I wanted to tell a memory of my Dad for Fathers Day and started thinking back to the days growing up when I started to be allowed out to school dances. Very different to the rules these days, I had an extremely conservative father who wanted to interview any prospective males before they were allowed to “take out his daughter”. Dating in groups seemed to be the accepted norm in the beginning or chaperoned dances at the local private school… we were talking about the 1960s after all.
In the local neighbourhood black was not socially accepted. A male in a black T shirt or with grease on his hair, black tight pants, even a black button up shirt (especially those with a palm tree on the pocket), was considered tacky and lower class …or as he described them as bodgies. You definitely would not go out with someone with white shoes. The girls in tight pants and revealing outfits were widgies, and any lads with long hair to my dad were “lazy and insecure”. I was allowed out with boys from only three different private schools. High schools and schools of particular religions were also considered not acceptable. So that placed considerable restrictions on my ability to find a date.
I ended up meeting a nice boy at a dancing class that was held on a Saturday morning in Brisbane. I use to go dancing with a number of girls from school and this tall and good looking guy became quite a partner on the dancing floor although I copped considerable flack from friends as he wore pink shirts. We met on weekends and he was tall and handsome and I was smitten. Of course Dad did not discover this was going on for about six months and then he totally banned me from going there. He even went to see the boy’s mother to put a stop to his seeing me, and he actually told her that her son was unacceptable. I felt locked up!
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Moving on… I finally got asked out by a guy from a private school that had a sports car. He had phoned me and asked me to go to a party and said he could pick me up and take me and bring me home. I was 16 and told to refuse him as he had a sports car and father thought that was far too dangerous. I can remember Mum and Dad sitting there discussing the dangers of the sports cars at my age. He told me to ask him over to “meet the parents”. What an embarrassment. There they were sitting in the lounge waiting to meet him and gosh, I could not believe the questions!
They wanted to know his plans for the future, his results at school, where he lived, what school he went to …the questions went on and on. And of course that news does not take time get around schoolkids. I was eventually allowed to go out on dates, but they made the guy with the sports car ring and ask three times before I was allowed to accept. When the guy dropped me on the first date I got told he was definitely not our cup of tea and they could have told me so from when they met him. In the end I stuck to meeting friends at the football or rowing or going to the beach with the girls for a while.
I can remember some time later a guy calling in to see me at home. He was a friend who was going to university and I had met him through some friends at school. When father opened the front door and saw him and his long hair he yelled out to me “Gillian there is some long hair layabout at the door, come and get rid of him”. That was yet another eligible bachelor that never appeared in my life again.
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In the end I brought my friends home often enough that he did not mind my going out with them, but he still had his restrictions. If you were too long coming in from the car after a late night, he would turn all the lights on the front lawns on, and the garage spotlights, and sprinklers, and start wandering round the front yard. Mum and Dad would be peering through the creepers on the front porch, trying to see what was going on. As if anyone is going to play up in front of the house with parents watching! At first his rule was home by 12pm and later home by 12pm or ring but definitely home by 12.30. How I ever survived this period and got married is really the question.
When I finally met my husband I was told I was not allowed to go out with him because he was a man. He was actually a university student and from one of the approved schools and four years older than me. I had to bring him home for a month each day before Dad finally got to know him and approved my going out with him and even then Dad still put time restrictions.
So what restrictions did you have in your younger years? I look at the kids today and wonder how on earth I managed to live at home until I was married at 22 years old. My Dad was my treasure, and he did always have my best interests at heart, and I did survive at the end of the day, but it was a very different upbringing and he got me safely through the younger years!
What was your dad like when you were growing up? Was he overprotective of you and your siblings? Or was he laid-back?