THERE are certain events in our kids' lives that mark a rite of passage: baptism, Communion, bar mitzvas, birthdays, graduations, your child's first day at school or their first trip away without you. Last week was another one -- the first visit by my teenage daughter to Wesley disco.
My friend, who has worked as a bouncer for many years now, makes big eyes at me and says: "Wesley! I worked it many a time ... scouring the football stands with a torch looking for, let's be kind here, 'courting' couples in the dark, are you getting me?"
He frowns, then cracks up laughing. "Just kidding ya ... there's one bouncer for every 20 kids and the place is crawling with security. They've no chance of doing anything."
After that conversation I was convinced that Wesley was probably a much safer bet than Killiney head on a Saturday afternoon.
My daughter was dropped there by one parent and I was to pick three of them up after. I got to the top of Aylesbury Road at 10.45pm. It took until 11.15pm to get round the corner in the car to Wesley stadium and gates. It was bedlam. No traffic moving, and cops on the road everywhere. It was more chaotic than trying to get past Croke Park on a Sunday at 5pm. The roads were packed with SUVs and cars double parked. Parents waiting for their little darlings.
I inched along until I found a space and parked up illegally too. About 20 security guards were at the gates of Wes, and suddenly hundreds of teens came pouring out on to the street. All of the girls in what looked like bikinis, or bras and knickers. Well that's no shock to me. That's how they dress to go disco dancing at that age -- and in a secure controlled environment, who cares, if that's what makes them feel good? They don't dress like this anywhere else and with this over-sexualisation of all their MTV videos where the women dress similarly, they think this is fashion, God bless them.
When they are younger they try to emulate adults by playing at dolls, cooking, being doctors, soldiers, whatever. So when they get a little older this sort of mating ritual is the same thing. They won't end up actually mating, but they are rehearsing the courtship routines. The problem is not that they become aware that sex exists in the normal adult world, it's the idea that they think they have to be overly sexy-looking to be of any value.
But I'm not going to stop my daughter dressing like the rest of them to go to discos as long as it's confined to the dis-
cos, and she's picked up and dropped home.
And I still give her the feminist talks about objectification and how it's who she is on the inside that matters.
Meanwhile, outside Wes, swarms of scantily clad maidens take over Donnybrook like an army of ants. Parents are all along the road calling to their young. Georgia Salpa-look heels have been replaced by trainers kept in the going-home-at-the-end-of-the-night bag, not because they don't want Mum or Dad to see, but because their little feet are killing them after a night dancing in impossible heels.
I notice one long-legged girl still in the elevated shoes, almost squatting on her hunkers to give her beau a goodnight peck on the lips, while Mum looks on with arms folded before issuing a curt: "Hurry up, we need to go."
What struck me was the actual innocence of it all. Nothing like I had imagined. After a small chat with two of the doormen I caught a glimpse of my own vision of wonder and loveliness and her glamorous friends -- one in a little black dress (a la Coco Chanel); another in a pair of quite well-cut shorts. And my own daughter sporting a pink hair band worn as a top. I was told it was a boob tube. Really? Hmm.
"Well," I ask enthusiastically, "any boys? Any snogs?" (The actual term is "meet" but for us oldies I'll leave it at snog.) "Naw," my little paragon of virtue replies, "I have a sore throat and it wouldn't have been fair to meet anyone!"
But she laughs and says there were gangs of boys wandering round asking girls, "Here, you luv ... will ya meeh me mate?"
"And are you expected to?" I ask. "Well if you like one then you can," she smiles.
Oh, the poetry of it all.
We pile into the car, and driving home I feel excited. Yep, we conquered the Wes disco.
And it is far tamer and safer than I had anticipated. I would have no problem with her going again.
As we drive away I notice an old man standing at the bus stop staring in what I thought was disgust at the attire of the girls climbing into my car. I point this out to them.
"He said to us, 'Gerr'em off!'" they tell me.
"See," I said. "He's shocked and horrified at your dress sense!"
"Oh God, no!" they reply. "He was perving at us!"
Okay, so one pervie auld fella in the whole street. That I can handle.