Is the drop in teen binge-drinking really good news? If anything, the next generation could use a bit of youthful rebellion

Pubs, to them, are where their parents go to listen to Adele and eat polenta



When I was 15, I remember taking neat gin to school in a jam jar. Or a ginjar, as we gals at Wimbledon High School used to call it. Then, as now, my school was excellent; it prided itself on being a bastion of single-sex academic drive and educational aspiration. When I was there during the 1980s, however, its pupils prided themselves on other things. Being able to smoke our heads off in Cannizaro Park was one. Drinking until the room started moving round was another. Frequenting the pubs on Wimbledon Common every Saturday night, from the tender age of 14, was a third.

How the youth of today has changed. Thirty years on, according to a report from the University of Cardiff, the majority of teenagers have no truck with such behaviour. Compared to how we were (in Wimbledon, for goodness sake!), teenagers are now almost unrecognisable models of decency and restraint.

Binge-drinking is almost unknown; alcohol-fuelled violence is down; teenage pregnancies are at a 40 year low; smoking is seen as a loser’s game. The research confirms what I see in my own home. My two eldest children are 14 and nearly 17. They live in central London, go to state schools and are free to roam across the capital at night with their friends. I suspect they are typical of many young people their age.

I have never seen either one of them in an extreme state of inebriation. I have never come across badly hidden packets of Marlboro in their school bags, I have never suspected that they might be smoking dope. I have never had to deal with a black eye, a broken nose or worse. Pubs, to them, are either places where their parents go with their friends to listen to Adele and eat polenta, or dives frequented by lonely old codgers nursing a pint at 3pm.

The best thing about a pub, in their view, is that it has Wi-Fi. And you don’t want to juggle a pint of beer over your computer, do you? Eating crisps and throwing the packet on the floor is probably the most heinous thing they get up to in a pub.

I think it’s a bit of a shame. Of course, city centres plagued by drunken hooligans are a curse. Obviously I don’t want my kids to take drugs, become addicted to fags or dependent on booze. I would hate it if any of my children were beaten up. What parent wouldn’t? But I do think that socialising in pubs with your peers, coping with having drunk too much, even trying out smoking (and deciding you can’t be bothered with it) are quite useful steps to negotiate on the way towards adulthood. How can you know what happens when you have had too much to drink if you have never actually had too much to drink? Much better to find out at the school disco than the office party.

What are young people doing, if not carousing around city centres in a loud, irreverent group? I’ll tell you what. They are sitting alone in their rooms on social media, or watching TV shows on their computers. Or doing mountains of school work in order to cope with the Govian cascade of exams put before them.

On my daughter’s bedroom walls are a thousand photographs of her and her friends. Plus a giant revision timetable for her AS-levels. Last year, the timetable was for GCSEs. Next year, it will be for A-levels. And so on. Meanwhile, looming on her horizon is the dreaded personal statement, the careful composition of which must be a perfect summary of, well, human perfection, and which is vital to get to a good university, in order to get a good job and so get on the housing ladder. (Cue hollow laugh.) Frankly, I’m not surprised that teenage anxiety, eating disorders, depression and other stress-related conditions are, according to my kids, an all too common part of their social world.

I suggest that the revelling and riotous behaviour so typical of my generation might well have provided a useful outlet against these pressures and demands. Expectation is always inherent in coming of age, but perhaps it is more pernicious now than ever. What today’s anxious, stressed out teenagers need is a bit more carousing, not less of it. Those boozy underage nights in the pub, the understanding that social ease is as vital as academic brilliance, the illicit fun of smoking from your bedroom window while pathetically hoping to mask the smell with a joss stick, the joy of successfully smuggling in a boyfriend while your father is downstairs – these episodes, and many more, were all delicious and important parts of my development as a person. We must not be so terrified of the perils concomitant with the extremes that we never allow our teenagers to let their hair down. Risk and danger are vital tools to understand. Getting legless in between tweets and exams has its benefits.

Ségolène isn’t the first woman to have a cleavage problem

Zut alors! Just as the sun comes out, what has ’appened avec the wearing of low-cut tops by French women in Paree? Banned! At least, they are rumoured to be if you happen to work for Ségolène Royal, the ex-partner of and now re-elevated minister for President Hollande.

According to the news magazine Le Point, La Royal has been acting a bit like her surname since her recent reinstatement as Minister of Ecology. Well, who can blame her, frankly? After the humiliation of not only having her adulterous husband effectively swiping the presidency from under her nose, but also having the world know that he visits love nests on the back of mopeds and owns only one pair of shoes, one can forgive her for grandstanding. It’s not just the showing-off of décolletage which the new minister reportedly dislikes among her colleagues, either. Apparently staff have to stand up when Madame Royal is present, and cannot smoke.

She’s regally denied the low-cut-top accusation with a sarky tweet, but it has to be admitted that some women simply cannot tolerate other women flashing their cleavage.

I had a gorgeous nanny once who resigned thanks to a better offer. More money, fewer children, a swimming pool and the use of a Beamer were on the table from a woman in Wimbledon (where else?). It was too good to be true. “She’ll be horrible to you. Don’t go,” I said. A fortnight later, the nanny rang me up. “Can I come back?” she asked.

Her new employer had banned her from wearing her favoured outfit, namely a low-cut top. Which for a babe from Tottenham was of course an intolerable command. Sadly I had already replaced her. With a bloke.

Twitter: @Rosiemillard

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A picture posted by Lubitz to Facebook in February 2013  

Andreas Lubitz: Knee-jerk reaction to 9/11 enabled mass murder

Simon Calder
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, presides at the reinterment of Richard III yesterday  

Richard III: We Leicester folk have one question: how much did it all cost?

Sean O’Grady
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss