Be careful what you wish for
What agony it was to be a teenager: a major tragedy happened every day, yet no one seemed to notice.
After a particularly trying time, I came briefly to my senses and realised that if I’d been granted all the wishes I’d expressed in response to some setback over the previous 24 hours I would in fact have ended up as a bald, dead seven-year-old nun . . .
The aspiration to baldness is easily explained: it was no fun to be a frizzy-haired person in the second half of the last century B.T. (Before Tongs), and to be going around with one of those copper-coloured pan scritchers on your head while all around you Timotei girls with silken locks were tossing them around in a tiresome way. Better to stop trying vainly to join their ranks and do away with my hair altogether. (Even then I understood the pernicious nature of hope.)
In fact, how much easier life would be altogether, If I could have gone back to a simpler time, to being seven years old and indifferent to what my hair looked like, and a whole lot else besides, with little homework and no weighty decisions to make.
The ‘nun’ ambition demonstrated a yearning just not to have to think about boys at all. Now I can’t remember whether this was to do with any particular boy, or a more generalised anxiety about the whole improbable enterprise of getting and keeping a boyfriend. All of a sudden the calm of a nunnery beckoned, preferably one presided over by a wise Sound-of-Music-type Mother Superior rather than the overwrought harpies from Black Narcissus. Here I could waft about in a sunny herb garden, to the accompaniment of plainsong from unseen voices, and never have to worry about anything ever again.
And ‘dead’? Well, I can only plead typical teenage over-reaction. Looking back I suspect the trigger for this particular bout of nihilism was when I put on a new jumper AND a new pair of (patterned!) tights I had saved hard for, and I thought I looked pretty OK. I soon paid for such hubris: I promptly laddered the tights and burst into tears, whereupon my mascara ran and dripped onto my new pale grey jumper. First world problems of the young and foolish (and monstrously self-centred), eh? And now I come to think it, this also seems extraordinarily trivial compared with what today’s teenagers have to contend with.
How lucky I am that my fairy godmother never happened along to grant me any of these wishes, and that I am now past the stage of having such reckless reactions. The wording on a birthday card I received recently admirably sums up this more equable attitude to life: ‘ I dreamed I had a perfect life, which was just like the one I lead now, except I had better hair and lived in Paris.’