At sixteen I was desperate to rebel against my parents. I didn’t dislike them; they were perfectly fine as parents go. But I was sixteen, chafing under the bit of their authoritative yoke. I needed me some rebellion!
I experimented with calling them by first names then I failed a school choir audition and cried for Mommy and Daddy. I stole Dad’s cigarettes. He didn’t notice. I stomped to the breakfast table wearing borrowed Doc Martins, mismatched knee-high argyles, artfully ripped t-shirt, neon tutu and denim jacket I had tortured then repaired with a hundred safety pins à la Donatella Frankenstein. My mother grinned. She told me about the plastic mini skirt she had loved when she was my age: black with yellow daisies worn over shiny white Go-go boots. Outwardly I mocked her absurd fashion sense; inwardly I cursed her for not keeping these vintage relics to pass on to me.
Honestly! What was it going to take to get a reaction from these people? Tattooed boyfriend? Mom critiqued the shading around Betty Boop’s boobs inked on his bicep. Obnoxious punk music? Dad bought me a walkman—I was the first of my friends to have one. Arrested at a political rally? Just try and shock former flower children with that one!
Fail. Fail. Fail. Against the front of my parents’ open-minded, freedom-loving, daisy-painted tolerance this rebellion seemed doomed.
‘Instigate Generational War!’ vowed I.
But how? Who could possibly battle against the stubbornly non-confrontational? An answer came on a pure beam of sunlight bursting through parted clouds across an azure sky. Sympathetic to my recent musical failure at school, my friend Michelle, invited me to join her church choir.
‘Church choir?’ I grimaced at the hymnal she handed me. Its cover depicted a beam of sunlight bursting through clouds. ‘Why would I want to join a church choir? I don’t even like Amazing Grace. I’d have to attend church every Sunday and my parents would not approve of—
My parents would not approve. My atheist parents never set foot in church unless attending a wedding (even then it would have to be the wedding of someone they really loved) or a funeral (even then it would have to be the funeral of someone they really hated). If I joined a church they would be furious.
Michelle’s church choir welcomed their new alto with open arms and voices. But I didn’t stop there: baptism, confirmation, youth ministry. I even preached an Easter Sunrise Service. I dressed the part as well, building a collection of vintage cocktail dresses, Mary Jane shoes and dainty cross jewellery. I looked like the Catholic school fetishist poster girl of 1957.
Best of all was the expression on my parents’ faces when they reluctantly attended the baptism. Forced to conceal their fury and horror, they sat in awkward tight-lipped silence on the edge of their pew. Those patent leathers of mine clicked delightedly. God blessed my successful rebellion!