Saturday, 10 November 2012

Teenagers, by Maxine Linnell

VintageWhat if you were growing up now - perhaps as a 17-year-old? How would life differ from being a teenager in the 1960s, as I was? I started to wonder about that when I began writing my first novel. How would the life of a 17-year-old girl from today compare with that of a girl of 17 in 1962? And not just the obvious things, like technology - but the way people lived, their values, their families, their ways of dealing with each other?

I didn’t need to do much research into the '60s. I set the book just before the explosion of the Beatles, when teenagers were only just beginning to be seen as having a distinct life between childhood and being grown up. In 1962 the biggest event in the social calendar was the church social on Saturday night, over before 9.30pm with no alcohol or kissing allowed.
But while I knew some teenagers, I had to find a parallel social event for 2010 - and someone suggested going clubbing at Mosh, a nightclub in the centre of Leicester. I knew what a club was like in the 60s - but how would it differ now? There was only one way to find out. Which is how I found myself queuing up outside Mosh with my agent on a Friday night at 11pm, well past my usual bedtime.
I thought about asking for a senior concession, but decided against it. I did wonder if they’d let me in at all when I saw the queue of young people, who could all have been my grandchildren. There was also a moment of apprehension when I met the bouncers at the door. But they did let me in. I wasn’t too surprised by the black paint, the darkened rooms and the music, they weren’t so very different from my memories of clubbing forty years ago (see me as a teen in '62 - right). The toilets were pretty much the same too - unsavoury, but with stickers offering advice lines if you thought you were pregnant, gay or had a sexual problem.
As people arrived, we began talking to them, and found them interested, polite and very willing to talk. We left after midnight - me stealing a glance at the crowded dance floor, half wishing I could join in.
There may be more freedom nowadays - but there are also more risks. The stricter boundaries of the early '60s might offer more support, more hand-holding, and more to rebel against. But many young people now are emotionally more mature than I was, more aware of themselves, perhaps not quite as likely to be taken in. And there’s far more openness and communication. There’s dark and light in both times.

You can read more from Maxine Linnell in her Five Leaves book, Vintage, available from: Also available as an ebook.

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