Traffic lights, Glen Waverley, 1984
No-one does scorn like a teenage girl. At fourteen, Swagata deployed hers regularly, with rolling eyes and tossing black plait. Two years younger and far more timid, I watched her like a rabbit in a cattery. When her father’s red Nissan turned up to drive us home from school, she sat beside him surfing radio stations and I sat behind and lay low.
One winter afternoon, at a red light in Glen Waverley, Cyndi Lauper’s She-Bop came on.
Swagata’s father started listening to the lyrics and his brow furrowed deeper and deeper. “What is this… bop?” he asked, looking at his daughter to clarify.
With a withering sigh at his middle-aged ignorance, Swagata went in, guns blazing. “Bop, Dad,” she said, in scathing tones. “B-O-P. Bop. It’s a kind of dance.” His eyebrows rose and his eyes went shifty, but he wisely said “Ah yes,” and drove on.
Many years later, in a fit of nostalgia, I bought Cyndi Lauper’s greatest hits collection. She’d titled it Twelve Deadly Cyns and included a fold-out with lyrics. As I skimmed this idly, my eye fell on She-Bop and stopped at the line They say I’d better stop or I’ll go blind. Hang on, I thought. I scanned the rest of the song again. Wanna go south and get me some more. Can’t stop messing with the danger zone. Ain’t no law against it yet.
I thought back to Swagata’s dad in the car, that afternoon in 1984. For all her scorn, fourteen-year-old Swagata had revealed herself to be far more naïve than her father. She and I had missed what was obvious to him. A chuckle bubbled up as I remembered how he’d nodded and avoided her eye. Ignorant of youth slang and music he might have been, but in other things Dad really had known best.
© Fiona Price. Fiona never recovered from her love of ‘80s pop. She has also written a Stereo Story about Hold On by the Models. Her debut novel is Let Down Your Hair, a re-telling of the Rapunzel fairytale in the era of selfies and smartphones.