I imagine it was probably 1988.
We were about 7 or 8 at the time.
There was a movie that played on television, and all the kids were talking about it. Ok, the girls were. Ok, one of them was. She was the rebel kid who I was part scared of, and part in awe of. Her mum had been to Bali. Her parents had leopard print wallpaper. Her dad wore leather pants.
I didn’t really know what the hell she was doing when she sent one of the girls in our group over to the fence where the tree with the fejoas was planted (I also didn’t know what a fejoa was… damn I was sheltered) and then made another girl walk up to the exiled girl and declare “no-one puts baby in the corner”. I figured we were just commencing a more savage game of mums and dads.
A couple of weeks later I was let in on the secret.
There was a ‘dirty’ movie that had played on television past my bedtime.
It was about dancing. It wasn’t ballet or jazz or anything else my parents would have considered age appropriate for my fejoa-unaware 8 year old self.
So of course I wanted to know what all the fuss was about.
We whispered in bedrooms filled with Carebears, and My Little Ponies (the original 80’s kind, not the crappy long necked bastardized versions you can get today). We needed to see this film. It seemed important.
There was a girl that lived over the road from my best friend. She was beautiful and a few years older than us. Word on the street was, she had ‘taped it off T.V’ (there’s a phrase that doesn’t get used anymore) Through hushed telephone calls (cellphones were a thing of the future, along with jetpacks and fake presidents) and a deep seated feeling of church girl rebellion, we managed to sneak over to her house and watch (in several 30 min increments) the film that is still my go-to when a bad PMS bout hits: Dirty Dancing.
I am aware I have now probably lost 90% of my male audience; to the two men that read this blog… sorry, there will be something in here for you one of these days.
Watching Dirty Dancing was probably the inaugural event that sparked in me a realisation that relationships were something to aspire to.
It had major redemptive qualities.
And it gave us something to try in the public swimming pool.
(Note: that was an fan reference, don’t be gross)
But it was hard, you know? None of the boys I went out with (when I was actually old enough to watch the movie) knew how to do the Merengue. To be fair, neither did I, but they are supposed to teach you, then pull you up on stage and prove to everyone that you are meant to be together and it was really all Robby’s fault..
Which lead me to thinking, as I was watching it for the 112th time last night (which btw accounts for a shit load of PMS), that the concept of comparison truly does start at a very young age.
It would be far too cliche to wax lyrical about the Kardashian Kult or the girls in Vogue, so I won’t. Comparison can be more insidious. We kind of already get that all the girls are Photoshopped, and that celebrity news is often as accurate and legitimate as a Trump campaign.
The comparisons that work their way under our skin can involve issues around expectation.
“I expect that a business event will be a success because it worked for xyz”
“I expect I will have a ‘normal’ job any day now, just as society dictates I should”
“I expect that my children will pick me” (that one may require another couple of hundred dollars in therapy).
“I expect that if I study for 3 and a half years, have an A average, and the respect of my professors, I will be able to call myself successful and prove ‘you’ wrong”
“I expect if I eat well, and walk for hours every day my arse will look like it did 2 years ago.”
The comparisons aren’t always clear cut. They often stem from an intrinsic self-doubt or a sort of genetic expectation that “if x then y”.
“If boy, then girl”
“If girl, then boy”
“If woman, then children”
“If educated, then success”
But it’s not always the way. And f*ck it, that’s ok too. Who said these expectations were mandatory? Why can’t we accept that for some of us it’s “if x, then c, followed a week later by h, with a vacation somewhere in q, followed up with a stint in k, before settling into your own version of y”
But don’t feel bad. We all compare.
It’s how we gauge whether we are part of the ingroup (a psychological term, not that circle of girls who are trying to make (or not make) ‘fetch happen’).
Comparison can be good. If you harness it the right way; looking at your past and working out why something didn’t work for you and adjusting accordingly; acknowledging the achievements of others, but understanding why their path to success is never going to be the right one for you; why gelato will always be inferior to ice-cream.
Baby and Johnny (the characters in Dirty Dancing, not some unfortunately named friends of mine) realised they had a reason to fight the system.
They knew that standing up for what they wanted, even though they were on opposite ends of the economic class spectrum, was more important than the rage potential from Baby’s super conservative (carries a medical bag on vacation) father.
Sometimes you just have to get the hell out of the corner, and dance.