Christina Patterson: Better to be a brat than Born Again

Share

Teenagers are in trouble. According to a raft of recent reports, they're bunking off school in record numbers to lurk on street corners and slump in front of the telly.

Teenagers are in trouble. According to a raft of recent reports, they're bunking off school in record numbers to lurk on street corners and slump in front of the telly. They're rude, they're lazy and they're so fat they can barely waddle to the fridge. No wonder families have been fighting for the chance to send their spawn of Satan off to Brat Camp. No wonder growing numbers of teenagers are being classified as mentally disordered, neurotic or mad.

But there's one area where British teenagers still excel. They're brilliant - the best in Europe, in fact - at getting pregnant. They're also very good at getting and spreading sexually transmitted diseases. Not surprising, perhaps, when some young teenagers - too scared to buy condoms - confess to using clingfilm. A sex guide for teenagers, published this week, aims to dent both these achievements. Written by bliss agony aunt Tina Radziszewicz, The Love Guru's Guide to Sex offers wide-ranging lessons in getting laid. It will, no doubt, trigger the usual dose of Daily Mail disgust among those who would rather teenagers got chlamydia than learnt about cunnilingus.

My own sexual education came from Lady Chatterley's Lover. I couldn't bear to think that my parents had read it, too, and on family trips to Winkworth Arboretum, I would blush at the sight of the bluebells. But it was quite a while before the lessons of Lady Chatterley were anything other than literary. Not just because Surrey in the Seventies wasn't exactly swarming with sexy game-keepers, but because I soon found a more magnetic guide. DH Lawrence gave way to another lanky, dark man with a beard. No, not the beardy-weirdy guy in Alex Comfort's The Joy of Sex (a book I discovered with much hilarity years later), but the Lord Jesus Christ.

I was looking for boys, but found God instead. Oscar Wilde might have called it careless, but he didn't go to a girls' grammar school in Guildford. My friend, Louise, and I knew that boys existed. We read about them in Jackie, but we very rarely met them. So when my brother's friend, Steve, invited him and us to a youth club, we leapt at the chance. We didn't smell a rat. We didn't know that The Millmead Centre was, in fact, a church.

Here, at long last, there were boys in abundance: boys in tatty jeans and leather jackets; boys with spiky hair and gleaming motorbikes. Louise and I were in heaven. At 14, she had a brace and I had a scattering of pimples on my forehead, but we were treated like royalty. Had we chosen our O-levels? Gosh, really. What music did we like? Abba, how interesting. Would we like to play volleyball? Oh, and would we like to come along to a Sunday service?

The answer to everything, like the name of the favourite band of the boy I fancied, was generally, "Yes". So, a few weeks later, when the minister explained from the pulpit that heaven was not actually a youth club, but a lovely place from which, sadly, most of the world's population was barred, we listened carefully. Most people, apparently, were going to hell and we were, too. This was a bummer, but could be instantly rectified if only we accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. Did we want to be in the same place as the boys Pete, Andy and Geoff? Would we repent of our sins and accept the Lord? Yes and, again, yes.

Unfortunately, it was not a decision to enhance our romantic prospects. While we now faced a glorious eternity with Pete, Andy and Geoff, hurling golden crowns at the lamb who was slain, the chances of a quick snog or a fumble were dramatically reduced. We were to treat our brothers and sisters in the Lord with respect - which meant, apparently, not touching them. The Bible, which we now had to read every day, a bit like brushing your teeth, was very clear that sex before marriage was forbidden. You weren't, obviously, allowed to go out with "non-Christians" (the couple that prays together, stays together, etc) but you couldn't really go out with Christians either. Not unless God had told them and you that it was His will - a matter on which He was sometimes strangely silent.

Even then, according to a talk on "relationships", you mustn't kiss someone unless you were pretty sure that you wanted to marry them. I knew I fancied Andy, but did I want to marry him? Well, actually, a Big Mac and Saturday Night Fever would have been fine. I wish I could say that this was a phase, but it lasted through university and beyond - long enough to see a flurry of post-graduation weddings with Christian Union couples desperate for a shag. How did a sceptical teenager turn into a born-again raving loony? I've no idea. I wish I hadn't lost my adolescence. I wish I hadn't had it so late. Perhaps all teenagers are a little bit mad. Perhaps they all need The Love Guru's Guide to Sex.

Poets? They've no rhyme or reason

There is, says psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, "a tremendous fear in our culture about madness", but "no particular enthusiasm for the idea of sanity". It's an idea he has turned into a book, Going Sane - a lucid exploration of a state that's generally defined by an absence. Peppered with references to Hamlet, John Clare, et al, it aims to fly the flag for a state which rarely warrants a mention in literature or art.

There are, he points out, no histories of sanity, or professional experts, or "famously sane poets". He's right, of course, but as someone who has spent many years working with poets, I can't say that conspicuous sanity is often top of the list of the traits they share. It could be a legacy of the "mad, bad and dangerous" Romantic tradition or it could just be that you have to be... let's say, pretty unusual to devote your life to something so little prized and so badly paid. It is, I fear, one instance where you don't have to be mad etc, but it probably does help.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

A happy ending for celebrity memoirs

Katy Guest
William Hague with his former special adviser, Christopher Myers  

Who needs special advisers? We all do

John Rentoul
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick