Do me a favour for a second. Think back to when you were about eight, and try to remember what you thought your life would be like by now. Done it? Chances are, it's not exactly what's happened. If you're anything like me, you probably thought you'd be married to a prince, have children, a perfect, well-paid job and a beautiful house with a huge back garden. You'd also have perfect skin, great hair every day and always know what you were doing. Unless you're ridiculously lucky (or Kate Middleton), you probably haven't managed all of that yet.
I remember asking my dad when I was little how he knew he was a grown up. He said “You never do. In my head I still think I'm 19, I just can't run up the stairs as quickly as I used to.” Then he followed it up with something along the lines of “you have more responsibilities and get better at pretending you know what you're doing.” I'm probably going to get a message from my dad in about 10 minutes time saying that isn't actually what he said, but that's what I remember so I'm sticking to it.
But it's true. Real life in the 21st century is a bit nuts. Being a grown up type lady can be hard, and sometimes you just wish you were eight again because what can't be fixed by chocolate or a cuddle when you're eight? And what makes it harder, and makes you feel like you're the only one that hasn't cracked the secret to adulthood, is that nobody actually tells you what it's going to be like. There are some nice little surprises all saved up for you to figure out on your lonesome.
So here goes. These are just some of the things I wish someone had told me about being a real-life grown up woman. Though I probably wouldn't have listened to you at the time…
1. Body hair doesn't just mean armpits
Remember when you first hit good ol' puberty and got underarm hair? That sucked. Imagine having to go through the rest of your life shaving under your arms (I mean, if you want to)? What a waste of time.
Unfortunately, what you didn't know then is that Mother Nature is a bit of a cow and saved up some nice little treats for you to give you a mild breakdown later on. Like why am I now growing a moustache? And wait, what is this one hair doing on my chin? Or my boob? And what is the deal with the hair on the back of my thighs? Am I suddenly turning into a man at the age of 23?
If I could wave a wand and give you back the body hair you had when you were thirteen, I bet you'd have my arm off quicker than if I offered you a Chanel bag.
2. In winter, you may well not shave your legs for a month
How much time have you spent on hair removal? I could've written a novel by now. There will probably come a time (if it hasn't already happened) when you think, screw it, unless anybody's seeing them, my legs stay the way they are - it's cold outside, I need the extra insulation. My personal mantra is “if they're not coming out, it's not coming off.”
Also, a boyfriend/girlfriend/whatever floats your boat will no longer count as “anybody” - at a certain point in every relationship, the effort of shaving your legs every day for one person just doesn't seem worth it. Sorry.
If you still shave your legs religiously, I salute you, but please just consider that you could be using that time to do something far more fun…
3. Chances are you'll find your first grey hair in your early 20s
At around the time every other other hair follicle on your body decides to go insane, your head will start to give up. I found my first grey hair when I was 23 and nearly had a breakdown. I pulled it out and emailed a photo to my mum that said “I might as well just give up now.”
Because grey hair is for old ladies. I won't even start getting them until I'm at least 40, right?
The greys are coming, and they're coming sooner than you think. You are not dying. Everyone else is either just tricking you by dying their hair, or they have truly incredible genes.
4. If you're a C cup or bigger, your boobs don't stay where they used to
Ah, for the days when you could fling a bra off and LITERALLY NOTHING HAPPENED. They're not going to drop to your waist overnight, but come on, let's be realistic for a second. They're heavy, and gravity works.
One day you'll look in a mirror and think “hmmm, this isn't quite what I remembered.” Nothing to panic over, just make sure you wear a good bra that fits properly and actually supports your chest. Otherwise the girls will end up around your waist.
A few months back I bought a Victoria's Secret bra in America. The lady who worked in the fitting rooms marched into the cubicle, took one look at me and zoomed back out to get me a bigger cup size. When I had it half way on, she came back in and literally stuck her hands down the front and yarked my boobs upwards. Like sorry, I'm British, what do you think you're doing? Only my boyfriend (sorry mum) and my doctor have ever seen them, let alone touched them. I can't cope with this. But you know what? It's the best, most comfortable, most supportive bra I've ever had. So get yourself properly fitted next time. It's well worth the momentary embarrassment, and your old lady self will thank you one day.
5. Women who have no cellulite or stretch marks are like unicorns
You'll probably never actually meet one in real life, and if you do they'll be a model, a dancer or a witch. Most of the ones you've 'seen' in magazines or on telly are wearing more makeup than you'd use in a week and have been photoshopped to within an inch of their lives.
Your body is an amazing thing, and works really hard to cope with all the growth spurts, diets and womanly curves sprouting from nothing. Appreciate it. You only get one, everyone else has basically the same “flaws” as you and it's awesome just the way it is.
6. Breakouts aren't just for puberty, they're for life
Or apparently at least until you're around 40. At which time your collagen production drops and you'll start to miss your nice plump, pimply skin. So I'm told.
