Read Puberty Blues Online

Authors: Gabrielle Carey

Puberty Blues

About the Book

By day, we were at school learning logarithms, but by night—in the back of cars, under the bowling alley, on Cronulla Beach, or, if you were lucky, in a bed while someone's parents were out—you paid off your friendship ring.

For Deb and Sue, life is about surfies, panel vans, straight-leg Levis, nicking off from school, getting wasted and fitting in. But why should guys have all the fun?
Puberty Blues
is raw, humorous and honest: the definitive Australian story of teenagers navigating the chaos of life.

To Virginia Ferguson
our literary godmother

1
down the beach

WHEN we were thirteen, the coolest things to do were the things your parents wouldn't let you do. Things like have sex, smoke cigarettes, nick off from school, go to the drive-in, take drugs and go to the beach.

The beach was the centre of our world. Rain, snow, hail, a two-hour wait at the bus stop, or being grounded, nothing could keep us from the surf. Us little surfie chicks, chirping our way down on the train. Hundreds of us in little white shirts, short-sleeved jumpers, thongs and straight-legged Levis covering little black bikinis. We flocked to the beach. Cheep. Cheep.

There were three main sections of Cronulla Beach—South Cronulla, North Cronulla and Greenhills. Everyone was trying to make it to Greenhills.
That's where the top surfie gang hung out—the prettiest girls from school and the best surfies on the beach. The bad surfboard riders on their ‘L' plates, the Italian family groups and the ‘uncool' kids from Bankstown (Bankies), swarmed to South Cronulla—Dickheadland. That's where it all began. We were dickheads.

If you were lucky, your boyfriend would meet you at the station, but usually it was a half-day search through blonde-headed, denim-legged, cigarette-smoking surfboard riders. Searching for
your
Greg.
Your
Wayne.
Your
Bruce. Whoever you happened to be going around with at the time.

I was going around with Greg. I'd met him at South Cronulla. He was my first ever Surfie boyfriend. He couldn't surf but he was better than a Bankie. He may have had a red Coolite, but he'd stuck a fin in it. Sue had her eye on Darryl. He was Greg's best friend. Sue was mine.

Off went the boys into the big, blue sea. Sue and I sat there on the sand. Ten o'clock, eleven o'clock, twelve o'clock … warming up the towel, folding his clothes into neat little piles, fetching the banana fritters and chocolate thick-shakes and watching him chuck endless re-entries.

‘Didja see me kneel?'

‘Yeah. It was great.'

‘I got this really good one and I looked up and
you weren't lookin'!
'

‘I was. I saw you. I did.'

‘Where's the fritters?'

‘Here yar.'

By this time Sue and I were starving too but we couldn't eat anything. Skinniness was inniness. Girls never ate in front of their boyfriends. It was unladylike to open your mouth and shove something in it. We were also busting to go to the dunny, but that was too rude for girls. Our stomachs rumbled and our bladders burst. It was a great day at the beach.

Then off they went again, into the big, blue sea, and there we sat. Two o'clock, three o'clock, four o'clock … checking out the guys, sneaking a red ice-block and flirting when I thought Greg wasn't looking.

To pass the time we kept an eyeball peeled for our dreaded enemies—the Bankies, from the greasy western suburbs. They were easy to spot with their yellow T-shirts, Amco jeans, terry-towelling hats, one-piece swimming costumes, worn-out Coolie surfboards and white zinc plastered from ear to ear.

‘Oh, I'd wear Amcos for sure.'

‘Spot on. Huh! Like ya Coolite!'

‘Bankstowner … Er … Pew.'

We gave them heaps.

Finally the sun went down and out came a little blonde, bedraggled, dripping, drowned rat—my boyfriend.

While Greg and Darryl got changed, they sent us off to get their munchies. The art of changing in and out of boardshorts at the beach was always done
behind a towel or when your girlfriend was at the shop. The ultimate disgrace for a surfie was to be seen in his scungies. They were too much like underpants. The boys didn't want us checking out the size of their dicks. Greg gorged the meat pie I bought him as we walked up to the station.

‘Where's me towel?' he asked, halfway there.

‘I haven't got it.'

‘Well, I haven't got it! Wait here. Mind this.' He handed me half a sloppy tomato-sauce-sodden meat pie. ‘
And don't eat it!
'

‘Okay.'

Off he ran, thongs flapping, blonde hair flowing.

Then it was a half-hour wait. I was starving. The meat pie was getting cold. There it was in my hot little hand …

‘Where's me pie?'

I looked at him blankly.

