In some respects I had a fairly progressive outlook as a teenager. Though not derived intellectually or from anything that was over-contrived I had attitudes that now looking back had a prescience about them.
• On sexual orientation: I was comfortable in my sexuality and therefore at ease with deviation in others. Homosexuality (gay wasn’t used then as a term) was simply alternative. I didn’t have to learn that. It seemed intuitive.
• On gender equality: The standard misogyny of the times was contemptible to me. I was keen to build on shared experience with my female friends rather than see them as alien. I didn’t view them just as sexual objects. I was as far from a man’s man as you could get.
• On sensitivity of language: Before PC became an issue I used to feel that certain uses of language had good or bad currency and avoided what felt like dodgy terminology. Quite often these would be the very terms that got banished from the public sphere with time.
• On race and religion as non-issues: I was quite colour-blind then and non-partisan. A person’s race, ethnic background or religious identification mattered hardly at all. Character and personality was the thing.
Some of these I acted out to a fault and were the mark of innocence before insight. It doesn’t do for example to ignore ethnicity when it’s a huge issue in the world. Sexual equality is fine in its place but sexual differences are of course all too important to appreciate in order to make decent relationships. Still, the fundamental instincts driving these positions I think were sound and set me up quite well for moving forward in the world.
By contrast there were values I upheld then and down through my earlier adulthood I look back upon with less reverence. Though not as admirable some of these show prescience too.
• Women with attitude: I liked young women who exhibited almost male-like personas; who had a certain ballsy pose or attitude about them. In the 90s that type morphed into the ‘ladette’, a horrible specimen. The gentler more traditional female like Charlotte from Sex and the City gradually became more attractive again.
• Materialism: From a young age I had an almost sensual (sybaritic?) relationship with material things. I enjoyed the luxury and ownership of everything from toys as a kid to cars and musical instruments as a teenager. Later on I would eschew that with an attitude of renunciation and near asceticism.
• Individualism: I believed people should be allowed to be themselves as fully as possible; that they should be answerable to their own set of values only. Such a view is widespread now. With hindsight it is naive and misappropriates the essential need for common cause.
• Non-political: Then I was so not interested in political issues. I saw politics as dull, very uncool and probably corrupt. Now, if anything, and against the grain, I’ve come to revere the liberal political system as one of the great achievements of humanity. People have no sense of how bad it was before.
• Boundaries: I was a great blurrer of the boundaries back then. I made a speciality of merging friendship and sex, work and play, and whatever else. Although probably still my favoured MO it is now a practice much maligned by the therapeutic community. It’s considered risky and dangerous, and bad for relationships. Maybe so.
as a teenager I had attitudes
that had a prescience about them