I'm not saying you'll have the same skin as your teenage self forever, but the idea that your it'll suddenly clear up and become perfect when you hit 20? That's a dirty fib. You'll probably still get the odd monthly breakout, and stress will not be kind to your face. There is absolutely no shame in having the odd spot. If it bothers you, make friends with your old pals Tea Tree & Witch Hazel again, cos they're banging. And a good high-coverage concealer is a lifelong friend.
7. Nobody knows how to fill in a tax return
Not even the nice person who answers the phone (after half an hour on hold) when you call the HMRC helpline. Start early, and give yourself time to make mistakes. Because you will make mistakes. It's a bummer, but that's the price we pay for having an NHS - woop! - and it's worth it in the end. If only so you don't have to worry about the tax man hammering down your door in a year or two looking for the money money you owe him.
8. Filling in any type of official form makes you feel like a 6 year old again
Like, if I cry will someone take pity on me and do this for me? Passport forms, tax stuff, house rentals or mortgages, bank paperwork… the list is endless and fairly horrific. Make yourself a nice cup of tea and settle in for the long haul. And never, ever leave in until tomorrow. Start it now. Then cry afterwards if you need to, preferably into a family-size bar of chocolate. No judgement.
9. Sometimes you really would rather have a salad than a pizza
Or a peppermint tea instead of a coffee. Or some olives over a big bag of Kettle Chips. And not because you're on a diet, but just because that's what you feel like. Your younger self might have had a salad because she thought she was fat, or didn't want to look greedy, but she wouldn't actually enjoy it. At all.
After years of eating rubbish, sometimes something fresh, light and nutritious is exactly what you want. It doesn't make you a health bore, it makes you a grown up person who understands what their body needs to feel good.
But sometimes you will still really want the pizza. Hey, nobody changes completely.
10. You'll actually start enjoying food shopping
When you were a kid, the weekly supermarket shop was probably not a highlight. You traipse around looking at all the sweets and toys your parents won't buy whilst the trolley fills up with weird green things you don't know the name of. And the reduced section. It's just a load of stuff that nobody else wants, right? Why is that so exciting? When can we go home?
Again, wrong. Shopping for food that you choose is an absolute joy, and there ain't nothing better than a good bargain. There are so many options! I even like wandering around supermarkets when I'm abroad, though in all honesty that's usually because things have funny names. Some things you never grow out of.
11. A night in alone is a blessing, not a curse
Can you imagine your 18 year old self actually opting for a Friday night in on her own rather than going down to that new club everyone was raving about? Don't be stupid. She'd be out the door and necking Bacardi Breezers on the dance floor quicker than you can say “drink some water before bed.”
But something's changed now. You've been on too many crazy nights out where it's so loud your ears ring for a week, and you've had enough all-day hangovers to make you think twice. Once you're a little older, you start to appreciate some quality “alone time.” Watching a good movie, having a bath and putting on a face mask whilst sitting around in your comfiest pyjamas is a luxury you have to grow into.
Eighteen year old you didn't understand what she was missing out on. She was too busy throwing up in the club toilets and calling you boring and old.
12. You'd take one nice glass of wine over a bottle of cheap plonk
Another thing your newly-legal-to-drink self just couldn't get her head around. Alcohol is meant to get you drunk, right? Why would you waste £10 on a bottle of “fancy” wine when it's two for a fiver in the bargain bucket and they all do the same thing?
Oh my dear, foolish self. All alcohol is not created equal. Never mind the hideous hangover cheap booze will give you, it tastes like (sorry to be blunt) rats piss. In fact, it may well be rats piss.
Ask me now, I'd much rather have one nice glass of wine, even if that's then the only drink I can afford for the night. Drinking is fun, but more and more I find that being drunk is not. A little merry and giggly, perfect, you're winning, and you've actually enjoyed what you've drank. No need for any more than that. Been there, done that.
Maybe I am just boring. But even if I am, I still feel better when I wake up.
13. Expensive foundation isn't an extravagance, it's a sensible investment
Remember when you were fourteen and your makeup bag consisted of a Rimmel foundation, a battered concealer stick and seven thousand lipglosses that cost about £2 each? That was fun. But do you also remember how much of the stuff you had to slap on to make any difference whatsoever?
If there's one thing your grown up self has learned about makeup, it's that it's all about that base. Skimp of your foundation, and everything slides off faster than icing on a bun fresh from the oven. There's absolutely no point having fancy blushers, bronzers or eyeshadows if they're going to end up on your chin. A good foundation lasts well, will actually help your skin and work as, funnily enough, a foundation to whack all the other stuff on top of.
Also, I hate to break it to you, but it might be time to move on from £2 lipglosses. Let them go.
14. Shopping lists are a necessity
If you don't make one, you'll inevitably come home missing the one thing you really went for in the first place. You've found 3 nice tops, a winter coat in the sale, 2 more lipsticks and some fancy body scrub, but you really only went out for shampoo. Now you have none left, and your dry shampoo has run out too. Great.
