My Life as a Teenage Sideshow

One of the key features of the Seventies, when I was a teenager, was the fashion. The styles were very distinctive, and even now still give me cause to shudder. Blue eye shadow plastered on thickly, set off by chunky, lumpy mascara; platform shoes; huge swirling patterns on dull coloured fabric, typically brown, olive, dark orange, or beige. Throw into this mix emerald home-knitted trousers (thanks granny!) and cheese-cloth shirts, and shudder at the images now arising in your mind’s eye.

I was not a teenager who had a natural feel for style or taste. I suspect few of us were blessed in that department, and certainly any evidence to the contrary is hard to find. I wore horrors, absolute Lovecraftian nightmares from the abyss of Hell. Add to that the fact that I had an Incident with the hairdresser which left me with an appalling haircut for a long time, and you will understand that my fragile, teenage, spotty self-esteem was in tatters before I was 15.

The hair – I started the decade with long straight hair in approved Sixties mode; centre parting, no fringe, au naturel. I decided in a fit of boredom to have it cut shorter and fashionably, but I was not certain in my mind how I wanted it to look. My mother suggested asking the hairdresser to style it for me into something modish and suitable. So off I went, full of optimism that I would finally look trendy. Silly me!

The hairdresser himself was a strange little man. In those days we didn’t know much about Gay Rights or alternative lifestyles. Everyone camped it up when talking about him, and to be fair, he did mince about like a true-blood queer. I have no idea if he was gay or if he just thought that was how male hairdressers were supposed to behave. However, in retrospect, asking his advice on what would suit a rather conservative teenage girl of studious nature and rather geeky inclination may have been unwise. As it turned out he failed to meet the challenge spectacularly, leaving me with a haircut like a Bay City Roller. Only more masculine.

I wept and railed against the dark night, but to no avail. My hair was ruined and would take a long time to grow back. So for the duration I had to suffer all the comments, teasing and downright bullying which were the natural result of failing to meet the peer-approved standards of the day.

There is no real happy ending to this particular story. I was an unhappy teen. The big blue meanies did not get their come-uppance. Time was the only healer, as I grew my hair back and left school for university, where I could start again.

However, there is a happier outcome (eventually). Experiences like these mean that I love getting older. I liked my twenties better than my teens, my thirties better than my twenties, and my forties are proving pretty good in so many ways that I feel life is only getting better, and age is a blessing. I am actually quite excited at the prospect of my fifties. And to be honest, given the inevitability of the ageing process, I am pretty happy with that point of view!

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