and do things differently, or better, (or possibly worse?) than you did the first time.
Perhaps we should all relax and be eternally thankful for life’s small mercies.