Dear kids. You will think I’m making this up but this is what your father’s life was like when he was 19. Rather than simply downloading a movie from the net or from Netflix/LoveFilm like we do today, in the seventies a movie would be released in the US and then more than a year later it would get released at home and all our gang would go to the Bangor Odeon to watch it. There was no instant gratification those days, we’d see movies advertised in the newspapers and read reviews but it would take about a year for them to come across the water to the UK and then slowly seep back across the Irish Sea to Northern Ireland once everyone’s appetite was exhausted in the mainland.
We learnt to be very patient in Norn Iron.
I loved going to the flicks with my gang, sometimes there would be a dozen of us, I was part of quite a large bunch of some great guys and girls, we’d take up a whole row in the flicks and have excellent fun messing around and general tomfoolery. There are some things one needs to remember when at the flicks kids; never pass your bag of sweets to your neighbour and offer him one, for by the time that bag of sweets went down the row and back up there would invariably be none left. The other important thing to remember was to not trip on the stairs whilst going to get more sweets/coke because the entire cinema would laugh as you fell on your arse in the dark. Fortunately I was so embarrassed that I was able to find my way back to my seat due to my face glowing bright red.
At about this time, in the late seventies, home video recorders became cheap enough for the average muggle to afford one and Trevor, one of the better off in our gang was the first to get his grubby little mitts on one. It was a BetaMax video recorder because he was a purist and he wouldn’t touch one of those inferior quality VHS video recorders – a decision he was to regret a few years later – or should I say his father would as it was him who actually bought the damn thing.
The local corner shop started stocking a selection of VHS & Betamax movies and I know you kids will find this hard to believe but sometimes you’d have to wait about two years before the a movie came out on home video. Then the shopkeeper could only afford maybe one or two copies of the latest (two year old) movie and we’d have to put our name down on a list and wait until we could watch ET The Extra-terrestrial in the comfort of the living room.
However, if you were friendly with the shopkeeper (and weren’t a cop) then he might rent you one of his adult movies he kept under the counter – well, I mean other people of course, not Trevor nor I because we were goodie two-shoes.. but apparently the shopkeeper made lots more money from renting out adult movies than he made from the rest of the above counter selection. It’s a bit of a truism that every new technology is driven largely by smut. A big attraction for Polaroid and then digital cameras, some believe, was the ability to take bedroom photos without having to take film to the snickering teenagers at the chemist. And a force behind the rapid spread of VCR and, later, DVD sales was the ability to watch adult movies without being seen at an adult theatre and it was the porn industry that first worked out how to make users pay online for streaming movies and discreetly acted as consultants for more legitimate business.
So, in 1977 The Kentucky Fried Movie was released. This was a series of spoofs, akin to all the Airplane movies but this didn’t even have any common thread between the sketches.
It was extremely politically incorrect, would be considered unbelievably shocking in 2011 and no-one would ever contemplate making a movie like that now. It’s interesting how attitudes have changed since the seventies. However, when it eventually came out on video Trevor booked it and one Saturday evening about ten of us piled around to his house to watch Kentucky Fried Movie on his dads new video.
Trevor’s parents were out for the evening (or so we thought), so we got popcorn/sweets and even some alcohol and settled down to watch the movie. Now, I don’t have a copy for reference but about halfway through the movie there’s a spoof scene involving a couple getting down and dirty in the shower and a pair of boobs pounding against the opaque shower-screen. It was exactly when this scene was on that both Trevor’s parents un-expectantly walked into the living room – looked at the tv with the boobs – went TREVOR! OMG! and walked out – and as they walked out of the living room the boob scene finished, they couldn’t have timed it more perfectly, a minute earlier or later and it was just a comedy movie but what are the odds that they would walk in as the boobs were on show? We laughed but I could see that Trevor was going to be given a hard time about this from his parents.
I had a moment like that the other day.
I was watching Bad Teacher
starring Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake and foolishly assumed that with these two mainstream stars in it then it would be suitable for 14 & 12 year boys. Next time I shall read the reviews and check the MPAA ratings first.
I went into the kitchen to cook lunch and after a while I came back into the living room only to be somewhat shocked to see a doctor examining two naked breasts on the screen and explaining to Cameron Diaz how much it would cost to have implants to make her boobs look like that. Trust me, two breasts completely filing a 42inch plasma screen is quite a shock when you’re least expecting it! I suppose I ought to be grateful that they weren’t actually pounding against the showerscreen..
So it seems the circle of life is now complete, what goes around, comes around, I have transmogrified into my parents – or to be more accurate, I’ve have transmogrified into Trevor’s parents. I knew exactly how Trevor’s mum and dad felt all those years ago when they found us watching what they thought was an adult movie – it was like OMG! What on earth are you watching and I immediately switched off the movie and the boys did a runner back to their computers.
Now, here’s the thing, Trevor and all us lot were about 19 and I suppose adult enough to view such material (despite being hormone loaded sex starved teenagers) but I’ve checked my Raising Kids manual, you know, the one that every parent gets included with the birth of their kid and the relevant pages are (once again) blank, it seems I have to fill in those pages myself.
So what do I use as a guideline? As a kid at that age I was totally uninterested in sex, I barely knew there was a difference between the sexes – this was 1970’s Ireland after all – and sex education was a term never uttered in our school or even in our home. So I have no model to follow and asking the guys at work is no use as all their children are much much younger – and all girls.
The boys get sex education at school – formally from their teachers (and I’m sure informally from their friends) and I have conversations with them about sex and actually question them about the whole reproductive cycle to make sure they have it all correct (sorry boys, blame my nursing background for that!) and excuse the pun but I don’t want to ram it down their throats.
But here’s the thing, I know that between now and 20 years old both boys will take an interest in the opposite sex and it’s how to make that transition, that journey from here and innocence to there and complete comfort, as a father the last thing I want to do is encourage an interest in sex until they are ready, I have memories of my older siblings encouraging me to go get a girlfriend when I was that age and I wasn’t ready or even interested and at the same time I don’t want to completely ignore sex as my parents did with me.
So it’s finding what’s acceptable and what’s not when you’re 14 and 12, and the goalposts have shifted a hell of a lot since I was that age. Then sex was out of the question, culturally, religiously and morally, if by some miracle someone actually alluded to rumpy-pumpy on the telly then our parents would switch channels over until they thought it was over – amusingly they switched the channel over one evening and on the other channel was a nature programme showing a couple of deer going at it ten- to-a-dozen, then there was a great frenzy as me ma switched channels again trying desperately to find a channel that wasn’t showing sex, and as it was 1977 and we only had three channels then the choice was limited and the telly was switched off!
And what is acceptable for a 14 & 12 year old? I realised after the event that I perhaps should not have said anything, at least at the boob display (even up close and personal on a 42in plasma screen – imagine if I had one of those new 3D screens!) but I was caught out, just like Trevor’s parents and I was taken aback.
We only really get one chance to get our kids childhood right, we rarely get second chances and I’m wondering just how one handles sex on the telly at 14 & 12 in 2011, it does seem that kids, particularly girls are much more mature than we were at that age (I’m sure that’s exactly what my parents thought of me when I was that age too) but I think I have wandered into a grey area of parenting, I don’t want to ignore sex with regards to the kids but at the same time I don’t want to make it a big deal either and it’s where to draw the line at this age that’s difficult to judge, there’s only a few short years between now and when the boys hormones are driving them nuts and I’d like to handle this as best as I can but from now on I’m going to read the movie reviews, especially the MPAA review, before we settle down to watch a movie.
And then there’s the issue of swearing… and violence and drugs and god knows what else… oh what joy it is to be a parent in 2011..