Nothing is quite as unnerving in teenagers as their unshakeable conviction that they are not susceptible to damage. This was demonstrated rather wincingly in Witold Starecki's film about teenage sexuality during a scene which a group of teenagers were drinking alcopops. "Doesn't that hurt?" asked one of them as another used her teeth as a bottle opener. "It does... because my teeth went a bit funny - I used to be able to do it" replied the other blithely, clearly unaware that there might be some connection. And if a parent had ventured to suggest that this dental vandalism was not a good idea you could imagine the response; a glower of disgust at yet another harmless liberty infringed. But if they're that reckless with their teeth, what hope is there for more wayward parts of the body, the bits that are actively trying to get them in trouble?
Not much happened in "Blooming Youth". Kids hung around in rooms and talked about sex. Some of it was obviously bravado and boasting but some of it seemed likely to be true - enough, anyway, to suggest that things have changed very dramatically since my day. I was probably well into my teens before I realised that a blow-job was not something you did in a wind tunnel and certainly out of them again before I could have used the term in front of - gulp - a girl. Here, mixed groups of young teenagers casually put each other through unblushing questionnaires about the exact degree of their sexual experience. "Have you ever licked out a girl Max?" asked a cherubic fourteen year old, head lolling against her subject's chest in a way that might be thought unscientific in some research circles. From the responses that followed, it appeared that she had forgotten she already knew the answer to this question. At the end of the film the same girl (I think) discovered that the words "oral sex" had a far more startling effect on her mother, whose pose of calm unperturbability crumbled briefly to a little moan of distress when it was uttered.
But what was most striking about Starecki's film, which looked at children from three very different backgrounds, was that neither class nor colour make much difference to the tone of teenager-parent encounters. The genes for surly sarcasm and exasperated patience express themselves in remarkably similar ways, whatever nurture has been doing in the interim. Parents, edging their way through conversations as if probing a minefield, occasionally trigger an explosion of scorn from their sullen charges (it's not a "snog" it's a "pull") and levels of education or income offer no exemption from the hazard. Indeed the only evidence of class distinction I saw in the entire hour was the lofty remark of one young girl when she and her friends were examining flavoured condoms in a shop window - "the champagne'll probably taste like rubbish" she said, with an air of practiced connoisseurship.
"Two years - it's a f-cking long time to like someone", said one of the children in "Blooming Youth" during a discussion of long term relationships. She was right, of course - a hard truth that many couples discover too late. Breaking Point, a new series on BBC2 looks at what happens after they've found out, by filming counselling sessions held under the auspices of Relate. Quite why anyone would want to conduct public surgery on their dying relationship, I can't say - Tracy, in last night's film, was initially reluctant to expose her domestic intimacies to even a single stranger, but had somehow been persuaded to let a few million more peer over her shoulder as she and Trevor glumly revealed how resentment and hurt had accumulated like limescale over the fourteen years of their marriage. The resulting film was encouraging, but only just, to be honest. The boulder of mutual resentment that had crushed the pleasure out of their life began to show a few tiny cracks but when the counsellor asked "What's the underlying issue here?" it seemed all too possible that the underlying issue was that they simply couldn't stand each other.Reuse content