Outside, it had begun drizzling. I’d spent an hour faffing around, trying to find the ideal combination of red, white and grey. My bedroom floor was a blanket of clothes – dresses tried on and tossed aside again. By the time I’d slicked on my lipstick, the world outside was lowering and grey. Still, we went for it: hopping in the car, heels in one hand, a stack of books in the other. At the top of the hill we surveyed the scene; rain blurring the far-away horizon; gorgeous, slightly soggy hay-bales; fresh, damp, green fields. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It felt right. It felt like home. It felt necessary to clamber on the bales in heels, doing what I do best: posing in ridiculous footwear, in a ridiculous location, in a ridiculous vintage satin evening coat, balancing lots of books. To do that with my own books, full of my own words? A pretty unbeatable feeling.
It’s been quite a time. A very quick slide forward from the academic world into the professional one: two months spent swinging between furiously typing things on my laptop, and lazing by the river trying to recover from exams. There have been looooots of celebrations, and scattering of great new opportunities. Oh, and there’s been the book. There was the launch, full of some of the best friends and colleagues a gal could have; the gut-twisting moment of knowing Notes on Being Teenage was making its fledgling way out in the world; the chance to write and talk about all the things I’ve been thinking about for years now and the giddy excitement, followed by a few days of bone-aching exhaustion. Then there were the sparks of absolute glee on spotting it in places including Waterstones and Foyles. More than that though, there were plenty of conversations: the opportunity to talk with teenagers and adults alike about things I deeply care about, and they do too.
That’s what I keep on coming back to: the fact that there are so many more dialogues to open up. This is the tip of the iceberg, the edge of the plunge, the fringes of the fucking massive set of issues, possibilities and problems we need to unravel when it comes to being teenage today. I want to continue to play some part in that, to encourage young women keep on at it, to have faith in their own abilities, to know that their potential is huge. When statistics like this are released, showing that confidence rapidly plunges as girls move towards being women, we know that our conversations are still only embers. We’ve got plenty left to do to stoke them into flames.
But I’m optimistic. The more we talk and take action, the better. The more we speak up and make time to listen to others, the better. The more seriously we respond to young women’s challenges, the better. The more our books, films and other forms of media represent a vast, diverse range of women, the better. The more we let others know they’re not alone, the better.
In fact, the absolute best part of having written this book is the people who’ve contacted me to say: “this resonated”/ “I’ve never seen my experience reflected before”/ “it meant a lot to hear that.” If Notes on Being Teenage has achieved that for just a handful of young women, it’s already done its job.
I’m also so proud to be part of a growing movement – something I’m going to expand on in my next post – alongside so many other women I massively respect, including Emma Gannon, Laura Bates and Louise O'Neill (as well as those with forthcoming publications like Akilah Hughes and Hannah Witton). It’s a good time to be writing, raising our voices, asking for better, and letting others know that there are so many, many of us thinking about social media/ body image/ style/ sex/ feminism/ gender/ school/ mental health/ self-belief and more. Plenty of us wanting to champion others. Plenty raising the volume.
Talking of all things teenage, I’ll also be doing a round up of writing and features in the near future, but in the meantime… I wanted to let people know about three very thrilling things I’m up to in the next month. I’m at YALC this coming weekend, taking part in both their poetry slam (on the 30th) and the AskYALC panel on the 31st (tweet them here with a Q, and it might get answered during the event, where I’m appearing alongside Juno Dawson, Holly Bourne and Dr Christian Jessen, with all of us being kept in line by Gemma Cairney). Then I’ll be at Birmingham Waterstones on August 2nd to chair an event with Louise O’Neill and Eliza Wass. Come along for conversation about their excellent books. Then on August 26th, I’m heading up to Edinburgh for an event alongside Juno Dawson, where we’ll both be chatting about Mindful Teens. Somewhere in between all of that I’ll be trying to catch my breath.
I wrote two months ago that this is a time of beginnings and endings. It still is: and will continue to be for the next little while. But I’m intrigued to see what they hold. Hopefully more writing, more projects, more being vocal. Ideally some time off too. Definitely the space to play around with what comes next. (Side-note to any editors reading: commission me!! I finally have the time!) Hopefully a few more afternoons tottering around the countryside in ballgowns and stilettos too.
My satin evening coat belonged to my paternal great-grandma, while the blouse was my maternal great-grandma's. The trousers and heels are second hand. The books? Well, they're the model's own...