‘
Where's me pie?
' Sue and I stood speechless. ‘
You ate it!
' He threw his towel at me. ‘
You're dropped!
'

Not to worry, he was to drop me ninety-four more times in our relationship.

 

But in the end, I dropped Greg. He was a rotten surfer. He could only kneel. I decided he was a bit of a Bankie. You didn't have to come from Bankstown to be a Bankie. It just meant anyone who was uncool. Sue dropped Darryl too. We didn't tell them; we just started hanging at North Cronulla.

North Cronulla was north of South Cronulla, and exactly the same really, except the waves were bigger, the boys were older, the shop was closer, the hair was longer and the rank was higher.

We checked out a group of guys sitting on the hill. The Hill Gang. Sue and I walked past a few times and then sat on the rocks nearby. Giggling, we glanced in their direction. I widened my eyes and pouted, trying to look cute. Finally they came over and asked for the time.

Soon I was going round with Mark. He was cooler than the South Cronulla-ites. He had a real Jackson surfboard—with
two
fins on it: a twin fin. Sue had her eye on Warwick. He was Mark's best friend.

Off he went into the deep-blue sea and there I sat on the hill … warming up the towel, folding his clothes into neat little piles, fetching the Chiko rolls and watching him chuck endless cut-backs. When he was a long way out, Sue and I checked out the guys. They were spunkier at North Cronulla. The spunk was thicker and the Bankies fewer.

‘There he is!'

It was Darren Peters—the top surfing spunk of the sixth form.

‘Where?'

‘There! Over there on the wall.'

‘Oh Gord. What a doll.'

‘Oh, what'll we do? Follow him?'

‘No, just sit 'ere.'

‘Oh no. He's looking!'

‘Don't look.'

‘Smile!'

‘No. He'll think I'm trying to crack onoo him.'

‘Oh, there he goes. Oooohhhhh.'

‘Oh, he's with that moll. Lucky bitch.'

She was a moll cause she walked everywhere in her bikini. That meant she was showing off her body and was an easy root. You could sit in your bikini but never walk. Spring, summer, autumn, winter, we walked along the beach in Levis, white shirts and thongs.

But then there were the Bankie bikini-wearers.

One day as we sat there on the hill in the blazing hot sun in full dress uniform, a few of our North Cronulla gang started to chuckle. We looked up. There, walking along the beach front, was a tall, skinny, pretzel-looking albino beanpole in a terry-towelling bikini.

‘Check out the mohair stockings!'

‘I'd walk along the beach with a figure like that for sure.'

She walked along the sand oblivious, leaving a blazing trail of sniggering brown surfies. Her white, hairy body glowed as she loped up the beach.

‘Flatsey! Flatsey! You're flat and that's that!' we chorused mockingly.

‘Untold zits.'

‘Hey ghost features!'

She turned around.

I nudged Sue in horror. It was Judy! Sue's next-door neighbour. We ducked, suddenly fascinated by my right thong. If she saw us we were goners. She'd rush over and say hello. It wasn't cool to know a Bankie chick. We'd be expelled by the Hill Gang and sent back to South Cronulla, in disgrace with our towels between our legs. Back to Dickheadland, where there were millions of Judys, with flat chests, hairy legs and Coolites. Mark saved the day.

‘Where's me Chiko roll?' he said, dripping all over us.

We ran all too enthusiastically up the beach in the opposite direction.

 

Sue and I were trying to make it into the ultimate surfie gang at Greenhills. It was special—the prettiest and coolest girls at school and the best surfers on the beach. Brown and blonde, they stood out in the school playground. The girls were skinny, hair-free, care-free and girlie. They were the shortest uniforms, the most mascara and a friendship ring. Ninety-nine per cent of their time was spent on the roofs of their houses with a bottle of baby oil. For hours they basked, baked and blistered, trying to get browner than Tracey and Cheryl. Sylvania Heights is full of nineteen-year-old girls looking like shrivelled up ninety-year-olds.

The passport into this surfie gang was a brief halter-neck bikini, a pair of straight-legged Levis, a packet
of Marlboro cigarettes, a suntan and, if you really wanted to make it, long, blonde hair. To graduate into the surfie gang you had to be desired by one of the surfie boys, tell off a teacher, do the Scotch drawback and know all about sex. You had to be not too fat, but not too skinny. You had to be not too slack, but not too tight. Friendly, but not forward. You had to wear just enough make-up but never overdo it. You had to be interested in surfing, but not interested enough to surf. The surfie girls had a special walk. It was a slow and casual meander. They slouched their shoulders, sunk into their hips and thrust their pelvises forward.

