My 22 year old has just been telling me how eleven year old girls are posting elaborately staged, glamour photos of themselves on Instagram and how confusing these images must be for boys of the same age. We both bemoaned the early onset of puberty and the hypersexualisation of images presented to children.

She has decided that in the event she has children, she will have to bring them up in total media isolation – “On a farm, mum”

I found something I wrote when my daughter was eleven and we both realise that things have been heading this way for quite some time…

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“Buffy wouldn’t wear this,” declares the eleven year old solemnly. We scan the wall of posters devoted to the very blonde, white, skinny and breast-enhanced, for an outfit idea that conforms to strict pre-pubescent standards.

“No, I just can’t go – I’ve got nothing to wear.” Reasoning that two hours of pass-the-parcel, pizza and birthday cake did not warrant this level of sartorial analysis, proved fruitless. I resolved to counteract what I viewed as an obsession with all things Britney/Christina/Mandy, before my daughter’s perceptions of feminine beauty and worth became as seriously skewed as my own.

We settled in to watch the Aussie soaps, notable for gentle stories about real people. Had I perhaps switched on to SBS by mistake? Apparently Erinsborough, like some Nordic outpost, is home to an inordinately high population of flaxen tressed waifs with concave bellies and clear skin. This was not aiding my cause. Tuning in to “Sale of the Century” offered three stodgy male contestants and a vacuously smiling Katrina Brown – flawlessly blonde, thin and dewy.

“Who did you want to look like when you were young, mum?” I scanned the memory bank for recalled back issues of that undisputed teen bible, ‘Dolly’ magazine. Encyclopaedic in its explanation of hormones and hair removal, ‘Dolly’ provided information on pulse points and the correct application of metallic blue eye shadow. It showcased our cultural icons and fuelled the ongoing debate: Anna or Freda?

Was Abba responsible for the advertising plethora of cavorting alpine nymphs, who sold everything from deodorant to dessert whip? While every Craig, Wayne and Darren ogled television’s smorgasbord of platinum babes, Leanne, Debbie and Sharon were wondering whether the direct application of Big Banana M would culminate in whopping boobs. Similarly, boys of this era must have believed that the
things that went better with Coca-Cola, were impossibly tanned and clad in microscopic macramé (which, for the record, was not such a good look wet).

Flicking through my offspring’s CD collection of homogenised female warbler’s, it is apparent that their generic look is steeped in history. As film clip after film clip reveals golden hair and bare midriffs, the recollection of Countdown springs to mind. Essentially identical, from the wind-machine to lashings of lip-gloss, it should perhaps be noted that all these music clips of the 70’s, featured boys. Leif Garret, Shaun Cassidy, Andy Gibb and Roger Vodouris, all clad, to coin the Dire Straits song, in their satin baggies and platform shoes, were exactly what we wanted to look like – but with breasts.

From the back, the gender of intertwined couples, was impossible to distinguish.

back to today…

Thank heavens for the  propensity of young males today towards low slung jeans and a fair whack of underwear on show. The hipster beard and beatnik glasses also serve to nicely distinguish the sexes, just as they did in the 1970’s (although I wish they’d don a sock…what’s with the blue/white ankles in the middle of winter?)

The child is musing on the future of fashion – which, when you have lived through nearly five decades, you realise is entirely recyled and occasionally reinvigorated by the discovery of a super fabric from time to time.

Perhaps we are on a path toward unisex space suits that reveal no hint of gender at all. I hope I don’t live to see that.

About Learning the hard way

Jane is of the belief that her life's purpose may well be to serve as a warning to others. She is unsure as to why she speaks in the third person...
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