(Post by Paul Fitzpatrick, of London – February 2021)
I’m not sure how younger people hook-up now but in the days before swiping left or right or Instagram profiles or tic-tac or WhatsApp or whatever the latest platform is, there was no alternative but face-to-face contact. (I’m discounting love letters here because the writing, spelling and grammar of most 70s schoolboys was not particularly good).
To get things in perspective though, this face-to-face caper was normally between your best mate/trusted messenger’s plooky kisser and your intended belle’s angelic coupon – with your pal uttering the immortal words “my mate fancies you” or if they were feeling particularly articulate – “hey, will you go out with my pal”.
This wasn’t one-way traffic of course, but as normal, girls were always a lot smarter & cuter. They’d build up a valuable database of information first and then devise a plan before any approaches were made:
“are you going to the party/disco?”
“is there anyone you fancy at the moment?”
“do you like girls with feather cuts”
“do you think Senga’s nice?”
… lots of insightful, savvy questions building up knowledge and acumen so that they could make smart, informed decisions.
In fact, leading barristers would do well to study this craftmanship.
As boys we were a monosyllabic bunch back then, particularly when taken out of our natural habitat, with grunts regularly replacing diction.
I often think that ‘the art of conversation & small talk’ would have been a better subject for many of us as opposed to Algebra and the like, and as Billy Connolly said, “why should I learn Algebra, I’m never going to go there!”
In hindsight I’ve realised that although I went to a co-ed school and would regularly exchange pleasantries, I never really spoke to girls there.
We’d play football at breaks and the girls would do their thing. We’d sit together as boys on the school bus and so would the girls, and the rest of the time we were in class, just trying to keep up with them.
The bizarre thing is – that at some point we started to go to local discos and parties to basically try and engage with the same people we were in effect ignoring every day.
Even at discos we’d stay in our little groups though. The girls socialising and dancing, the guys being fascinated for the umpteenth time by the ultra-violet lights making everything look whiter (apart from our teeth), trying to look cool whilst shouting to be heard over Silver Machine by Hawkwind.
Every now and then though a strange occurrence took place, and us boys would actually make an effort to dance and interact.
Well, I call it dancing and interacting, it was actually a strange ritual that consisted of tapping a girl on the shoulder, awkwardly wriggling about in front of her for 3 minutes, whilst trying to avoid stamping on her handbag, and then walking away, without a word being uttered.
I’m not even sure how this counts as human interaction, but it sort of did, back then.
There was always a critical point of the evening though, when decisions had to be made. At parties it was normally 15 minutes before you were due to get chucked out and someone would conveniently switch the lights off so lips could meet, and at discos, it was the slow dances at the end of the evening.
The slow dances or moonies as we called them were a ritual in themselves and the best DJ’s would usually play three of them which gave everyone three opportunities to get a lumber (Glasgow colloquialism for a ‘partner for the evening’).
One moonie just wasn’t enough, there was too much pressure and besides it took some lads one, even two moonies to strike up the courage to ask a girl for a slow dance.
Also, someone might have zipped in ahead of you to get to your intended partner first, but if you knew there were still two moonies to come, you could bide your time to see how that all panned out.
This was a complex and sophisticated procedure crammed into 12 action-packed minutes, but it was usually the most important 12 minutes of the evening.
It was a strange procession indeed…
Guys who had been playing Joe Cool all night were suddenly flustered and flapping around.
Discerning music lovers who would only shake their tail feathers to certain ‘cool’ songs, or selected, favourite artists, were now happily swooning to David Cassidy’s latest schmaltzy ballad.
If you could take a snapshot, you would see all sorts of weird and wonderful images, everything from – snogging couples conjoined by the lips, in the early throes of passion to girls ducking and weaving like Mike Tyson in order to avoid the slobbery advances of the guy with WHT (wandering hand trouble) who up until that point had been ignoring them all night.
Mostly what you’d see however is a lot of young people wanting to fit in and be accepted. The majority wearing the same clothes, sporting the same haircuts, doing the same dance moves, and going along with the crowd, as that was always the safest thing to do.
Getting a lumber at the end of the evening wasn’t that important in the grand scheme of things, but it sure felt like it at the time. A badge of honour or a box ticked.
After the event you’d invariably walk home with your buddies recounting the highlights of the evening, making your wee night in a church hall sound like a New Year’s Eve extravaganza at Studio 54.
Looking back, it was all one big ritual; preparing and looking forward to the event, deciding what you were going to wear, the pre-disco formalities (travel, refreshments), the event itself and of course the aftermath, where the evening’s events would be the topic of conversation for the next few days.
They were good days though, lots of fun, and all part of navigating your way through those awkward teenage years.
As always, I connect memories to music so here’s a link to my 70s Moonie playlist.
You can use this to slow-dance in the kitchen with the guy/gal you lumbered 40 odd years ago at the local disco, and haven’t been able to shake off yet 😁
p.s. and yes, even I know a tic-tac is a refreshing mint!