Making a formal approach

My current introspective retro phase would not be complete without sufficient attention being paid to formals. School formals. Grade 12 formals. Or Year 12 as they say in the new currency.

As a mum, I witnessed my daughter Jade’s Year 12 formal. She was an All Hallows girl, so those of you from Brisbane will know exactly what I’m talking about – a school on a large tract of land, smack bang on the river, good elevation, naturally freehold title to the Catholic faith.

Mind you, I was a Lourdes Hill girl – again, a large tract of land, smack bang on the River, good elevation, naturally freehold title to the Catholic faith. I was merely continuing the generation

That Pope of ours is quite asset-wealthy, I figure.

I’ll get onto Jade’s formal eventually, in a separate post. You need to hear about mine first. This story is too good to gloss over.

To start with, I did not have a date. I’d just broken up with a Villanova boy called David (for my out-of-town readers, Villanova being a boys Catholic school built on a hill in Brisbane; David being either something once in Royal City or so the Christmas carol leads us to believe; or my first true love – if anyone reading knows him, please ask him to drop me a Facebook friend request.)

Now, back in 1982, gays weren’t fashionable nor recognised, so I couldn’t use that card. We didn’t have boys as “friends”. We didn’t even consider boys as equals. Your brother was a close as you could get to “a mate”. Or a formal date

So in lieu of taking my brother, I pleaded with a girlfriend to cough up a mate of her boyfriend’s. Pathetic. I know. I was desperate.

His name was Louis and his car of choice to drive me to my formal was an open-topped Suzuki 4WD. Imagine what that did to my carefully coiffured hair. And my self-esteem.

Considering my self-esteem had already taken a battering. And here’s why. With my part-time income from Woolworths, I’d bought this hideous dress which I thought was the epitome of elegance. However, my darling mother and all her 1950s neurotic upbringing alerted me to the fact that only prostitutes wore black underwear. Therefore I was forced to wear a beige bra under this black chiffon creation. You can imagine the result. Or see it for yourself in the pic I’ve included

On top of that, I got it in my head that I would look elegant and sophisticated if I had my hair up. Back then, my hair was long and naturally blonde but I wanted it styled in a manner that made me resemble Princess Anne on a good hair/bad horse day.

I’ve never looked uglier.

The only concession out of this is that I continually win when we have “bring in your ugly childhood photo” day at work. The prize is that I get to eat the last Tim-Tam.

My school issued a set of rules for our formal, a 1982 code of conduct, if you will. One of the rules: “girls are encouraged not to smoke at the formal”. As opposed to the 2010 version: “girls will be instantly expelled if caught within four metres of someone who used to smoke 10 years ago”. Look at this pic – yes, he’s smoking!

There were nuns a-plenty at my school, meaning there were nuns a-plenty at the formal. If you were sitting on a boy’s lap, or having a bit of a canoodle (what a gorgeous word) they would barge right up and melodically say “telephone book, telephone book” which was code for “get off that boy, you are one second away from getting pregnant, I don’t care that he goes to St Laurance’s” (insert Melbourne Grammar, Scots College, Eton etc, whatever your geographical equivalent).

Even back in 1982, we still had “post formals”. My daughter would like to believe that her generation invented this concept. Like they believe they invented sex, getting drunk and lying to your parents. It was with great glee that I told her she was about 25 years in arrears.

My mum and dad, bless them, had prepared chicken, cheese and champagne as our after-formal supper. Again, the height of 80s sophistication – a BBQ chook chopped up, some cubed Coon and a bottle of the frightful Asti Riccadonna.

Except in the 30-minute period they spent standing at the front fence waiting for their young charges to arrive, our dog, a loyal but hungry cattle dog, happily jumped up on the table and devoured the chicken and cheese, bones included. I think he was almost waiting for my Dad to fill his water bowl up with Riccadonna. Not a bad move. Less for me.

And you have to remember, this was the Brisbane days of no pizza delivery, everything worthwhile shut at 8pm, no 7-11 or Night Owl.

Mum, ever the stalwart, found us some pickled onions. We didn’t care. We were already pickled.

Louis and I had a “pleasant” evening. He and his pale grey suit truly wanted to get out of the disaster zone and away from my freakish hair as quickly as possible.

To this day, I still wished I’d got a “disco pash” at my formal. Even if the dog was watching.

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Comments

  1. Bron – it was funny reading this post of yours as I am currently gathering photos for our 20 year school reunion and tonight was looking at photos of our school formal. Oh my god – 80's fashions are an embarrassment when you look back at them!

    Our class voted to do things a bit different and we didn't have any partners (unless they were both in our class of course) and had our parents attend our formal dinner. It actual ended up being a pretty good night as there was no stress about not having a date – and then we all ditched the oldies afterwards for the after party!

  2. Love this post, it brought back so many memories as I too was a 1982 girl and also much to both my daughters surprise went to a “post”and even more horrific I went to schoolies too. The only difference is that both my girls wore nice dresses and had nice partners.

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