Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

It’s no surprise girls dream of becoming Pussycat Dolls?

Pussycat Dollsgirlband

In their latest chart hit the Pussycat Dolls purr ‘When I grow up I wanna be famous!’

Of course, we all know they’re being ironic. These are, after all, fully-grown and perfectly formed women famous for doing a Bada Bing-style striptease on stage, but we get the point.

And so do all the little kids who went out and bought the single, because the lyrics just about sum up the wishful thinking of a whole generation.

Yes, apparently teachers and community leaders are becoming increasingly alarmed that all kids want nowadays is just to get on the telly. Girls want to be WAGs, socialites or in girlbands, boys want to be football strikers who make an extra living out of franchises and chat shows.

But before we all start panicking about the corruption of youth and the breakdown of traditional values, I suggest that these concerned commentators take a moment to recall their own childhood daydreams ...

When I was little, what I wanted to be depended almost entirely on what I had just watched on TV or at the cinema.

“I think I will be Princess Tup-Tim of Siam,” I announced some time around the age of six. Dad had taken me to see The King & I at the cinema and I wanted to become her so I could marry Yul Brynner and live at that fabulous glittering stage-set palace. Like a typical child, I could see absolutely no reason why this would not be possible.

By seven I was more realistic: I wanted to be a nun. But not any old nun, of course.

I wanted to be an Audrey Hepburn-type of nun, like the character she played in the movie The Nun’s Story. Fortunately I had the sense to keep this one to myself. Had I announced it to any of the nuns at school I would have been signed up as a bride of Christ and drafted into a life of chastity and poverty before you could say Bob’s thy uncle.

A trip to see the latest James Bond movie and I wanted to become a Russian spy with Sean Connery in hot pursuit. Then an evening watching The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, followed by Alias Smith & Jones left me determined to make it as a scuba-diving underwater cameraman but if that didn’t work out I would settle for a bank-robbing poker player.

And those were just the human characters.

I also had a notion to be a super-marionated mute mermaid with extra-sensory skills like Marina from Stingray, just so that I could catch the attention of the dreamy Troy Tempest and be serenaded by him: “Marina, Aqua Marina, What are these strange enchantments that start whenever you’re near ...”

The fact that he was made of rigid plastic and had visible strings attached to his extremities wasn’t ever an issue.

Then, perversely, after watching Thunderbirds, I wanted to be Virgil Tracy. In my fantasy world anything was possible, even crossing over from the human race to the puppet world and switching genders at the same time.

Then I saw Top Cat and things got really complicated. An animated cartoon of a male cat? Yep, I wanted to be him, too. A cross-gender, cross-species, cross-media cartoon character, he was funny and cool and that was enough for me. I wanted to be Top Cat when I grew up and nothing was going to stop me.

The point I’m making is, kids will aspire to become anything and anyone, attainable or not, realistic or downright fantastical. It’s just a normal part of growing up and usually bears little relation to who we become decades later.

Heck, if all my ambitions had come true, I’d be a poker-playing, gun-wielding, marine biologist mermaid by now, employed by both MI5 and International Rescue, married to a 19th-century Thai tyrant and living a life of chastity and poverty amongst a community of stray cats.

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