1. You’re fine as you are
There are moments in your life which fuck you up for life. Mine was in the school assembly, eleven or twelve years old. I wore skirts back then because I was made to. Anyway, the moment when I realised that life wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought was when I saw my leg hair sticking out of the fabric in my tights. I had horrifically hairy legs as a child. I’m blessed with gorilla genes and cannot leave myself unattended any longer than two days max. My mother told me I was normal, fine, just right. She bought me Mizz Magazine – a pre-teen prelude into being told what’s wrong with your body – and I still have eyebrow plucking OCD to this very day. I’ve been too fat, too thin, speccy, spotty, ugly, big bum, no boobs. “Not a proper girl.” I was utterly unprepared to enter the world and face criticism as a woman, but also totally unprepared to defend myself against it. When I’m a parent, I’m going to devise my own magazine for my teenagers and it will be called “Don’t like it? Swivel.”
2. Nice people like us don’t swear
When I was five or six, a couple older girls taught me a new word. “When you go home today, you have to say ‘fucking hell mummy.’ It means you love her.” Ever since, my mother has scolded, corrected and later winced painfully at my ability to colour a sentence in. I love swearing. It may not be big or clever, but it gets the point across. However, my parents taught me that only the lowest dregs of society curse. These words are reserved for smokers, drinkers and… gasp, the working class. Nowadays I’m all three and divide my time between two offices where if something fucks up you know it’s fucked up. My colleagues are all in their late thirties and fourties, interesting and personable people with partners and children. And they say ‘shit’ if something shit happens.
3. Even if you think you don’t like it, you do
This rule applied to whatever was put in front of me at dinner. I’m not a total monster; I snack on carrots and love a good bowl of green beans. But two things I cannot stand are peas and broccoli. They make me nauseous. Something weird happens in my nose and throat and I’m taken back to those days at the table, shovelling veg into my mouth before legging it to the loo and spitting it all out, retching. I like to change my mind about things and hope that one day my mother and I will share a nice pot of hummus together, but don’t even tell me I subconsciously like something I hate. By that rule I’d be married to a psychopath, drinking wine and keeping pet spiders. On the top floor of a high-rise building.
4. You’ll grow out of The X-Files
I grew up in a household that was big on books, or at least encouraging me to read books, so maybe it was my mother’s disappointment that I had never read Austen by the time I discovered The X-Files that led her to lecture me about it. I was twelve years old when I discovered the show, idly flicking through the channels looking, for Buffy, Malcolm in the Middle or Popular episodes. When I found The X-Files, I was instantly hooked, and have never quite forgiven my parents for sending me to bed in the middle of “Dreamland,” parts 1 & 2. Pictures of Fox Mulder covered the wall next to my bed, pushing aside the pages of Smash Hits I had tacked up to hide the mint green wallpaper. I had a big old crush on David Duchovny; my awakening as a sexual being occurring coming not in a pre-pubescent classmate but a thirty-nine year old FBI agent. This is probably why my mother insisted on talking over the show so much. But eleven years on, my obsession with the first seven seasons is still going strong and I watch it every year. Some things stick with you, especially when you own the official map of the alien crime spots as a kid. So thanks for being there to nurture me, mother, but I still fancy Mulder.