Once upon a very long time ago, I used to read Jackie magazine, a weekly treat for girls of a certain age before the Internet came along and made us all streetwise. In a time when , if you were ‘going steady’ with a chap, you saved up to get married, Jackie was packed full of true stories, romantic fiction, fashion/make up tips and pictures of our favorite pop stars. Best of all was Cathy and Claire’s problem page where girls confided that they’d ‘gone all the way’ with a boy who was now ignoring them or, that they fancied their best friend’s fella. Or, shockingly, that they’d kissed the husband of the couple they babysat for when he gave them a lift home!
I was nine when my mother bought me my first copy and, boy, did I find teenagers complicated. I would read most of the magazine in the car before we got home, so thrilled was I to dip into that world. Jackie advised me about periods and spots and how to enjoy my first kiss when it happened. It terrified me and thrilled me at the same time.
One thing that dawned on me over the years of my involvement with Jackie was that many of the letters, both to the letters page and the problem page, were from girls of fourteen. This lead me to realise that, despite having crushes on teachers or being caught shoplifting etc., fourteen-year-olds knew it all. Fourteen was the age where everything clicked into place and, suddenly, you understood the world. You were more-or-less a grown up. You had it all going on when you were fourteen.
Imagine my disappointment when I woke up on the morning of my fourteenth birthday and … nothing had happened. I felt exactly the same as I did when I was thirteen. What a swizz!
Last Tuesday my niece, Medusa, turned fourteen. I have joked with her for some time that fourteen is the golden age and on her birthday I asked, ‘well, do you know the secrets of the universe now?’ She assured me that she did but I think she was telling porkies. And yet… Just today my sister commented that she felt that Medusa had changed. Ok, she’s still a moody, stroppy teen with a death-stare but perhaps she has suddenly matured a little. Maybe being thirteen is only just a teenager and being fourteen has more street-cred?
If so, how come this has passed me by? How come I, at forty-eight, am still waiting for it all to click into place? I read Jackie, for God’s Sake, I should know everything.
Is there an age when you thought it would all make sense to you? And did it?
By the way, Jackie gave me my first publishing credit (when I was fourteen!!) by printing my letter about a note in a bottle I’d cast into the sea which reached its destination.