Stuff I Wish I’d Known At 11

So this month, my gorgeous baby sister turned eleven.

What’s that? I should stop calling her my baby sister? I WILL NOT!

Both of these guys will be my baby sisters always and forever.

Both of these guys will be my baby sisters always and forever.

This totally freaked me out because I remember being eleven and I basically thought I was the most grown up ever. I had my denim jacket, I had my braided bangs with beads on the end and I was coming to get the world.

Which is funny, considering that now that I’m 23, I feel like an overgrown child.

Anyway. I thought, since I’m officially ancient and all, I would write a list of stuff that I wish people had told me when I was eleven. Obviously, if I listed everything, we’d be here for the rest of time but here are the highlights.

Don’t use those horrible acne pad things.

If I had a TARDIS, I would travel back to 2007 and slap those boxes out of my hands. Your skin is fine, baby Fiona! Put those things down! You’ll pay for this in dry, scaly skin foreeveeeeeeeeeer!

Time spent reading or hanging out with your family is never wasted time.

Both of these things might seem silly and wasteful sometimes, especially when you’re busy. But these two things will build you into the person that you end up becoming, so cherish them.

Your quirks are your strengths.

I absolutely promise you that the things you hate most about yourself will be your favourite features when you get older. The things people tease you about, that mark you out as different…hang onto them. These things are your greatest strength.

The best revenge is to live well.

I wish I could say that I meant this in a super forgiving, zen, unruffled way, but I’m just not that big a person. The best revenge is to live a good life because then you can feel entirely smug about how well everything is going. Sometimes, I think about how happy I am with my life, in comparison with how rubbish my bullies tried to make it, and that makes me feel really, very pleased with myself. There’s nothing like going home and surprising the hell out of everyone by being hot and happy. Not my best feature, but true nonetheless.

Some people suck. Be nice to them anyway.

People can be really, really nasty. But it turns out that most of the time, they’re really, really nasty because they’re scared. This doesn’t excuse their meanness or mean you should let them walk all over you. But it is much, much braver to be nice to someone than it is to be mean.

Sometimes you will suck.

Here’s a thing that will definitely, absolutely happen to you at some point: you will be nasty to someone that you like to gain the approval of someone more popular than you. And when you make that popular person laugh, it feels brilliant. You feel like you’re climbing. Let me tell you now, this is not ever, ever worth it. Be loyal, be kind, always. If someone brings out the worst in you, you don’t want them as a friend anyway.

Kissing is so much fun – when you’re ready for it.

Kisses that you want to have are loads of fun. Kisses that you don’t really want to have are totally rubbish. Only you know when you’re ready for your first kiss (and all the kisses after that!), so don’t let anyone push you around. This will also apply to something else a little further down the line.

One just for the girls: You don’t ever have to be a certain way because you’re a girl.

Girls come in all shapes and sizes, just like boys do. Some girls wear loads of makeup. Some girls do kickboxing. Some girls like to read. Some girls like to kiss all the boys. Some girls would rather kiss all the girls. Some girls do all of these things. Don’t let anyone put you in a box or tell you what girls are supposed to do. And I know this can be hard but don’t be mean about other girls because they’re doing things different from you. We’re all different…that’s what makes things interesting! Girls all get further when we build each other up rather than tearing each other down.

This will all be a funny story someday.

I promise, no matter how bad things get, you will always look back and laugh about them. In fact, the worse they are, the funnier they’ll be. Me and my best friend can now laugh about the time that she broke up with her long term boyfriend and then her guinea pig died the next day. I’ve just pitched an article about the time me and my friend decided we were witches and hosted a hilariously inept Wiccan circle in my bedroom. I can now gigglingly, if still a little haltingly, tell people about the time that everyone at a fancy dress party thought I’d come dressed as a slave (I hadn’t). Honestly, the more completely mortifying you are at eleven, the better you’ll be at dinner parties in ten years. The other side of this coin is that there is literally no point wasting time trying to be cool. Unless being cool makes you happy, in which case go for it. But doing things that make you miserable to try and fit in is a rubbish idea, because you’re totally going to look back and cringe, no matter what. Embrace it.

What do you guys wish you’d known at eleven? What is the most mortifying thing you can remember from your preteen years?

A Big Sister’s Duty: The Stuff No One Else Will Tell You

Today, I watched the Miss Representation documentary. If you haven’t seen it yet, please go watch it. It is so awesome, despite a really spacey, strange occasional voiceover.

