I was talking with a friend the other day about my post on getting old, and she revealed that she’d told a 12 year old boy that he should make the most of school as “school days are the best days of your life”… christ.
You remember your “old” rellies telling you that as child at grown up parties, don’t you? You know, the events where you managed to blag lots of wine and beer by sweetly asking strange adults (that you assume are you friends or relatives of your parents, but you've never seen before) to “try their wine, to see if you like it” or snaffled it from half empty glasses left on buffet tables. Where you ate all the cake/chocolate/sweets/vol au vents/liqueur truffles/strange foreign cheese you could find and then ended up being sick and realise that all you can do to ease the pain of your throbbing head and churning tummy is curl up under a stray chair and whimper. Then one of smaller kids grasses you up to your mum and the grown ups all gather around and coo and say “oooo all that rich party food, and all that running around…” then you start to see double, and you start to slur your words and they start to cluck “oooo, I bet she’s over tired, all the excitement of the party” and suggest an early night (it’s 2am and the grown ups are doing boat races in the kitchen so there are no volunteers to take you home to bed even if you wanted to) and they start to joke that you “would put match sticks in your eyes to stay up late” (but at this stage you’d stick them anywhere to relieve the throb in your head) and so you stay on and watch the adults getting drunker and drunker and spraying you with red wine saliva as they tell you to "make the most of your school days".
What they don’t realise is that, with all the wine you’ve snaffled from the glasses, you’re just as drunk as they are and you couldn’t give a toss about school days, and quite frankly they know nothing because they are old, they are drunk and they have red wine stained lips. And, more importantly, you are having your first ever hangover, at 3am in some strange person's house* so you JUST DON'T CARE!
Just me and my parents then.
So anyway, that got me to thinking about my school days and whether they were the best days of my life and I came to the conclusion that although they were fun and I loved them, and I look back on those days with feelings of nostalgia and happiness (and often acute embarrassment), I think I’ve had better days since leaving.
I wouldn’t change a thing about my past. I don’t regret a thing I’ve done, as every little thing I’ve done has shaped who I am today and I like who I am today. So there.
However, should Dr Who or Blackadder, or anyone else with a time machine turn up on my doorstep, I’d find it hard to resist a wee trip back to Sandon and give my teenage self a few words of encouragement (and slap a few faces)… so what would those words be?
- Staying true to East 17, Shampoo, The Prodigy and the Spice Girls is all very admirable, but in fifteen years you will be attending a Take That concert, and it would be helpful if you knew the words, otherwise you are going to look like a complete weirdo in front of all the crazy fans. Yes, YOU will look like the weirdo, not the women aged 30+ with the inverted double Ts painted on their cheeks, screaming and crying and throwing their bras at the stage. Yes, Viki, YOU. So learn the words to Babe and save yourself the embarrassment!
- Be nice to that empty chair two seats down in Mr Stancer’s form room. That empty chair will one day become your husband. And he will probably propose a lot quicker should you actually remember that he sat two seats down from you.
- Do not stay with a completely unsuitable boyfriend for five years, just to prove to your mother that actually you are very well suited, completely in love and will one day live happily ever after. There’s cutting off your nose to spite your face and then there’s being a complete IDIOT and wasting a hell of a lot of time to prove you’re right, when actually you are very, VERY wrong. Whoopsie.
- Do not choose said boyfriends on the basis of the cars they drive. 18 inch alloy wheels (probably stolen) and a “phat” sound system (definitely stolen) does not a perfect boyfriend make.
- When choosing subjects in which to sit exams, that will then define your educational status for. Ever. More. Listen to the educated, employed, well-paid adults who suggest that if you want to work “in the city, in PR, journalism or marketing” (as I did), do not take drawing (Graphic Design) and colouring in (Art) as GCSE subjects! These subjects are fine, in fact ideal, for those considering art-based careers. If you are not considering this direction as a career (I was not), you will one day look back on GSCE Option Decision Day and wish you’d paid attention to those adults, who probably actually do know better than you.
- Do not hand in an incomplete Business Ethics paper just so that you can hit the road quicker to get to Great Yarmouth to see Girls Aloud perform on the beach. It will bring down your average so you only graduate with a 2:1, instead of the First you were predicted from the previous five semesters’ grades. Girls Aloud will mime, it will rain and you will forever be in the 2:1 Club at the Christmas dinner table and will never be able to lord it over your aunt and little brother with your (now non-existent) First.
- Heather Shimmer, Coffee Shimmer and Blondie are not the only lipstick shades in Boots.
- When in Boots looking for new lipstick shades, do not purchase the dark purple eyeliner and glittery pale blue lipstick.
- Do not apply the dark purple eyeliner as a substitute for lipstick and do not dab the glittery blue lipstick on your cheek bones.
- When plastered in dark purple eyeliner/lipstick and glittery blue lipstick/highlighter, do not answer “no miss” when Mrs Hall asks you if you are wearing make up. You will have to write lines.
- When in lunch time detention, tasked with writing lines, do not make up your version of the lines to write. The teacher will not think that you are clever, witty and deserving of a creative writing scholarship. They will think that you are precocious little sh*t and will write letters to your parents detailing exactly why.
- When your mum buys you a new school skirt (non-regulation, highly fashionable** mid-calf length pencil skirt with buttons down the side and a detention-worthy slit up the back), do not chop the bottom off in the art room, so that it is shorter than your blazer (again non-regulation) and staple up the hem on the second day of a new term. You will (a) snag your (non-regulation) fishnet tights, (b) get sent to Mrs Hall’s room to roll the skirt down, (c) get detention for not just rolling up it up, but chopping it to pieces, (d) get sent home with a letter about the detentions, (e) have to pay for a replacement (regulation) skirt out of next month’s pocket money (this month’s having already being spent on dark purple eyeliner and glittery blue lipstick) and (f) have to wear the regulation skirt until the end of term. Well sad. Innit.
