I had a deprived childhood

I was born in 1978, (why yes I did just celebrate a significant birthday) which puts me at the tail end of Gen ‘X’.  Sometimes I don’t feel like a ‘real’ member of my generation because it feels as though I missed out on some of the shared cultural experiences of the ‘X’ers.  I grew up the eldest in a very conservative (maybe slightly right wing) Christian family.  I have four younger siblings, three of whom are quite close to me in age.  As a consequence my parents had a ‘one for all and all for one’ rule about what we could watch when we were kids.  This basically meant that we could only watch G and some PG rated movies – definitely no AO’s (now I’m showing my age)!  So I remember not being allowed to watch a lot of the popular movies and shows that were around when I was kid (and I’m not really complaining -despite the title of this blog I had a really lovely childhood).  I didn’t watch Gremlims, or Ghostbusters, things like that.  My youngest sister suffered from nightmares, so we were banned from watching anything which could give her scary dreams.  (As a consequence of one of her nightmares we were banned from watching Dr Who-halfway through the season).  In my teens I didn’t watch Dirty Dancing or Grease, movies which seemed to have a big influence  in the cultural milieu that I was a part of – if the reaction of people to the music from these movies is anything to go by.  People went nuts in discos, nightclubs and parties when the Grease medley came on and an awful lot of my females contemporaries know all the words to “I had the time of my life”.  At times, particularly during my teenage years, I felt like I was missing out.  Ahh, the eternal appeal of the forbidden. Everybody else was watching these movies and in some ways not watching them made them seem larger than life.

So it was with much interest that I watched Grease the other night.  I missed the beginning but caught most of it on television.  Perhaps, when one has anticipated a thing for at least twenty years, it has rather a lot to live up to.  Suffice to say I was disappointed.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, there is perhaps much to like about the movie.  Charismatic leads, bright shiny colours, catchy songs and amazing choreography (particularly in the dance-off scene and the last song) mean that I can see why the movie has enduring appeal. (As a reflection of this enduring appeal the 30th anniversary double DVD set has just been released).  But I thought the movie was appalling.  Perhaps a decade of feminist critical theory has shaped my thoughts but I just didn’t love this movie.  After all it revolved around a ‘pussy wagon’.  Maybe I didn’t get it, but I can’t abide movies in which the heroine capitulates to male fantasy in order to achieve validation.

The swimming pool

The swimming pool

So what about you?  Any childhood experience that was denied to you that you attempted to capture as an adult?  For example, a friend of a friend got her much longed for ‘Woman’s Weekly’ Birthday cake as a 24 year old.  And, did this experience live up to your hopes and wishes?  Or was it, like my Grease experience  – a big let down?

11 comments on “I had a deprived childhood

  1. LuLi says:

    My brother was born in 77 and I think he influenced me to have a very Gen X childhood, I watched everything that he watched and took part in everything he did. Grease and Dirty Dancing were my favourite movies!

    I don’t think you missed out on much though, I often try to watch them again and think wtf?? This happened with The Neverending Story, which I can’t believe I ever enjoyed (although I am still fond of the memory) and the Carebears. I was obsessed with those mofos, my first ever bear was a Tenderheart Bear that I got when I was born, but now I watch em and think girl you were on crack if that was ever funny.

  2. rayedish says:

    Neverending story, Mary Poppins and the Wizard of Oz where the movies that I remember were put on a lot. Funnily enough I remembering liking the Carebears and my kids are currently obsessed with them. I don’t mind, because its something they can share and I prefer it way more than Disney Princesses (which the other little girls love). I don’t want to go back to Neverending story I think I would cringe.

  3. bibliomom says:

    I always wanted one of those Barbie cakes. You know the one!! With a Barbie doll plopped right down in the middle. My sister is 11 years older than me and there were pictures of her Barbie cake in our photo albums but I never got one. Not until I had a daughter. At my daughter’s 3rd birthday party my Mom (god rest her soul) showed up with a freakin Barbie Birthday cake!!!!! How fair is that??

  4. kasphar says:

    ‘Grease’ was originally a stage play in the early 70’s based on the changes in american ‘society’ in the late 50’s. It was probably quite an accurate picture of the ‘greasers’ of that period so it begs the following questions.
    How were women treated before the 50’s? (patronised, powerless?)
    During the 60’s sexual revolution? (‘pussy waggon’, uninhibited, used?).
    Now? (empowered. sex objects, maltreated?).
    How do women perceive things now?

