So I’m writing a new book (actually two, which is just how I like it…bar the brain fizzling that this mental juggling requires) and this time it’s aimed at….oh help….the teenage market, innit.
I am somewhat terrified about this, not only because the teenage market is one of the most difficult to conquer – coz, they’re like, awful picky and stuff – it is also the easiest in which to make yourself look like a complete prat. Like I just did.
It’s been, twelve years…..oh OK then, seventeen years since I was a teenager, so I figure it’s probably a good plan to chat to as many of these creatures as I can, to, like, totally get the low-down, yeah, on what they dig. (OK, must stop doing this now.) With this is mind, I invite the teenage daughter of a good friend of mine, and a few of her mates round for….a cup of tea? Do teenagers drink tea? Or justVodka? Or crack juice?
As you can see, I have some catching up to do.
Determined not to come across like an Old Mum, I’m playing the Groovy Mum card to the max: I’ve spent twenty minutes trying to select some background music that teenagers would think is cool. Lady GaGa? V cool, but with lyrics like ‘I wanna take a ride on your disco stick’…I’m thinking maybe not, lest I turn into Blushing Mum. Madonna? Too old-skool. Kylie? Too pop princess. The Gossip? Too LOUD. Kasabian? Ditto. Oh sod it, Katy Perry it is. She’s all over the news these days, and if we have to sit there listening to how she kissed a girl and liked it then that’s just tough. We can handle teenage lesbian crushes. I’m cool. I’m not an Old Mum.
I’m also wearing a hoodie. Teenagers like hoodies. I fit right in.
The posse arrives promptly, which is the first surprise I get. Teenagers who turn up on time? My, things have changed. Maybe it’s all the texting they do these days, to remind each other of their two thousand and one social engagements in the day. Or maybe it was just luck.
‘Hey! Great to see ya!’ I groove, opening the front door. [Ya?? Ya?? Try ‘you’, Liz. You have to keep it real, not pantomime.] ‘Sweep on in!’ I feel my daughter wince, behind me.
All this grooving with da kids has had the inevitable effect of making me look exactly like the Old Mum I was trying to avoid, and I’ve embarrassed not only myself, but my kids too. Sweet.
Once we’ve settled down – with tea – and I stop behaving like a moron, we have what turns out to be one of the nicest chats I’ve had with anyone for a long time. These girls are aged fourteen and fifteen – traditionally the years when girls become HORRIBLE in every possible way, or maybe that was just me – and attend the local comprehensive school. They are polite, thoughtful, interesting, intelligent, well-read and helpful. (Oh, and they LOVE my book outline, and give me some excellent tips, so I’m double happy.) I know this shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it does. If you believe what you read in the media, dahling, teenagers are rude, arrogant, smelly, lazy, fat, stupid and destructive. Yes, all of them.
Well, not this lot.
And as I sit there, notebook in hand, chatting away merrily to these soon-to-be young ladies, I have the third surprise of the day: I realise that however much I might still feel like I’m fifteen years old, however much I might like to think I have the energy of a fifteen-year-old, and the bottom of a fifteen-year-old…..the sad fact is that I am thirty five. And to them, even if not to me, that means I’m an Old Mum.
It’s a weird feeling. I really do still feel extremely young in my head, and if you met me in the street you’d never ever guess I had three kids. Four weeks ago when the Fresher’s came up for the new term, I was asked not once but twice if I wanted to sign up to a Fresher’s event, a request which kind of implies the asker thinks you’re nineteen. Result! (Actually I think one of these was a clear bid for a snog from an older woman, but never mind. They all count.)
But sitting as I am, however youthfully crossed-legged on the floor in my hoodie, with my Katy Perry, having a bit of a laugh with these kids, I am, in their eyes, unquestionably a Grownup. A Mother. A woman in her mid thirties – which to them might as well be mid-seventies.
I’m going to be spending a lot more time chatting with teenagers in the coming months, so I might as well get used to it. It’s also good practice for when my eldest hits her teenage years, in thirteen months’ time. (Oh. God. No!!! ) But if she turns out as nice as this lot, I think we’re gonna be OK.
Like, you know, whatever.