My five-year-old daughter currently spends a lot of time planning all the naughty things she will get up to when she is a teenager. She relishes telling me all her fantasies of rebellion and I pretend to be horrified and insist I shall lock her up in her bedroom and take away all her pocket money as punishment. I suppose if I wore crop tops and high heels and mountains of make-up then all her ideals of independence would be quite different. And quite honestly, I hope her mutinous musings remain as superficial as what she wears and eats and never drifts to all the dangerous deviations I shall strive forever to protect her from, at risk of driving her towards them.
But at the moment her colourful plots remind me of a favourite poem of mine – Warning by Jenny Joseph. And so in tribute to Joseph, and my rebellious tween, I have taken the liberty of penning my own parody.
When I am a teenager I shall dye my hair purple
And wear red high heels that give me blisters and that I can’t walk in properly
And I shall spend my pocket money on bubble gum and nail varnish
And bikinis, and say I’ve no money for the bus.
I shall sit on the pavement with my mates after school
And gobble up chips and play music on speaker phone
And film TikTok dances swinging off the public railings
And make up for the strictness of my youth.
I shall go out with no coat on in the rain
And watch 18 rated movies at other people’s houses.
And learn to twerk.
You can wear cropped t-shirts and show more flesh
And eat three pounds of pick ‘n’ mix at a go
Or only chocolate and crisps for a week
And hoard pens and make-up and jewellery and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And tidy our room and wait for the green man before we cross the street
And be a model example for the other parents.
We must eat vegetables for dinner and read our reading book.
But please let me practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am a teenager, and dye my hair purple.