  5. rayedish says:

    Bibliomom, That is so unfair – unless of course, you are vicariously re-living your lost childhood through your daughter! And I do know the cake you mean, my daughter’s friend had that very cake for her fourth birthday. (I have the new version of the Woman’s Weekly birthday cake book, but I just don’t think that the cakes in it are as good as the cakes in the original. My daughter loves it, though. She does the sit down with the book thing, months in advance pondering which cake to have).

    Kasphar- I read that about the musical. That it explores the changing times and Danny represents the values of the 1960’s while Sandy represents the values of the 1950’s and the moral being that you’ve got to get with times. Apparently the original musical dealt more heavily with teen pregnancy, sex, gang violence and was a lot more vulgar, but the popular bastardised version tones down the vulgarity and glorifies/humourises these things, rather than questioning/exploring them through shock. I am not saying that the changing values of the times isn’t worth exploring, but using Sandy’s character and her virginity as the metaphor for the triumph of the 1960’s is rather a misogynist and over used literary device. That being said, I do like the questions that you raise and my answer to your ‘now’? Would be all of the answers you tentatively give, plus many women aren’t aware of the undercurrents of misogyny that remains in our culture and instead choose to see the celebrate of women as sex objects as a good thing.

  6. oldie says:

    By not allowing you to watch ‘Grease’ et al, your mum maybe knew
    more than she let on.

  7. rayedish says:

    Yeah, – Oldie- I think that she had a pretty good idea of what was good for us. Some of the bans annoyed me at the time, but really I’ve got nothing to complain about. The stuff I didn’t see seems ridiculous now, but it seemed like it was the coolest stuff ever back then. And I think that I will be attempting to bring my kids up in a similar fashion!

  8. Fi says:

    I had a very similar experience: denied lots of movies and TV shows (one of my last-ever tantrums was about being denied Beverley Hills 90210!) Some, when I finally saw them later in life, were pretty lame. A lot of stuff I fought for then are things that I would now absolutely deny my (not-yet-existent) children access to. At the time, clearly peer pressure and pop culture were far stronger influences than I would have thought. As a mother though, I would ensure my children understood why those things weren’t allowed – eg explaining that I didn’t think the story in a movie was appropriate, talking about why and coming to a decision together.

    I was the only girl I knew who didn’t have a Barbie. It made playtime at my place hard, unless of course my girlfriends brought theirs with them! Now I think Barbie dolls et al are the centre of much anti-feminist evil in the world, and am grateful I never ‘owned’ that model of womanhood.

  9. lisa says:

    My older brother got that swimming pool cake for his birthday! Talk about a blast from the past… I was so jealous.

  10. Deb says:

    I was born in 1956 which allegedly makes me a baby boomer but it seems to me that whenever the media speaks about baby boomers, they are talking about people who were teenagers in the 60’s where I was a child in the 60’s and a teenager in the 70’s. A teenage neighbour taught me to dance the twist when I was 4 years old, for example. A lot of the things that baby boomers are supposed to relate to just seem to be from a different world to me.

    I can’t think of anything on tv that I missed out on but then tv was a bit tamer back then and my parents, particularly my father, were good at discussing different issues as they arose. There was a period when we didn’t actually own a TV and just played outside but most of our friends were in the same situation so there wasn’t the same peer pressure. Then when we did get one, there weren’t broadcasts 24 hours per day so there was no breakfast TV until my late childhood/early teens.

    We didn’t go to the movies much, I think because of the cost, so all of the Walt Disney movies were something we didn’t see (& movies weren’t shown on tv until they were ancient) but we would usually be given the book, soundtrack or the colouring book of the movie instead. Which now seems a bit odd, like having the birthday cake decorations without the cake.

    Unlike many of my friends when I was a child, we had a phone because of my father’s business. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that people seemed to get phones as a matter of course and even when I moved out of home, I didn’t see the point in spending money on having a phone put on until I was well into my twenties. I remember dragging myself up the street one time with a really bad kidney infection so that I could use the public phone to ring in sick at work. I’m talking Eastern Suburbs of Sydney here, not some remote area waiting for the telephone poles to be installed!

    I guess the Walt Disney movies were the only thing but I don’t think I’d even bother going out of my way to watch one of them now.

  11. […] it was through the Church that I came to my feminism.  I think that I mentioned elsewhere that I had a happy childhood, and my education in the local catholic schools was a big part of that, as was Sunday school and […]

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