Every now and then Twitter goes on a nostalgia trip – everyone starts using the hashtag #TweetYourTeenageSelf to dispense wisdom their real teenage self would never have listened to.
But I’d have liked it, I think. Even if I didn’t take the advice. We’ve all got wisdom we’ve love to impart to our younger, less knowledgeable selves. And I’d certainly pay big bucks now to hear from GOTN aged fifty, and find out what I should or shouldn’t do in the next twenty years to avoid being a spectacular fuck-up.
This post is a bit saccharine, bordering on the cheesy, but anyone who has read my book will know that although I come across as a sex-crazed harpy, there’s an emotional romantic underneath. She’s just quite deep underneath.
So, in no particular order, here are the top five things I wish I’d known as a teenager.
1. There’s no such thing as ‘good in bed’
Really. I used to believe that being ‘good in bed’ was like having decent hand-eye coordination: a skill that you either had or didn’t. The nervousness that accompanied my first few fumbling shags was made more terrifying by the knowledge that This Was It – the time when I would find out whether I was part of team Goodshag, or team OhChristThatWasShocking.
It turns out that’s not the case at all: one person’s Goddess is another’s Godawful, and there’s no one holding up scorecards when you’re lying in a postcoital sweat. Sex isn’t a skill that individuals have or don’t have: it’s a skill you learn together.
2. People you fancy rarely notice the things you hate about yourself
I say ‘rarely’ because there are some things – being overweight or excessively tall, for example – that have attracted the odd comment from guys I’m attracted to. But in general, the worries I have about my appearance are things that my loved ones only notice if I point them out myself. For instance, I’ve got a slightly dodgy tooth that prevents me from smiling too often, but people are far more likely to notice that I’m not smiling than the reason for my grumpy face.
So, I’d tell teenage me: there’s basically nothing wrong with you, because there’s something different about everyone.
3. Your cunt is actually something straight guys like looking at
Ah, youth. That period of time when all the things about your body that are usually hidden under clothes suddenly become fixations for your own self-disgust. I remember being quite unnaturally scared of what my cunt looked like when I was younger. It looked a bit like the cunts in porn, but not exactly the same, even when I tried to shave it so I’d look more grown up.
The first time a guy went to go down on me I leapt away in terror, begging him to turn the lights off lest he see the actual lines and curves of it. I’d probably have enjoyed teenage sex more if I could glimpse the future: a future in which I’m lying on a bed in my own grown-up flat as a boy I love runs his hands over it and tells me, for the millionth time “you’ve got a pretty cunt.”
4. Those douchebags don’t actually care what you wear
Like most people I know, I had a fairly rough time in school. I was tall, broad, scruffy, and not very good at makeup. What I’d loved to have known is that the people who laughed at me for being a goth didn’t actually give a flying fuck what I wore. I could have come in dressed head to toe in designer gear, with hair dyed blonde and swishy, heels that rapped a sexy rhythm as I sashayed down the corridor – they’d still have said the same old shit.
Because real life is nothing like an American teen movie. No one changes their place in the hierarchy just by getting a makeover, because the cool kids’ disgust has nothing to do with what you wear or look like – those are just easy things to get bitchy about. Their opinions are actually founded on some arbitrary moment in the past where people were divided into cool and not-cool. These labels stuck
But don’t worry – your label will expire the second you leave the building.
5. There is more than one love of your life
That guy you’re head over heels for? He’ll go. Then there’ll be another, and he’ll go too. Then there’ll be more who – you guessed it – will go. And each and every time it’ll feel unjust and impossible. You’ll want to scream and cry and tear the world apart because you just loved them so much and you’ll never find someone like that again and oh God how can you survive this pain? This misery feels utterly unbearable.
But don’t worry: you’ll bear it.