BYE, MUM. SEE YOU LATERTeenagers, notoriously, never tell their parents much. But two groups did allow Theresa Jameson to find out what happens after they say they’re ‘going out…just out’ and shut the front door.
THE GIRLS: Backy, Alex and Claire are 15, Liz is 16. We’re having a pizza in Guildford on a Friday night. The last time I saw them, they were in school uniform and the transformation is remarkable; the schoolgirls are gone and I’m sitting with a group of young women wearing make-up and the latest fashions.
The girls are all in year 11. This is the first time in the friends have ha d to make choices that will affect their future – which sixth-form college to attend, which A levels to choose. Tonight, though, their biggest concern is the end-of-year ball. ‘I can’t wait,’ says Alex. ‘we’re going shopping tomorrow for clothes. You can buy your own ticket for the ball, which is great. It would be awful if you had to be asked by a boy’.
‘there’s not much to do in Petersfield if you’re our age,’ complains Claire. ‘There’s one club and they have fifteen-eighteen nights, but that’s it. We spend a lot of time chatting to our friends on the internet. It’s really addictive and it’s a great way to keep in touch. There’s a disco they organize for all the schools, but all the teachers go, so it’s not much fun.’
Most of the group have babysitting jobs and receive an allowance from their parents. Whatever they earn or are given usually goes on clothes, make-up and CDs. The girls are concerned with their schoolwork, and want to do well in their exams, so spend much of their time away from school studying.
They enjoy the same television programmes that I watch, listen to the same music and wear the same style of casual clothes. There seems to be less of a generation gap these days when it comes to fashion and pop culture. I wonder if this growing democracy of entertainment makes the girls’ relationships with their parents easier than it was when I was a teenager.
THE BOYS: Ross is 17 years old and plays in a band called Macer. ‘You should hear them. They’re great. They’re going to be massive,’ says his best friend Matthew, also 17. They’re both sixth-formers at Porth Country Comprensive, studying drama. Much to their annoyance, there’s no music department, but there is a cybercafé – though neither of them seems particularly interested in computers. ‘I send email and go to chat rooms sometimes when I’m at home’, admits Matthew, ‘but I’ve got better things to do with my time at school.’
The boys have part-time jobs and Ross spends much of his spare time working on his music. ‘there’s not a lot of time for just hangig around,’ he says. ‘we don’t see as much of each other as we used to, because of girlfriends and work.’ They are still a few months away from driving licences and the freedom that means. The bowling alleys and multiplex cinemas in nearby towns and cities will have to wait, and the y limit their socializing to Porth and the surrounding villages.
‘we try to go out when we can to play pool,’ says Matthew. ‘our parents don’t mind what time we come home. I take my mobile with me, so if it gets really late, my mum might phone me.’ Occasionally, Matthew’s mother stays up until he gets home, just to make sure he’s all right. Surprisingly , perhaps, they have few complaints about their parents. ‘they want us to achieve more than they did,’ observes Matthew ‘they want us to go off to university. We’ve got more choices than our parents had. There’s more expected of us, though, and they still have a go at us over phone bills and spending too much money, of course.’