Within nine minutes of pressing play, I was bawling my eyes out. Listening to a high schooler’s voice crack in pain as she described how her little sister cuts herself because she hates her body resonated all too clearly. As far as I know, neither of my sisters has ever hurt themselves, thank goodness. But the thought of the bullshit they’re going to have to endure just by virtue of being female is genuinely painful. With one getting ready to go to uni next year, and high school not too far away for the other, I know that they’re going to have to go through some pretty hard times, and that, being girls, they’re going to be told to think and feel and be certain ways, or face punishment.

So I’ve got a few messages for my two incredible, inspiring, strong baby sisters, based on my experiences of being a laydee, which I hope will help get them through the hard times.

Warning to family members: there will be discussions of S-E-X and other such girly things in this post.

fskLet’s start with your body, because honestly, that’s what lots of people are going to do. People will judge you because of your body, they will assume that they know things about you because of how your body looks, they’ll tell you that your body is wrong, they’ll use it as a weapon against you, they’ll assume that your body is theirs to touch and comment on.

Here’s what to do with your body in response to that: don’t change a damn thing. You are not your body. This is really tough to remember sometimes, because we girls have it constantly shoved down our throats that the only way to be worth something is to have a body that confines to somebody else’s conception of what sexy is. But honestly, your body does not define who you are. It’s just a vessel that carries your beautiful heart and brilliant mind around from one place to the next, and as long as you are keeping it healthy and strong (whatever that looks like!), then it’s perfect. Everyone always tells you to learn to love your body. I’d like to take that a step further and tell you to learn to love the whole of you. Love how your eyes crease up when you tell an awesome joke. Love how your wobbly bits shake when you dance like a crazy person. Love how you throw your hands around when you’re talking about something you love. You are so wonderful, and you have way too much to do in this world to sit in front of a mirror worrying that your legs are too fat.

This doesn’t mean I’m telling you to burn your dresses and snap your eyeliner pencils. Wanting to look good is awesome, as long as you are doing it on your terms. Don’t let anyone else define your beautiful, ever. Look however you want to look. Wear plum lipstick at 11am. Go out barefaced in your raggiest old jumper. Buy that teeny tiny little dress you love. Wearing lipstick doesn’t make you an attention seeker. Wearing a leather miniskirt doesn’t make you a slut.

On that note, it’s time to get super serious. I really don’t want to talk about sexual assault, because I wish that it wasn’t a problem. But 1 in 5 women in this country have experienced some kind of sexual violence since they turned 16, myself among them, so we have to talk about it. Like I said above, some people think that your body is theirs to touch. It isn’t. Unless you want them to, of course (more on that later). No matter how you are dressed, how drunk you are, how many people you’ve had sex with before, what you’ve done with the person before, NOBODY is allowed to touch your body without your consent. Don’t think that you’ve led anyone on, or feel pressured to act a certain way because of how you’ve acted in the past, or because you’ve already said you would do something. You have the right to refuse, every single time, and if someone goes against that, it’s sexual assault. I don’t care if you’re blind drunk, wearing nothing but a tinsel bikini. This does not give anyone the right to sexually assault you. This line of reasoning is such total bollocks that I can’t believe it still exists, but it really does, so let me just throw a stat out for you: only 9% of rapes in the UK are committed by a stranger. You are 9 times more likely to be attacked by someone you know in a situation that you thought was safe. So don’t ever be embarrassed to set limits, know that anything to do with your body is your choice, and if something does happen to you, don’t you dare ever for a second believe that it was your fault.

Okay, onto (gulp) consensual sex. I’m not going to tell you not to have sex, because let’s face it, sex is fun, and it’s totally normal, and it’s a natural part of growing up, but I would like to offer one teeny bit of advice. Wait and do it with a man or woman that you feel really comfortable with. Not because it has to be special or because losing your virginity to a random person means you don’t respect yourself. Shockingly, I think that a woman’s sexual experiences are nobody else’s fucking business, and anyone who thinks that they are in any way relevant is a flaming idiot. Have as much sex as you want, with as many people as you want – whatever you are happy and comfortable with. But the reason I’d say you should wait for someone excellent, and this is something that no one will ever tell you, is that the first time is so very fucking awkward. It hurts a lot, and your body does loads of weird stuff, and so does your partner’s, and you really want to be with someone you can laugh with when your bodies press together and make that weird farting sound, rather than wanting to immediately die. Oh, also, always pee afterwards. This is another thing that no one ever tells you until you’re laid up in your GP with a horrifying urine infection. But that’s more mechanics that actual advice. And as Forrest Gump would say, that’s all I have to say about that.

