It’s 1992, I’m seventeen and I’m going to change the world. I’m at the tail end of an A-Level in Sociology, devouring all the Anne Oakley I can get my hands on, and I’ve determined that the world has the potential to be a marvellous place, despite convention and a bunch of unfounded stereotypes putting the big kibosh on it. I was too young to be involved in the miners strike but I vaguely recall it’s death throes. I’ve watched the Comic Strip’s “Strike!” twice and feel that I’m in a position to be both reverent of the political event, and appropriately hip and satirical at the same time. I may go and live in Borneo to get back to nature. Or shave my head. Or I might go into politics, but blue is a better colour on me than red, and frankly that’s not an option.
The first and most obvious step on my way to revolution and gender liberation is to go to university. I will study Sociology – I will go to rallies – I’ll wear a duffle coat. My life will be a montage of sexual adventures, listening to poetry in coffee houses, nodding meaningfully at indie music gigs and possibly learning to smoke as I suspect that may make me cool.
None of these things happen. Nobody wears duffel coats. Everyone goes to their lectures, nobody sticks with their membership of any student group for more than a fortnight (except for the sailing club as they have access to a good bar) and I strongly suspect that nobody intends to use their right to vote…ever. A poster advertising Waynes World adornes the Student Union notice board – not the calls to arms that I was expecting. There isn’t one “Take Back the Night” walk. Nobody walks around with a placard campaiging for something terribly, terribly important.
My “Testament of Youth” weds ” Brideshead Revisited” vision of university life is frankly not on offer. I wear opaque tights with Doctor Martens, and a sort of top hat affair like the woman out of Four Non Blondes, to make me look edgy. This makes no difference, although the denim shirt from British Home Stores probaby doesn’t help. The fact I’ve now turned eighteen means nothing, except I now wait with baited breath for every barman to ask me for ID, so I can brandish it in front of him, my now non-counterfeit NUS card a laminated two fingers to “the man”, but it never happens. There’s not even much in the way of sex.. it is NOTHING like a Very Peculiar Practice.
Aaah, the folly of youth. I’m sure young people don’t have these expectations any more. I suspect that the most they expect is to get a pint for a pound during freshers week, along with a strong possibility of contracting a venereal disease. They can’t even vaguely hope for the guarantee of a job at the end of their drunken, three year, debt-fest.
I think I’ll take my tarnished idealism.