Advent 5 Remembering a time before skinny was good
Although I dutifully attended Sunday school throughout my childhood and teenage years, it always struck me, that when some pious person announced that God had called them to a different way of life, it was seldom a change that they didn’t actually fancy for themselves.
Should somebody have renounced a highly paid, agreeable career and a sparkling social life hanging out in fashionable nightspots, I’d have been impressed. But when someone sitting in an uninspiring office bored to tears, suddenly heard a divine call to travel to foreign parts and serve the poor, I did wonder that the Almighty’s wish had so mysteriously presented such a convenient and welcome escape
I was always a cynic I suppose.
This occurred to me recently while talking to a young relative who was confessing how much she hated school and the exam treadmill. Learning was no longer any joy to her.
But she saw no easy way out, short of Jesus calling her to be a sunbeam in some benighted area of the world. She was desperately seeking a good excuse to escape the oppressive, spirit-sapping slog of A levels and the module upon module examinations that university education had become.
I thought how different my experience had been fifty years ago.
To be sure school was often monotonous, but it was not a prison sentence. Only a few of us aspired to college or university. There was full employment, so if you weren’t suited by school, you simply left and got a job. You didn’t need qualifications for many jobs, so there was no inescapable pressure to achieve exam success.
For instance, my best friend left school as a young teenager with no qualifications and few skills. She lied and claimed to be able to type at a reasonable speed. After a few days her employer discovered her deficiencies, but finding her a cheerful, willing youngster ready to work and learn, kept her on and trained her up.
Neither was there the extreme pressure experienced nowadays to be physically perfect, nor the competitiveness to sport expensive designer gear. We still made many of our own clothes and, while we wanted to be like the film stars we saw on screen and in magazines, this only amounted to stuffing padding in our bras! We actually wanted to put weight on!
Until Twiggy came along, being teenage skinny was not a good look!
My young friend, however, was model thin, but still far from happy.
“I hate the way everybody just wants loads of stuff!” she lamented. “All that matters is what you have and how much it costs!”
While she might politely listen to the memories of my teenage years, they were as far removed to her own experience as the Middle Ages.
In terms of material goods and career opportunities she and her contemporaries had, and have, so much more than we ever did.
But, bombarded with the relentless advertising for Christmas stuff, all she longed for was the comparative simplicity of a different age!