independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Lolita and lost innocence

Booze and boys not such a bad thing IN our early teenage years, my friends and I discovered booze and boys. The new possibilities offered by the two were investigated simultaneously. It was, quite possibly not the best groundwork for future relationships, yet still there was no long-term damage done, and through making small mistakes, we gradually developed what I would lik

Booze and boys not such a bad thing IN our early teenage years, my friends and I discovered booze and boys. The new possibilities offered by the two were investigated simultaneously. It was, quite possibly not the best groundwork for future relationships, yet still there was no long-term damage done, and through making small mistakes, we gradually developed what I would like to think is a reasonably mature attitude to both.

The fact that these things occurred at a young age was more a rite of passage than a loss of innocence. The idea that innocence is like a bubble to be burst in one deflowering moment doesn't ring true with me. Innocence is lost when you toughen yourself against the realities of a harsh world where you can only look to yourself forprotection.

Young girls exploring ideas of sexuality through clothes, trends and pop music are still innocent until they realise that in doing so, they become vulnerable to predation, and that in the world we live in, sometimes you have to censor yourself to be safe.

If the loss of innocence is the same as disillusionment, mine didn't come through flirting with boys, or getting tipsy on alco-pops. It occurred when I realised that the security of family and home were not absolute. When I got my first glimpses of the cynicism of the society in which we live. When I realised that my parents were human, and that the things and people I loved could hurt me as much as anything else. It was part and parcel of my first real heartbreak that shattered a long-held belief about romantic love, and the knowledge that none of us are safe from violence, death and tragedy.

Those were the lessons I never wished to learn, and the ones through which my naivety was destroyed.

Innocence isn't lost in a quivering moment or through too much exposure to MTV, it is a process of erosion which begins in childhood, and continues till the day we die.

Julia Molony Material girls need to act like grown-ups WE'VE all been there. You're 10 years old, in front of the mirror, hairbrush in hand with Madonna belting out Material Girl on the ghetto-blaster and you are prancing around your parent's bedroom like it's the stage on Top of the Pops. It was fun. But unfortunately we all have to grow up at some stage and accept the fact that we have less co-ordination than Posh Spice and the singing abilities of a wild raccoon. Yet it seems these days that for every little girl who tries to dress like a teenage pop sensation, there are at least 20 women over 40 doing the very same. Modern middle-aged women are flocking to clinics in their multitudes for Botox injections and laser treatments. Doesn't anybody remember what it was really like to be 16? Of course you were skinny and wrinkle-free but you were also probably a tad gangly and hated being the tallest in your class. You had more acne and broken hearts than most people had hot dinners.

Yet this is what many hope to achieve in spending their husband's hard-earned euro. It seems that today we are a nation of 16-year-olds. The romantic days of growing old gracefully are most certainly dead and gone and notions of "respect for the elders" are today mixed with vitamin E and plant extracts for smoother-looking skin.

With ageing becoming so very passe, one must ask the question - what's next in our playing-God quest to preserve a youthful appearance? Pilates for infants? Atkins diets for babies? Leg waxes for six-year-olds - oh hang on, that's already available in the US. Or maybe we'll realise that the hairbrush-and-mirror-performance stage is something we all have to grow out of - some day.

Kim Murphy Girl bands that only wear half nothing 'MAMMY, am I too fat?" This is a typical kind of question asked by young girls today. While babysitting a few years ago, the 10-year-old girl I was minding told me how she would love to look like Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, the infamous twins. "Why?" I asked, and she told me that the girls were thin and beautiful. We proceeded to watch the programme Two of a Kind in which the duo star. I was shocked at how mature the twins were acting. Their clothes were sexy and their behaviour was similar to that of a 20-something-year-old. From the ages of nine months to nine years, the twins have virtually grown up in public and now at the age of 17, their sexuality has unfolded on the screen. The twins portray a confident demeanour synonymous with that of young women. But is it a good idea to inflict lofty sexual ideals on to young girls?

Girls no longer dream of marrying a prince and living in a castle. Instead, they long to emulate girl-band members who advocate open sexuality by wearing half nothing and dancing provocatively. From a very early age, young girls are aware of a powerful tool they possess: their sexuality. Little girls flutter their eyelids at their daddies and plead for sweets.

