Thanks holidays, for showing me how things have changed
The kids still look miserable when a cold wind blows. The car still fills with sand on the way home. And a hot shower still fixes everything by 10am.
I’ve been watching the kids do VACSWIM at Port Vincent all this week – on the same beach where I splashed my way through the iconic summer swimming program 30-odd years ago.
A few things have remained the same since the ’70s – but a whole lot’s different too.
Coffee, for one thing.
My parents would no more have strayed from their gigantic can of International Roast to pay $4 for a cardboard cappuccino than fly to Melbourne for a shopping weekend.
These days there are more takeaway lattes on the beach than littlies. (Though blissfully, Port Vincent does not boast “baristas” – that wanky word used by “coffee makers” to legitimise charging like wounded bulls.)
“Mr” and “Mrs” have had their day in the sun, too.
Remember when calling an adult by their first name earned you a clip behind the ear? It was auntie or uncle or Mr and Mrs What’s-their-name.
My generation changed all that, no doubt to avoid thinking of ourselves as old farts like our own parents. (Hasn’t worked: one kid asked if I was Jack and Harry’s Nanna this week, earning himself a Julie Bishop death stare that shut him up quite nicely.)
I don’t know if it really matters that kids are on first-name terms with adults (even in some schools, which still seems wrong to me), but I do think most parents would agree the lines are more blurred – and respect more scarce – than when we were little.
I yearn for the lollies of yesteryear, too.
Inflation has killed off the 20-cent bag of mixed lollies, that gloriously rich array of decadence savoured right down to the last, unloved licorice ball.
The Big Boss Cigar – the epitome of beach hip in the ’70s – has been stubbed out, too.
And I still can’t believe Fags have been sanitised as lame-o Fads, lest the kids get so addicted to white cylindrical confectionary that they reach for Mummy’s B&H. (Funny that kids still pretend to smoke them, even without the alluring pre-lit red tip.)
Back in my day, a rashie was what you got when you rode your bike before your bathers dried off.
The more flesh the better, preferably lathered in a cheap brand of coconut oil for faster frying.
Today we swaddle our kids from head to toe in hats, sun shirts and 30+ sunscreen.
It’s a sensible, simple safety precaution, particularly when you consider that around 115 South Aussies still die from melanoma skin cancer every year.
But despite all the warnings, isn’t it funny how most of us parents don’t don rashies ourselves?
I can’t get my head around the growing fashion consciousness of teenage boys, either.
Even at the beach, many look like they’ve spent more time in front of the mirror than their sisters – and there’s not a pair of skanky old footy shorts in sight, just loud boardies in the latest colours positioned above boldly branded designer undies.
Not that there’s anything wrong with all that – especially in the eyes of hair product and jocks manufacturers, I’m sure.
It’s just different, that’s all.
But then it is 30-odd years, and not all changes are for the bad.
These days, if I want to pretend smoke a packet of Fads, I don’t need to plead with my mum Mrs Barnes. I’m not the one braving the water when it’s windy. And my takeaway coffee sure tastes nice with those cinnamon donuts that just weren’t around in the ’70s.
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