Alright, that’s enough sex talk for one blog, let’s get back to you. Society tells people that women shouldn’t have a voice, and both men and women internalise that message. You will find that men interrupt you, talk over you, don’t take you seriously and use the mere fact that you are a woman to discredit you. And a lot of women buy into this too: they take men more seriously, think negatively about ambitious women and say things like, “Oh, I just get on better with men. There’s less drama”. Every one of these things is designed to make women shut up, and keep us in our place. To hell with that. You have a voice, so don’t be afraid to use it. Don’t be afraid to put yourself forward because some stupid societal structure tells you your opinion isn’t worth anything. I hate these structures, so I try to use my voice to change them. And if that makes some chauvinistic asshole think less of me, so be it. I speak up, so that the world will get better for you girls coming through. Pay it forward and speak up for the next generation. Don’t you ever listen to someone else’s idea of what you should be. Don’t try to be anything except yourself. When you write goals and wishes, focus on doing things, rather than being things.

One last thing and then I promise, I’ll shut up for a while. Be kind to other women. Don’t buy into that rubbish that tells you that ambitious women are manly, or successful women are bitchy, or pretty women are stupid and slutty. This is tough, because these stereotypes are pushed hard, every day, by a £71bn per year business. But we can be smarter than them. Just remember, we’re all complicated people, who are trying our best. Let’s be excellent to each other. I love you. You’re going to move mountains.

It Was Acceptable In the Noughties

As previously discussed, I am not good at accomplishing little tasks that I can avoid. I put the pro in procrastination. This is how, 5 years after moving out, my teenage bedroom remains relatively untouched. Sure, the surfaces are all bare and shiny, but lurking just beneath lies a powerful undercurrent of teenage angst, circa 2004.

Oh yeah, this is where the magic happened. And by magic, I mean this is where I read all seven Harry Potter books

Oh yeah, this is where the magic happened. And by magic, I mean this is where I read all seven Harry Potter books

My mum seems to have finally realised that she could actually use that space for things if I moved all the shit I haven’t looked at in five years, and has started to insist that I clear out my drawers. Enlisting the help of the sister, I decided to tackle one such drawer last night.

When, upon opening said drawer, the first thing out of my mouth was “OMG SCRUNCHIES!”, I could tell that this was going to be a lot more fun than I had originally thought. Hilarity ensued. Cleaning out of drawers did not.

Obviously, having laid our hands on a load of scrunchies, the first thing to do was put our hair up in awesome early noughties styles.

We also found fairy wands. Because what teenage girl doesn't need two tiny plastic wands?

Bunches FTW. We also found fairy wands. Because what teenage girl doesn’t need two tiny plastic wands?

Suitably prepared, it was time to empty the drawer. In the drawer, we found:

All of the Miss Sporty and 17 Makeup

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I assume that at some point, I heard someone say you could use makeup to bring out the colour in your eyes, and took it quite literally. I can just imagine 15 year old me, with my train track braces and ill-advised blunt fringe, trowelling various shades of green onto my eyelid and reassuring myself that not only were glittery green eyes totally cool and sexy, but also completely school-appropriate.

The worst foundation in the world

I’m going to stick up for my teenage self here and assume that this was a freebie. As much as my early eyeshadow game left a lot to be desired, I’ve always been pretty good at the whole foundation thing. But get a load of this.

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Seriously, whose face is this colour? Can we stop manufacturing orange foundations and instead concentrate on developing colours that resemble what real women’s faces look like? Why are the only two foundation colours available white or orange? Get it together, makeup companies.

This very fetching hairnet. And sunglasses.

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Why do I own this?

The original iPod shuffle

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Featuring such delights as Anastacia, Good Charlotte and the entire Les Miserables soundtrack (some things never change). I was the coolest cat in town with this little guy.

A battery that was probably seconds away from becoming sentient

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Okay, this is straight up dangerous. What makes a battery ooze? Is Sophie going to get superpowers from touching it?

A veritable plethora of disposable razors

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I took this opportunity to bust out my lesser known alter ego, Edward Razorhands.

Literally all of the lipgloss in the world

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And these are only the ones that didn’t make it to uni with me. I loved me some lipgloss. The one in the pot with the tassle smelled pretty funky, I’ll be honest. But I think it always smelled like that. Maybe.

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Pungent.

At this point, we realised it had gotten pretty late, so just scooped everything up, stuck it back in the drawer and vowed never to speak of it again.

And now, I can go back to employing the excellent doublethink that allows me to be exceptionally proud of a makeup drawer that looks like this…

Dat organisation.

Dat organisation.

…while completely ignoring the fact that I also own a drawer that, for all I know, could be the final resting place of Shergar.

God only knows what’s lurking in the rest of them…