Fathers cannot resist and hand over the goods after soft persuasion. There is nothing wrong with this. What can become worrying is when children opt for the role of adults and attempt to use their sexuality without understanding the implications. Lolita is a powerful example. The boundaries between childhood and adulthood are slowly slipping away. Girl Power endorsed by the Spice Girls is a fabulous ideal. However, a whole world of Spice babies seems abhorrent. We live in a cynical world and it would be nice to salvage a little bit of innocence.

Siobhan O'Connor Going slightly bonkers about kids IN the Eighties divorce was illegal, the country was under severe economic strain and the internet was an idea as crazy as a trip to Mars. As kids, we were kept entertained by the exploits of Forty Coats and Bosco. One of the scariest things we saw was Grotbags or the Gorgs in Fraggle Rock. Kylie and Jason were the ultimate romantic role models and when they sang Especially for You we thought that was the way love should be.

In essence, us Eighties girls grew up with the romantic, simplistic ideals of Ramsay Street and the weird and wonderful underground of Fraggle Rock and Grotbags caves. A man could be the star of a children's show, with far more coats than appropriate, or necessary, be surrounded by children and without the merest suggestion of paedophilia.

In the real adult world, women dressed to impress with power suits, big shoulder pads and assumed power with the aggressiveness of masculinity. We were given the impression that to use one's sexuality to get ahead in life could be crass and most definitely frowned upon. Margaret Thatcher epitomised the break of women from the traditional role as homemakers and was a role model of a successful woman.

Of course, us Eighties kids weren't sheltered entirely from the real world. It's just the shelter was arguably more like an umbrella with a couple of holes in it than the battered leaking brollies of shelter for kids today.

People constantly lament how it's all so different for the kids of the Nineties and the Noughties. Today, Kylie has ditched her greasy mechanic's overalls in favour of hot pants and Christina wants to "get dirty". So it's not the same as it was before; the element of naivety about the real world has definitely weakened. But is it really a bad thing? Kids are more prepared for what's to come, aware of danger and girls realise that their bodies are something to be proud of and they don't need to dress or act like a man in order to get ahead. There are more role models for young girls than the leader of the Conservative party. However, I still say bring back Slightly Bonkers.

Emma Blain Dressing up far too much, far too young SHOCK bolted from all angles with the revelation that 12-year-old Shevaun Pennington was snatched from the loving bosom of her family by American marine, Toby Studabaker. Perhaps we got an even bigger surprise when we learned that she willingly left the country in the care of a man that not only had she never met, but one who was also old enough to be her father.

Obviously, in cases like this people need someone to blame.

Some might say: "How could her parents not have known?: How could Shevaun not have been aware of the distress caused by her disappearance?"

The fact is that when something happens to a child, whether it be that they are abused, abducted or merely lost for 10 minutes in a supermarket, people stand up and take notice. Children must be protected and generally everyone will do anything within their power to protect them.

Some children, however, need more than that sort of protection. What made Shevaun commence an internet relationship with a man she never met? What makes children in general go online in search for a new friend and nonchalantly lie about their age and appearance? It's one thing being in your twenties and being obsessed with sex. But where has childhood gone?

Has it simply disappeared without a trace? As I flick through the pages of teen magazines, I'm appalled at the articles describing how to "Please your boy". What is there to please when you're 12? Buy him an ice-cream, that should keep him happy. There is so much time to be an adult and worry if your partner is satisfied.

I have had my first feelings of middle-aged prudishness (even though I'm not middle-aged, or prudish for that matter). Walking up Grafton Street, the amount of girls sporting the new fishnets and miniskirts is phenomenal. I'm all for fishnets, but one of Dublin's busiest streets in the early afternoon is neither the time nor the place. I love clothes and am fully aware that sometimes I dress in what people may describe as risque attire, but I'm 22 not 12.

When all that is inside these teen mags are articles on how to get your boy, then keep him, then satisfy him, then get over him, then get under the next one . . . it's really not surprising that kids are growing up so fast. And what are the effects of this new-found maturity? There certainly has been a rise in child abuse and underage pregnancies. The average age that teenagers become sexually active in Ireland is now the ripe old age of 14!

I'm not sure, but I don't think that slogans such, "Come and Get it" and "Just did it" emblazoned across flat-chested adolescents really help these situations. Perhaps if children where treated like children and therefore acted like children and essentially had a childhood, you wouldn't have to worry about your daughter being the next Katie, aged 17 on page three of a tabloid paper.

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