Hellosie, it’s Maisie. The pretty little pill that makes you taste magical. This is what you need to know about something else that women can put in their vaginas.

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Last month a doctor was compelled to tell women not to put glitter pills inside their vaginas and once again I was reminded of Stephen Hawking’s prediction that humans are heading for extinction.

Passion Dust Intimacy Capsules are “small, sparkleised capsules that dissolve when inserted into the vagina and release the sweet sparkle that is Passion Dust”. Basically, you piss heaven.

They sold out immediately, hence gynaecologist Dr Jen Gunter explaining exactly how and why glitter has no place in the vagina. If her name sounds familiar, it’s perhaps because she is the person who has, breathing a sigh the size of Center Parcs, decided to take on Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, clarifying the problems with (among other things) their suggestions to steam your vagina before inserting jade eggs inside you for better sex.

Glitter, though. Is that what we want, after the candles are lit and the Baileys is drunk? It’s not for nothing that Ship Your Enemies Glitter (a company that sends an envelope of glitter through the post, to coat recipients in sparkling debris upon opening) is so popular. Anyway, post-vajazzle, it seems, glitter has migrated deeper into the curious woman, like a feminist metaphor gone rogue.

And this right at the moment we learn glitter itself is… problematic. Though delightful and star-like, glitter flakes are essentially flattened microbeads, a particle plastic banned in the USA and soon to be banned here, too. The size of microplastics allows them to be ingested by the tiniest of organisms, which poses huge problems for aquatic life and, consequently, us. Glitter has been harming some people already though, with a range of iPhone cases containing glitter suspended in liquid being recalled after reports of skin irritation and chemical burns. “One consumer reported permanent scarring from a chemical burn and another consumer reported chemical burns and swelling to her leg, face, neck, chest, upper body and hands,” wrote the US Consumer Product Safety Commission in its press release. Being me, this news took my one-track mind quickly jogging down its well-trod path of toxic femininity – a frilly argument about the inevitable injuries that result from princess culture, not including pay gaps. But it wasn’t satisfying. It left me wanting. Though associated often with girliness, today glitter is bigger than that. It covers everything. To the point that it’s considered one of the most effective forms of forensic evidence – it’s really, really difficult to wash away.

You get the sense, don’t you, that the whole world has been glitter-bombed by a sly, jealous enemy, with these rainbow shards quietly embedding themselves in every aspect of life, and, like sand after a holiday, we’ll find it for weeks after in the oddest places? The thing about glitter is that it is used to make dull things exciting. Which is why it’s been so easy to ignore its darker side. Have we always known glitter was a trick, a distraction? Have we known that and ignored it, and used it to our advantage? As well as covering up birthday card mistakes, we use it to decorate difficult things, like coming out in public, or being female.

Hence the success of Passion Dust, “The pretty little pill that makes you ‘magically delicious’”. Glitter turns an awkward encounter into a princess tea party, vaginal excretions into something safe and cartoonish that taste like Skittles. For all the horrors that vagina glitter implies, I sort of get it. I mean, I get why. I get it as a My Little Pony-flavoured attempt to make every inch of an unwieldy body perfect, to hold it at a distance in order to feel you have at least a little control. Which is not to say Passion Dust can’t produce vaginal wall granulomas, act as an irritant and cause vaginal contact dermatitis, damage the good vaginal bacteria leading to infections as well as in increased risk of STIs.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. There’s no problem with female superheroes on the big screen, is there?

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It’s absurd that this should be a startling turn of events in 2017, when superhero tentpoles and their multiple offshoots have a corporate stranglehold on mainstream film culture. Among this year’s premier multiplex attractions are the second complete reboot of the Spider-Man franchise in five years, a third solo outing for Thor, and the DC Comics convention that is Justice League; we’ve already had the third Wolverine film, itself the 10th title in the X-Men cinematic universe, another Guardians of the Galaxy romp, and even the playful brand-name merger of Batman and Lego. Superheroes, extraordinary beings in their respective narrative worlds, are in disenchantingly excessive supply in ours; another man in a cape is no cause for head-turning. But a woman? In the foreground of the picture? Named in the very title of the movie? What is this brave new world?

