. . . on the inner teenager
I ’ve always been pathetically in touch with my inner teenager but my ability to be 14 again at the drop of a pan stick is a growing cause for concern. I can trace it back to last year when I was handing out prizes at a secondary school graduation. My actual inner teenager was in hysterics as I stood there on the school hall stage trying to look “authoritative yet approachable” which as usual came off as “enthusiastically manic”. There was a two-pronged reason for my inner teenager’s hilarity. “You!” she snorted in my head between gales of laughter. “Academic refusenik extraordinaire! Giving out prizes! At a graduation! Don’t make me laugh!”
“You don’t even know what refusenik means,” my 41-year-old self seethed through gritted, grinning teeth.
To add to the fun, I was sharing the stage with a man who looked worryingly familiar. He turned out to be Mr Larkin, a former teacher of mine. Fifteen-year-old me nearly died with embarrassment when he introduced himself.
Anyone from the Class of I Can’t Remember When, from Sion Hill in Blackrock, will know what I’m talking about. The rest of you can just think of the worst classroom prank you ever pulled on a teacher and then make the details 100 times more mortifying. There. That was me on stage at the St Joseph of Cluny graduation.
I love those prizegivings. All that youth, optimism, shiny hair and renditions of Never Forget by Take That. The music at this do was particularly good. At one point a student with an acoustic guitar sang a tune that spoke directly to my inner teenager. It was a song I’d never heard before about a young woman reminiscing about her mother and thanking her for giving her the best days of her childhood. It had lines like “you were on my side, even when I was wrong” and “thank you for giving me your eyes, standing back and watching me shine”. Now it might not look like much written down here but the combination of all that youthful optimism, shiny hair, emotional sledgehammer lyrics and the student’s stunning voice did it for me. I started blubbing. Properly. At one point I thought the head teacher was going to have to call in the school counsellor for assistance. I haven’t felt that emotional since Wham! at the RDS, December 1984.
After the ceremony, I approached the singer and asked her about the song. She told me it was by Taylor Swift and it was called The Best Day. “Taylor who?” my 41-year-old-self asked.
“Swift,” she said, looking at me with what I can only describe as sympathy. And maybe a bit of pity. Yeah. Thinking about it now she must have felt sorry for me and my complete lack of pop cultural nous.
Turns out Taylor Swift is quite the big deal in the music business and has plenty more songs that have the effect of unleashing my inner teenager. I’ve been playing her loud, with the lights down, and having flashbacks to all my unrequited crushes.
But it’s The Best Day that gets me most. I discovered the video on YouTube. It’s full of home video footage of Taylor from when she was three. I can’t watch it without crying and I’ve started showing it to other people just to see if it makes them cry. Only one other person has broken down and wept with abandon at the sight of three-year-old Taylor in pigtails. The others have been in equal measure appalled and bemused by my histrionics.
Yet I still maintain Taylor is good for me. She reminds me of someone I once was. A total sucker for a well crafted, emotionally in-your-face lyric. A sensitive, sappy soul with high octane feelings fluttering perilously close to the surface. Someone who has never really gone away and who needs full, pass-the-tissues, expression every now and again. Just stand well back if you are uncomfortable with public displays of emotion.
People keep in touch with their inner teenager in different ways. My 40-something friend got her ears pierced for the first time last week and can’t stop twiddling the studs, delighted with herself while also wondering what madness drove her to that chair in Claire’s Accessories.
Turns out when you tap into that almost-hidden part of yourself you feel more alive and less like a person who sometimes stresses about not knowing enough about Nicky Minaj. Nicky who? Well you know Taylor Swift? She’s kind of like the exact opposite of her ...