A Kid Of The 80’s and Teenager Of The 90’s.

When I was younger summer holidays meant one thing, the freedom to go out on your bike all day without your parents. We would literally wake up, get dressed and head out the door to meet all the other kids from the area. Around 1pm we would start getting hungry and rush home for a quick five minute lunch. Then we’d be off again and not be home till dinner time.

The independence we felt at 8 or 9 years old was something I can’t describe. Being the oldest of my four brothers and sisters, my Mum used to send me to the shops on my bike (which was about a twenty minute walk away from our house). We had rabbits as kids and I would be sent off to get hay, rabbit food and a selection of lunch snacks that my Mum would need. I always remember the pain of balancing hay on one side of my bike handle and a 2kg plastic bag of rabbit food on the other all the way home. The food would almost always get stuck in my bike spokes and slowly trickle out behind me all the way home. I laugh but it was great being so independent at such a young age. I think it really shaped me and helped us as children to grow up quicker than kids do nowadays.

Saying this, kids nowadays are much more grown up in ways that we weren’t. I mean some of the girls I’ve come across at thirteen, have a face of contouring to rival Kim Kardashian; it’s insane. At 13 I’d have thought contouring was a dance routine you did at the local under 15’s disco. My make up routine consisted of a dash of white natural collection eye shadow and a slick of my heather shimmer lipstick.

I feel like independence is lacking in children now-a-days. One of the factors is everything being online. Most social contact is through phones, iPads or a computer. Kids don’t have to go out to play with their friends because today you don’t even need friends, you can be friends with Bill and Ben, your online gaming buddies and never even meet them.

I don’t consider myself a Stephen Hawkins by any count, but even my Niece and Nephews who range from the ages of 3-12 are quicker on an iPhone or iPad than me. From the age of about two they could all do things I could only dream of on an iPhone.

I remember my school days where everything was paper and pencil. We had one computer in our class in first school, that we would log on to and take turns using for 20 mins every week. In middle school we used to travel to the local technology centre to have computer lessons. I mean imagine getting 30 kids on a coach to go down the road to use a computer?! Without sounding like I lived in the 1920’s, things have come such a along way in such a short period of time. Would we have learnt quicker with access to the internet at our fingertips? How did we ever live without goggle?

I appreciate times have changed. I know that a seven year old isn’t safe to go off to the park on their own anymore, like they were 30 years ago but there is that part of me that feels sad that they will never experience the summer days us 80’s children did.
Is it really that dangerous now? Was it really that much safer back then?There was still the odd weirdo around back then too. I can recall on one occasion when I was 12, me and my two friends walking to local shops and passing through a small woodland area, where we came across a man hanging around by a stream. Something seemed weird about him, he was standing right by the edge. Suddenly I think it hit us all that he had his cycling shorts down and was masturbating. The strange thing was he saw us and continued to carry on about his business like we hadn’t disturbed him!! We weren’t really scared. Apart from the appalling choice of cycling shorts, we actually found it hilarious rightly or wrongly. We walked off laughing, told our parents and the police were informed and that was that.

These things wrongly or rightly made us a bit tougher. We dealt with situations without our parents help or protection. Has the lack of independence and being wrapped in cotton wool made our so called snowflake generation? We cant argue that technology today has definitely made our children more tech savvy. I mean I was asking my 7 year old nephew about editing the other day; ….he talked me through it like he had been editing movies at Warner brothers for years. Clever little pickle.

Which takes me to teenagers of today.
As a teenager of the 90s, I became extremely independent quickly. I never wanted to be with my parents, I’d have been mortified being spotted out with them. So around the age of 14 most of my time at the weekends were spent at the local park much to my parents disgust (and mine now looking back). When I tell you I would be one of about 40 kids its no exaggeration. It was the norm to hang out on the streets before we were able to blag our way in to pubs. Normal and slightly trampy and I’m still not sure why we didn’t all just go to someone’s house, surely that would have been a lot warmer?

The plan would go, meet at the local shops and if no one had succeeded in nicking alcohol from their parents unlocked alcohol cupboard (albeit a cheap bottle of wine or some random beers that went off in 1984) we would ask passers by to buy us some. Cringe I know. Even worse still, our alcohol of choice would be a can of special brew (classy) a bottle of 20/20 or a can of white lightening. Thinking about it now gives me an automatic hangover.

Today’s teenagers just don’t live like this. Which to be honest I actually think is a good thing because getting drunk on the streets isn’t something I’d recommend to everyone. Even so, it was the whole environment of being out of the house, away from our parents, doing stuff we shouldn’t have been doing. Learning, making mistakes and just being who we were, silly teenagers.

Obviously I grew up to be a decent adult and getting drunk up the shops didn’t shape me as a person, However I still look back fondly on those memories. No cares, no responsibility and no inhibitions clearly.

I think there’s pros and cons to growing up in every era. I will never regret and always reminisce of those fun filled summers exploring in the 80s and drinking up the park with my friends in the 90s. Looking back, I’m glad I was terrible at make up, that my fashion sense was shocking and that we didn’t have the pressures of Facebook or Instagram. It makes me laugh that speaking to our crushes meant picking up a house phone to dial their house number, praying it wouldn’t be their Mum or Dad that answered.

If anything, those days and all the mistakes I was aloud to make taught me a lot. No one can tell me that riding your bike in the sunshine with your friends beats speaking to them through a machine or convincing a total stranger to buy you a can of 20/20 doesn’t make you feel on top of the world at 14 , even if you did have to deal with a hang over the next day.

Rest In Peace Caroline

I had written a light hearted post providing money saving tips for the blog this week, but after Saturday, this just didn’t feel right. I didn’t know Caroline Flack personally, but her death has really affected me.  Aside from the fact that I really liked her, I just feel genuinely sad at such a premature loss of life. I am disappointed that all the efforts to normalise mental health problems appear to have been in vain because the impressive vulnerability shown by public figures, to help those in need not feel alone, seems to have been disregarded the second Caroline was arrested.

Jesy Nelson made a heart-breaking documentary back in October, emphasising the harsh reality of trolling on social media.  Devastatingly, silly ‘jokes’ about her appearance had made her contemplate suicide.  We praised her bravery to speak out, tweeted our support and expressed our sadness at the fact she was ever pushed to feel so low.  We all discussed change and insisted we needed to be kinder.

And then, we all completely forgot. 

Fast forward a few months and Caroline is arrested, then subsequently vilified on social media and in the press.  She had not been prosecuted yet, and her partner had come out to insist her innocence, yet everyone wanted to believe she was guilty.  And I want to focus on why.

We live in a time where our success in life is measured by pitting ourselves against others.

‘I’m not as rich as her but at least I’m not as poor as him.’

‘I may not be married but at least I’m not in recovery.’

‘Did you see that person who posted that odd status about their ex? Let’s all screenshot it and send it to one another and laugh because even though I have massive issues myself, I can feel better by laughing at theirs.’

Why do we do this? I’ll tell you why, because we believe it will make us feel better. That it will bring a feeling of superiority, along with confirmation that we are doing something right. We are not the bottom of the pile after all; there are others below us. A successful, beautiful and talented woman is shown not to be perfect, so of course, we all revel in it.  Without any rhyme or reason, we decide she is guilty to quieten our own insecurities.  Gossiping about the fact that Caroline made mistakes made us feel better for a minute or two, because a person like her becomes less of a threat when she is ridiculed, when she is made into public enemy number one.

Caroline Flack had an argument with her boyfriend. That is all I, or anyone else, knows. That’s it. Nobody knew why it started. Nobody knew what was said or what happened. Not one person was there other than herself and her boyfriend. And yet she was branded an abuser, a perpetrator of domestic violence, without any fair trial. We decided a headline was enough to make her guilty. 

 And look what it did to her. 

Now we don’t feel superior. Now we don’t feel smug and self-righteous. Now we just feel sad and horrified at how much her mental health had clearly deteriorated.  It took a death by suicide for us to realise that negatively hounding a person can cause harm.

Social media has dehumanized celebrities and public figures.  We view them as a higher entity, and assume that because they have fame and money, they are confident, lucky and won’t care about people deriding them daily. When will we realise that they are humans too, with the same insecurities and the same feelings as the rest of us? If anything, we are more privileged as we have access to the luxury of privacy. We can make a mistake and deal with the embarrassment alone.  They cannot. I mean, there are times when I’ve gained a bit of weight and feel self-conscious attending a family event for fear of being judged, how must it feel for the entire country to be judging you? What must that do to a person’s mental health?

Think about all the times you have argued with your partner, friends or family. I will hold my hands up and say wine, especially, makes me feisty. I can be a bit mean and jump to conclusions whilst under the influence of alcohol. Conversely, my partner has done the same to me.  In the heat of the moment silly things have been said or done from both sides.  Imagine then, that you wake up to that awful hungover feeling of dread, knowing you not only have to apologize to your partner, but to the whole country. Imagine not just having to check your phone for messages to your ex, but instead your drunken behaviour (we are ALL guilty of it) being front page news, trending on twitter and worst of all imagine your face now being used as a poster for perpetrators of domestic violence as a consequence.  No matter how loud you scream your innocence or how much both you and your partner deny it, everyone continues to brand you as an abuser, as a violent woman, a danger to men.  Worst of all, all this is based solely on speculation.

We all gossip, and discuss the latest headlines, and if we wish to continue doing so, it may be an idea for us to now start doing this over coffee with our friends rather than in a public domain.  If you feel so strongly about a celebrity gaining weight or cheating on their spouse, that you must review it, then please do so OFFLINE.  Don’t post it out to the world as this goes beyond the realms of an innocent chat with mates and starts a hateful conversation which can be seen by anyone.

Better yet, when people spew hate, react with kindness and see what happens, look at how it makes you feel.

The reality is, that no matter what people post, no matter how strange people may seem or whether or not you agree with the way they post or how they go about their business, there is no amount of other people’s failings that will ever make you successful.

You can tweet hate, and laugh at people’s misfortunes, but you will still go to bed each night with your own. We all have them, so maybe it’s time we focused on embracing all our flaws and mistakes, instead of attempting to minimise them by enjoying watching people suffer from theirs.