The surfie boys were brown and broad. The longer and blonder the hair, the better. They never wore full school uniform. Their shirts were always hanging out. If they wore school ties, they hung like limp spaghetti round their necks. They never wore underpants but kept their scungies on at all times, always ready to leap into the surf. The better they surfed, the higher their rank. The passport into a surfie gang for boys was a surfboard, a pair of boardshorts, a pair of straight-legged Levis, a packet of Marlboro cigarettes and long, blonde hair. To graduate into the surfie gang you had to have your name called out at assembly, regular canings, and having ‘broken in' a couple of young surfie chicks. The surfie boys had a special walk. They bounded along in their rubber thongs, keeping their torsos stiff, sturdy as a lighthouse.

Every school in the southern Sydney suburbs
had a surfie gang—the ‘in', cool heavies. They had all the fun. They sneaked down to the creek to kiss and cuddle at lunchtime. They smoked cigarettes. They put eggshells in Mrs Yelland's peanut-butter sandwich. On sunny days they truanted and went to the beach. Then there'd be a big hole in the middle of the quadrangle, at lunchtime, where they usually sat. They had their claimed territory that no one else ventured upon, at school, up the back of the bus and at the beach.

They went out together on Friday and Saturday nights. They got drunk. They had boyfriends and girlfriends. They disobeyed their parents. But the surfie gang had a big, more important family of its own.

The kids who weren't in on the gang spent Friday and Saturday nights at home. They wore flared Amco jeans. They read books. They went to church fellowship and had never heard of Led Zeppelin. If you weren't a surfie chick, you were a nobody. You were a nurd. You could always tell nurds at school. They wore their uniforms longer than ours—two inches over their underpants. They were goody-goodies. They didn't smoke. They were never on detention. Never got their names called out at assembly. They were never in the corridor, never in the headmaster's office and
never
up the back of the bus. But most of all, they didn't have boyfriends. If they
were
‘going round' with anyone, he was bound to have short back and sides, acne and play handball. We thought they were virgin prudes.

Once you made it into the surfie gang, you were a top chick, with a spunky boyfriend. Everyone knew who you were and you knew everyone who mattered.

More than anything, Sue and I wanted to be in the Greenhills Gang. We went through endless packets of Marlboro, practising the drawback. We took up our uniforms. We roasted on the roof all day and rubbed cream into each other all night. If you wanted to get into the gang, you had to crawl after and suck up to all the gang girls. ‘Sure! I can lend ya ten cents. Here yar. Have me lunch. Dead-set, I'm not hungry, I just had a curried chop in home science … Geez, you looked priddy on Fridee night at the dance, Kim. Yeah, all the guys were stoked. Should've seen Darren Peters lookin' at ya! … Yeah, reckon, Kerrie's a two-faced bitch. I hate her too.' We lent them our bus fares and walked home, told them how good they looked, offered them cigarettes, agreed with whatever they said and laughed at all their jokes. But nothing worked. We just couldn't get into the Greenhills Gang.

At eight o'clock every morning there'd be a mad rush for the back of the school bus. Everybody had their appointed seat. Every day the same seat next to the same person.

Sue and I raced up the aisle.

‘Oh, watch out!' I shrieked, tripping. ‘I'd put me bag in the middle of the aisle for sure!'

The smoke was already billowing up from the back of the bus. We sat three seats from the back.

‘Gimme a cigarette,' moaned Sue. ‘I'm so nervous. I didn't do
any
study. I'm packin' shit.'

‘It's cool.' I hitched up my uniform revealing a list of the industrial revolution's consequences between 1850 and 1919. The tops of my thighs were green and blue, covered with facts and dates and names. I handed her a pen.

‘Perf!' she said.

I showed off my legs to the girls around me. Gail and Sharon and the other girls from my history class followed suit.

‘Hey!' Sue nudged me. ‘Here comes Darren.'

‘What a deadset doll.'

Darren Peters strode by. He was tall and brown with long blonde hair. Everyone in the aisle parted and the backhangers made room. Darren Peters sat in the very middle of the back seat. The back of the school bus was sacred. It was reserved exclusively for the Greenhills Gang. Cheryl Nolan was already up there, lounging, laughing loudly and flashing her brown thighs. Danny Dixon's hand was darting suspiciously into the folds of her tunic. They flirted, smoked and swore at the first formers and prefects who sat up the very front of the bus in their long uniforms, gloves and hats, reading books. We'd graduated three-quarters of the way down the bus. We hadn't made it all the way yet, but we were determined.

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