Of course, you do, it’s only Junior Cert Results night and you’ve phoned them numerous time already. They’re staying in yer one’s house and everything is under control. You’re not stressed. You know your child and they would not do anything stupid. And sure you can track their phone, no biggie… you’re just dying a bit inside with worry – mostly because you remember what you got up to at their age.
Yours truly went AWOL on Junior Cert Results night in a year when mobile phones were the size of breeze blocks so communication was the stuff of space-age. We kicked off proceedings under the bridge of Salthill & Monkstown DART station with several cans of Heineken, followed by a torrid train journey to Pearse, before stumbling to the then centre of every Dublin teen’s universe – Central Bank.
When nothing happened there, we careered up past McDonald’s on Grafton Street to see if we could pick up some older looking heads to merge with en route into Bruxelles. We didn’t get in. The first of many places. So we ended our night as it began – under the bridge of a DART station, only this time one of us was covered in spew, one of us was crying, and the rest of us were wondering how the f*ck we were going to get home without our parents MURDERING us.
That was the mid-90s. Fifteen years later, I was wandering up Waterloo Road by the Grand Canal on Junior Cert Results day (not even night, day. OK, evening; it was about 6pm) and endured a chance glance of two teenage girls holding each other up. One was mid projectile, the other one was either starting or finishing a wee. Nothing had changed. The skirts had gotten shorter, but that was about it.
Now twenty-odd years later, still nothing has changed. OK, so the skirts are nonexistent, the biceps are bulging, and the contouring is epic, but the main issue remains the same. There is NOWHERE for teenagers to go in this country.
What are the two main social activities we engage in as a nation? Going to pubs and the cinema (usually in that order) – largely because the weather is shite. And since a fair whack of us can’t afford to do either of the aforementioned anymore, we’re drinking at home. Drinking where there’s no hefty bar bill and no “time ladies and gents please.” And kids see everything. Everyone thinks they’re getting away with it, but nobody is – on a lot of levels.
Like it or not, we are in a vicious cycle of booze. I saw my elders at it, and spent a lot of time in pubs – so what was the alternative? A youth centre? Sure either that was shut down (no money in it) or never existed in the first place. A lot of us spent our teens sitting on walls. Behind walls. Under the aforementioned bridges – like pre-internet trolls. We lurked in playgrounds and got scowled at by parents. We got chased out of leisure plexes, graveyards and golf courses. We were THAT bereft of places to go we spent a few summers hanging around our school grounds… And what did you do? Well, you’d necked a naggin to keep warm. And this was before mobile phones. No wonder my mother was a complete wreck.
Therefore, when yours truly turned 16, Mum made a bold move. She got a membership for the local night club. She went in and vouched I was 18. She even vouched for a friend, because you could do that sort of thing in the 90s. From that moment on, she was legendary amongst mates. Really, she was just happier knowing where the f*ck I was. Her form of geolocation.
She knew I wasn’t a fan of boozing in precarious places. In fact, she knew I wasn’t a fan of drink in the first place, having observed its worst side. Given how the not-so-fun face of alcohol had always been prevalent in our household, I vowed to keep The Pledge. That lasted ’til the ripe old age of 14 when I’d gotten tired of being the one who held people’s hair back and stopped them from falling off the cliffside of Dillon’s Park – a Dalkey hot spot for horny teens engaged in gatting/knacker drinking; every town has one. But – again – what was the alternative? There was no alternative then, and chronically, there is little alternative now.
How did you spend your teenage years? Were they filled with sporting activities and family meals, or were you left largely to your own devices? More importantly, do you / will you know what your teens are up to?