Ditch the blue eyeshadow, go easy on the social-media oversharing and, most importantly, know that everything is going to be OK. Older and wiser at 23, Emily Clarkson, daughter of Jeremy, travels back in time to offer hard-won advice to her ‘little me’
Hi darling one. Don’t freak out, but this message is coming to you from the future. I had to write; there is so much that I wish I’d known at 13. First things first: you ought to know that blue eyeshadow has never worked for you and you would do well to throw it away immediately. I know it’s the only colour that you’ve got, but you’re going to need to work that out, because you look ridiculous. No arguments! Bin it. Now.
Denim skirts are going to go out of fashion, but they will come back in, so don’t throw them out. Thankfully, so will Ugg boots, big elastic belts, tie-dye, wearing leggings as trousers and kitten heels. As for the knee-length ‘formal’ dresses that Mum keeps buying, they don’t come back in. Burn them now.
Please step away from your hair. Its natural colour is lovely, although I suppose I’m too late and by the time you read this Becky will have already helped you dye it that weird orange colour. Stop there. In a few months you’re going to try to fix it and it will go wrong: it ends up purple and Mum is going to go ballistic. Oh, and when you turn 16 you’re going to want to cut it all off. Please don’t! Your head is much too big to pull it off. I regret it so much and it took ages to grow back. Just leave it alone.
I know that Facebook is very new and exciting, but for the love of God stop writing on everybody’s ‘walls’ to tell them that you love them and sharing your secrets publicly. And please stop talking in abbreviations: it’s not that hard to type the whole b***** word. You have an education, use it. In a few years, Facebook is going to start showing you posts from years ago and you’re going to hate yourself for being so hopelessly uncool. If you want to talk to someone, text them. The limit on your phone only allowing 20 texts per month is going to be lifted very soon.
It’s also probably a good idea to start smiling in photos. Stop pouting, you look absolutely ridiculous. Your braces aren’t that bad and they’re not going to stay on for ever. In fact, at the end of this year you’re going to beg the orthodontist to take them off and, despite his better judgment, he will. If you can, please hang in there, because as a result of that decision I still have a terrible overbite.
Now, down to more serious stuff. You ought to know that you are going to get an actual boyfriend. I won’t tell you when because that would ruin the surprise, but trust me, it’s going to happen. It’s going to be the real deal. You’re going to love him to bits and he’s going to catch you totally by surprise. One day he’s going to tell you that he loves you and ask you to move in with him. Whatever you do, don’t freak out – it’s going to be great.
That said, you need to prepare yourself for the fact that you are going to make many mistakes in the interim and there’s nothing I can do to stop you. That would take away the fun and you wouldn’t learn anything. Where you can, stop stressing about boys and relying on those algorithms you and your friends create at the back of the classroom to predict your future; when it’s meant to happen, it will.
Over the next few years, some of the boys that you cross paths with will hurt you and make you sad. If they do, know that they are not The One. It will also mean that when the right guy shows up you will know, because you’ll feel happy in yourself. You won’t try to change, you won’t always need to look your best – you will be happy just being you.
I know you know this already, but it’s got to be said: you are going to be so grateful for any male attention for the next few years, and that’s so wrong. I don’t want to throw big scary words around, but a lot of the messages that you are going to receive will be borderline sexual harassment. The worst part about this is you’re going to go along with it rather than speak up for yourself. This is not the kind of attention that you want; you deserve more.
You’re not frigid if you don’t want to send a photo to a guy, you’re sensible. Boys have just started watching porn and they’re going to assume that they can treat girls how they like. I know it makes you uncomfortable and that’s OK. When they talk about it in front of you, don’t feel as though you need to laugh along to fit the preconceived ideas they have of you. You will never be that person.
It’s not just the boys that you need to worry about. Girls will cause problems, too. They can be mean creatures – you included. There will be many times when you think that you are doing or wearing something for a boy, but most of your insecurity will come about as a result of other girls and consequently you will start making an effort for them.
Girls are going to say things without trying to be rude that are going to stick with you for years to come. I wish I could tell you that this was all going to be water off a duck’s back, but some of it is going to stick. Try not to take it personally and never bite back. It’s not worth causing someone else years of insecurity just because you feel embarrassed and victimised. Some of my biggest regrets are offhand comments I’ve made to people that, if the tables were turned, would still be upsetting me today.
You need to know that sex is not a competition. Please spread this message far and wide. Never feel that you need to do something because your friends have. In the grand scheme of life, no one cares who the first fella to feel you up was. Everything you do should be because you want to, not because the girl you sit next to in English has. I promise you this: sex will not make you a better person, it will not make you more mature, and you’d do well to remember that every other girl out there is just as scared as you right now. Please respect yourself.
Over the next few years you are going to be told by anyone with even a single grey hair that ‘your school years are the best of your life’. Unless it all goes drastically downhill from here, this is absolute rubbish. There will, of course, be elements of school that are amazing, memories will be made that will last a lifetime and you will have so much fun. But you will also have some really s*** times and, I promise, once you leave school they will be much fewer and further between.
I now get to wear whatever I want every day, I don’t have someone approving the length of my skirt before I go to a party, I can eat what I want whenever I am hungry, I can stay out as late as I like and I can even smoke. Although, please, for the love of all that is good, when Georgie offers you your first cigarette, say no. Apart from the obvious health stuff, it’s a b****** to give up and is costing me a fortune.
There is SO much I want to tell you. I am so bitterly aware of the anguish you are going to go through. When you’re feeling sad, don’t go it alone. I remember crying myself to sleep. I can still feel my cheeks burning when I call to mind feeling uncomfortable around people I didn’t know that well, and I vividly recall the heartbreak that comes with feeling as though you don’t belong.
If I could swap with you, I would. I would do so much differently. I would say no to that first cigarette, establish myself early with friends who love me for me, stop trying so hard, leave my hair alone, throw out those horrible green tracksuit bottoms you wear all the time… But most importantly, I would try really hard to be happy – because I wasted so much time not being, and I regret it so much.
All I can tell you is that it is going to get easier. There is so much I would change, but I know that you are stubborn. If there is one thing that I need you to start doing now, it is practising self-love. From time to time, look in the mirror, find something good and hold on to it. Look back at your day or your week and find something that you did that you are proud of. Be kind to yourself, rest and have fun. You’ve got a big heart and you need to make room in it for yourself. I promise the moment you do, your life will get so much better.
The next few years are going to be an obstacle course and by the time you get to the finish line you will be absolutely knackered, but it’s one hell of a race and you will get there a stronger and better person than you ever thought you would. I will be waiting for you when you get through it, with a massive glass of wine and a cigarette – because, let’s face it, you’re definitely not going to say no to that first one. Good luck, little me. See you on the other side!
This is an edited extract from Can I Speak To Someone in Charge? by Emily Clarkson, to be published by Simon & Schuster on 13 July, price £12.99. To pre-order a copy for £9.74 (a 25 per cent discount) until 16 July, visit you-bookshop.co.uk or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15