- Keep your mouth shut when the nasty b*tches in the year above start with their bullying, name calling, Coke can throwing and corridor shoving. They will end up fat/in prison/ugly/lonely/with snotty-nosed kids and will bump in to you, whilst looking minging and try to be your friend. That will be your biggest revenge. Thus, never, ever, EVER leave the house looking minging just in case they see you first!
- Those boys that call you names, tell lies about you, make you feel awful about yourself and attempt to play mindgames with you because you won’t have sex with them (they will tell people that you did anyway) will still be trying to pull you years later, and you will pass them by with your head held high and not give them a second glance. You will then turn around when they shout out an insult, walk straight back, take their drink from their hand and throw it in their face. This type of reaction will work in various scenarios. Use it wisely.
- Dirty Pints are not an acceptable beverage for the nights before big family occasions. Neither is Cinzano, Southern Comfort (Neat), and especially not JD straight from the bottle (your father’s). It’s also expensive when you have to replace it, because your parents aren’t stupid enough to fall for the topping up with water trick.
- When throwing a house party, do not be under the impression that having your parents come home at 2am will stop people trashing your house.
- If you give 16 year olds a freezer full of pizza, they will not think “ooo, I shall eat this to make sure that I have some food in my stomach so I do not get so raucously drunk”. They will in fact think “oooo, I will throw this at the ceiling and see how long it sticks for” and then will create a championship around this game whereby they invite others to get involved to add to the competitive nature.
- When your parents go away for the weekend, do not decorate random parts of the house. They will not appreciate it. Your parents do not want a Little Mermaid/Under the Sea themed downstairs toilet. They will not like the bright yellow you paint all over their bedroom and they will not be impressed when you rip up your carpet to expose the floor boards (and the bricked off chimney vent in the floor that no one knew was there) because you “fancy a change” and “need somewhere to practice your pointe work”.
- When throwing up noisily in the kitchen sink at 4am after your shift as an underage bar maid at a lock in, do not tell your mum that you’ve “had [insert boy’s name] and Malibu all night” between retches. She will remember (you won’t) and she will ask you, when your guard is down, “who exactly is [insert boy’s name] and what exactly you were having?” You will be entirely innocent, but no one will believe you.
- Foam antlers, with mistletoe dangling off them are not acceptable school attire, whether it’s Christmas term or the middle of June.
- Other inappropriate school attire includes:
- Knee-high 7-inch platform boots
- Black whale-net tights worn over turquoise swirly-patterned tights
- Sunglasses, once inside the building
- More black eyeliner than Amy Winehouse
- Beetlejuice-style stripey knee-high socks with pink dolly shoes
- See through wrap-over skirts that are slashed to the waist (even with blue and white stripey hotpants underneath
- Giant pink flowers in your bunches
- Bunches in general once leaving year 6
- Ties borrowed from the year 11s so you can leave the school premises at lunch
- Puffa jackets/bomber jackets/Nickelson jackets borrowed from random boys with cars.
Sun In is evil. Stay away from it. Do not attempt to make your dark, dark, dark brown hair blond by applying super strength Sun In in the middle of the night and then to activate it so you go blond before morning (when you have a family portrait session) start frazzling it to death with every heated styling appliance you can find. Your hair will go orange. Bright orange with a straw-like texture. It will not look good.
Do not try to cover up the Sun In mess with Wella Colour Mousse. Your hair will go purple and you will get a detention.
Do not leave these mistakes to grow out for six months without seeking professional help. The colour blocking look will not become fashionable until 2010/11 and even then, it does not apply to hair.
Dip-dyeing your hair with primary colours should be left to Baby Spice.
Getting drunk in morning registration is not big, and is not clever. But it is fun.
If you have a male form teacher, the excuse “girly things” will get you out of every afternoon’s registration period so you can catch the bus to town to shop for dark purple eyeliner and Wella Colour Mousse and still be back in time to catch the school bus home. In fact saying “period” a few too many times will get out of registration for the whole year.
When answering essay questions on Wordsworth’s poem Nutting, don’t think it’s clever to explain to the examiner that this poem is actually about Wordsworth’s desire to have sex. If Mrs Toffell told you it was about nature and to focus on the fact that it is an Iambic Pentameter, then, seeing as she is head of the examination board and you are lucky enough to have her as your GCSE English teacher, DO SO! Your English Literature GSCE is not the time to display the maverick ideas of the boy you have a crush on in the sixth form. He may have done his research well, and he may be right. But if GSCE students were supposed to answer the questions as such, then it wouldn’t be being taught to 15 year olds.
It is perfectly acceptable to claim that watching Leo in Romeo and Juliet three times a week is homework. If it means that you are able to recite Shakespeare word for word then what is the problem?
And the biggest piece of advice that I actually wouldn’t need to give to myself, because I think I already knew it:
The friends you make at school will be your besties forever. They will be your comfort and your means of finding sanity in times of madness. You will love them dearly but still may be infuriated with them at times. They will make you cry with laughter and hold you when you cry with sadness. They will push you up when you need to soar and they will pull you down when you need to be grounded. They will stand up for you when you're right, and often when you're wrong. They'll sacrifice things for you, they'll go the extra mile for you and no matter where in the world they are they will always be there for you when you need them. Cherish those friends because, as a wise greetings card company once said, “Friends are the Family that we choose for ourselves”.
* that's the first time, but it won't be the last time!
** at the time
*** no offence intended to any friends missing from here - i just couldn't find electronic copies to use. I love you all! :-)