Wannabe a spicy mother?

Close Encounter JOANNA BRISCOE MEETS TEENAGE GIRLS SAID TO BE SUSCEPTIBLE TO POP STAR PREGNANCY MANIA

The news is grim. England is gripped by the first pangs of an antenatal emergency. Thanks to certain irresponsible Spice Girls and All Saints, a squalling generation of infants will soon be upon us, nappies stuffed into combat trousers. They will be named Shaznay-Vick, Mel or simply Baby and will probably have their little tongues pierced. "We fear that recent news may lead to a generation of Spice babies born to teenage mothers," announced the president of the Secondary Heads Association at the news of multiple pop star pregnancies.

So if lactation is promising to overtake Information Technology as a Year 11 area of expertise, what does the girl in the street have to say? Not being acquainted with many mouthy pubescents armed with a sufficient battalion of opinions and expletives, I descended on teen Mecca, that grim vortex of tourism and taxi rage that is London's Oxford Circus, home of Top Shop.

Oh, Top Shop. My teenage holy grail. We used to make the 220-mile coach pilgrimage from Devon, steaming past record stores, model agencies and other centres of aching adolescent wish-fulfilment in order to spend the entire afternoon in Top Shop. Now it resembles a dull sports hall filled with all that is transparent, synthetic and size 8. How very disappointing. Bring back court shoes and Brooke Shields eyebrows, I say.

I approached some teens. A rash of security guards escorted me out. Nabbing stray adolescents in front of the building, terrified of being mistaken for a missionary or a pervert, I was approached by a grim manageress. "You can't ask questions on the marble," she said, indicating a strip of pavement strangely resembling concrete. "This is our marble."

An inch within legal territory, I questioned pre-pubescent types who turned out to be 23-year-olds. It is so hard to tell these days. Finally, I found a giggling and hair-flicking cross-section of British youth.

So, girls, will the simultaneous pregnancies of three popular female recording artists influence impressionable teenagers? "Nah." Is it possible that young girls may see pregnancy as a soft option? "Nah." As a style statement? "Nah!" Do you know anyone who may be influenced? "Nah. No way. Nah."

Come now, girls, surely we have some pithy insights to offer into the arcane thought processes of the youth of today? "Nah, the Spice Girls is going down. And plus. It's a little happiness for them. It's an enjoyment thing," said Shawn Jarvis, 17, who is at college. "No, no, no, no. I see them as kind of older women, and no, no way," said Alpa Nakum, 16. Were they never an influence? "What, the Spice Girls? No!"

"I think the very little ones might be influenced, but they're too young to be affected by it," said Liz Champion, 19, from West Yorkshire.

Others didn't care. "Mel B and Victoria, innit? Would we be influenced? Neeah! You get educated at school and everything," said Ozlem Dogan, 17. "Just because they're pregnant, all girls are going to go out and get pregnant," said her friend Pinar Simoglu, 18. "Nothing would influence me! Not the Spice Girls." Nothing? "No - completely not the Spice Girls. Don't really like them that much," added Ozlem.

The message is loud and clear: the Spice Girls are naff, and we're not stupid, innit? To remind a 15-year-old of her platform-trainered past, an innocent round of "zigazig-aah", is to inspire a whole repertoire of indelicate moues and references to primary schools. To give two hoots about the Spice Girls these days, you have to be a 35-year-old bristling with demographic concerns, or aged eight. All Saints are given a reluctant head-tilt of cool rating, but pregnancies mean nothing, innit?

I am, in fact, an alien, equipped with my statistics (teenage pregnancies in Britain are the highest in Western Europe, with nearly 9,000 girls under the age of 16 becoming pregnant every year: the Home Secretary is concerned), and my roster of Spice Girl facts. I am, let us say, at the Whistles stage. Not Damart, but not Top Shop. I feel like a lumbering old tweed-clad biology teacher for the first time, whereas in my head, I am barely yet fit to utter the blush-making word "pregnancy".

Do these girls think that there will be a radical rise in teenage pregnancies? "Nah." By common consent, "nah". Frankly, it's about as likely as me bearing David Beckham's love child.

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