15. Comfortable 4 inch stilettos are mythological
Let's just let this one go, shall we? They don't exist. Some are less uncomfortable than others, and you may even manage to make it through a whole night out without collapsing into a fit of tears. But they aren't comfortable. Slippers, trainers and ballet flats are comfortable footwear.
I'm not saying I don't love heels because I do, but I wish we could stop pretending that they're a hug for your feet. If one more sales assistant tells me a pair of heels are so comfy, I might actually scream. If you think they are, your feet have gone numb.
16. You'll never be able to sew as well as your mum
And by mum, I mean whoever fixed your clothes when you were little - maybe your gran, or a really cool, forward-thinking dad. Either way, they have mastered an artform so advanced you cannot begin to comprehend it.
If you sew a button back on or (heaven help you) attempt an invisible hem, it'll take you forever, you'll prick yourself with the needle a hundred times, and the stitches will likely fall out again in less than a month. I try and I try, but nine times out of ten I fail miserably.
Whenever I go home, my mum gets a pile of things to fix and she has it done all done in half an hour. And she never (well, hardly ever) pricks her fingers. Magical.
17. Dry clean only doesn't always mean only
Probably not one to risk on your most expensive clothes, but a dress that was £30 in the sales? Maybe I'm brave or stupid (probably the latter), but I usually give it a go and guess what? It's always worked out fine. Keep it on a delicate cycle at a low temperature and you'd be amazed what you can stick in a washing machine.
My grandma used to work in a dry cleaners, and she told me that they used to put around 80% of stuff through a normal wash anyway. And it all came out alright. Okay, that was quite a long time ago, but still, it's worth considering as a little money saver.
18. IKEA is basically the land of dreams
I always loved IKEA when I was little, but mainly for the soft play area and the meatballs. Preferably in that order. Walking all the way around the shop and staring at 7 different cutlery sets for an hour? No thanks. I'll be chest deep in a pit of coloured balls if you need me, ta.
I'm not suggesting that little me should have wanted to look at cutlery. That would be really weird. But oh my Lord, IKEA is now basically heaven to me - they literally have anything you could possibly want, and it's actually affordable. I love walking around all the different show rooms and imagining what my house could be like, envisioning all the different styles and colours… leave me in there for a week and I'd still be happy.
I still want the meatballs though. And, if I'm completely honest with you, I'm sorta sad I'm too big for the soft play area.
19. You'll forget why you've gone somewhere
I don't mean a big trip or anything. If you've completely forgotten why you've gone to the other end of the country, that might be something worth telling your doctor. But why am I in the kitchen? I was in the living room, and I left for something… what was it? Did I leave something on? It can't be coffee, I'm holding one… Not until you sit back down on the sofa do you remember that you left your phone in there and you wanted to check Instagram for the fortieth time that day. Brilliant.
You're not going senile, don't worry. This is normal. Apparently it's a natural instinct - when you cross a threshold, you brain sort of “resets” itself so you can adapt to your new surroundings and, you know, not get eaten by a bear. Not the most useful of instincts in the 21st Century, but there you go.
20. Being called a “young lady” is basically a slap in the face
This is ridiculous. I know it's ridiculous. But it drives me absolutely wild. Little girl you wouldn't understand why, but you've lived through a lot more low-grade misogyny (if not just downright sexism) than she has.
Do not call me young lady. You sound like my grandma telling me off for putting my feet up on the couch or staying on the phone too long. I am a grown woman and I'll do what I like (unless I'm at my grandma's house, in which case I probably won't put my feet up.) Because “young lady” just sounds like a put down, even when it's well meant. It's probably not your fault, you may think you're being polite, but dude, you never, ever need to address someone as young lady.
As a side note, the only people I can really tolerate calling me “madam” are the people in the bank. Because they have the money. Even then, I'd rather you called me by my name or, if you're feeling particularly formal, Miss Railton. That's why I have them.
Funnily enough, “Sir” never sounds disrespectful does it? What a strange word we live in.
21. School days really may have been the best of your life
This used to annoy me like nothing else. I worked really hard on that one essay I wrote this week, man, stop saying my life's easy. Because school isn't easy for most of us, if we care at all. You do work damn hard.
But ultimately, pretty much most things are paid for by someone else and you have the least responsibility you're ever going to have. There's no worrying about bills, or council tax, or salaries, or whether you can actually afford that glass of wine or new dress. Someone else covers all that. You get to learn new things every day, even if some of them are mind-numbingly boring and have no application in real life (I have never yet had to use algebra to split a bill, or felt compelled to make my own cushion cover.)
But remember how if you didn't do your homework the absolute worst thing that could happen was you'd get put in detention for an hour? Yeah. Try that at work and you might get fired. It's not quite the same, is it.
That's All, Folks
And we're done! Phew. There's about a hundred more things I could've added, but to be honest I was getting really tired and I'd whacked in my favourites. What would you put in your list? Leave me a comment or send me a tweet and let me know!