Look around the cinema at any average screening of a Batman or an X-Men film, and you’re sure to notice that the audience isn’t entirely, gruntingly male. Do the same at any blockbuster with a female hero – The Hunger Games, for one – and you’ll notice more than a few men in the mix. Certainly, enough red-blooded misogynists profess to care sufficiently about Wonder Woman to stamp their hairy feet over a proposed female-only screening. “Superheroes for all!” these men cry – and in that respect, if no other, we can agree. Superhero movies aren’t gender-exclusive in reach or appeal, so why the overwhelming representational bias on screen?

Because, by the same logic that greenlights any number of sequels, remakes and franchise extensions, Hollywood is an industry built on precedent, and over 30 years of sporadic attempts have, until now, failed to provide a working model of success for the female-fronted superhero film. We’re not talking about audiences staying away due to misunderstanding or mismarketing: in a genre of wildly yo-yoing quality, female superhero films have somehow been botched most consistently, scuppered by a collision of the wrong conception and the wrong talent.

Let’s rewind to 1983, when Superman III had been one the summer’s worst commercial under-performers, grossing a little over half its predecessor’s total in the US. The executive producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind decided the way to reanimate the franchise was to set the Man of Steel aside and focus on his young cousin Kara Zor-El – first introduced by DC Comics in 1959. Supergirl was never the most liberally conceived of characters: her very outfit cemented the idea that she was “Superman in a skirt”, and her powers and responsibilities scarcely distinguished her from her brawnier relative.

And the calamitous 1984 film that followed barely gave her a chance. The Superman III director, Richard Lester, had been sought, but refused; Jeannot Szwarc of France, then best known for the dubious Jaws 2, was secured. The producers wanted red-hot Brooke Shields for the lead; Szwarc preferred the blank-slate newcomer Helen Slater. Christopher Reeve opted out of an initially mooted cameo; Superman’s absence was hastily explained in a narrative heavy on sketchy shortcuts and logical leaps. Connoisseurs of camp relished the hamming of Peter O’Toole and Faye Dunaway in the roles of grizzled mentor and villain, respectively – though not, perhaps, half as much as they would have done had Dolly Parton taken Dunaway’s role as initially proposed. Either way, the camp crowd cannot mint a blockbuster. Baffled by the ropey script and chintzy production, audiences stayed away to the tune of $14m – less than a quarter of Superman III’s gross.

That was enough to put the female hero experiment on ice: in the wake of the film’s failure, the Salkinds sold on the franchise, and Christopher Reeve stepped back into the blue Spandex for 1987’s dismal Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.

Despite the success of Michelle Pfeiffer’s slinky, modernised take on Catwoman as a supporting figure in Tim Burton’s 1992 Batman Returns, studios weren’t tempted to try out another female superhero vehicle until the mid-1990s – by which time the growing cult following for Supergirl had perhaps convinced producers that the best way to sell audiences on a female hero was with tongue lodged firmly in cheek. Released in 1995 and 1996 respectively, Tank Girl and Barb Wire had very different ideas of camp. The former, based on a punk-inspired British cult comic from the late 1980s, was deliberately fashioned as anarchic, independent-spirited pop-trash; the latter, taken from a then new Dark Horse Comics series, was outright leatherette junk, lacking enough irony to pull off the barely masked Casablanca rip-off of its plot.

Directed by a woman, the promising horror upstart Rachel Talalay, with Lori Petty bringing spiky riot-grrrl energy to the title role – a rebellious antihero fighting corporations in drought-ravaged, dystopian Australia – Tank Girl had a quasi-feminist spirit designed to bring young women to the cinema. If the anonymously male-directed Barb Wire appealed to anyone, meanwhile, it was the teenage boys with posters of Pamela Anderson on their walls. A buxom bounty hunter also managing a nightclub in the midst of the “second American civil war” of 2017 – so there’s still time for Donald Trump to prove it an improbably prescient film – the eponymous Barb punishes men for sexualising her, though the film-makers and Anderson’s blank, breathy performance did little but. Whatever the integrity of each film’s girl power, neither connected with audiences, grossing less than $10m between them.

And there largely ended the idea of the offbeat, independently originated female superhero on screen. A decade later, big studios went back to the idea of spinoffs from male-led franchises. By 2004 – a year before Christopher Nolan sternly reinvigorated the Dark Knight – the Batman well had run sufficiently dry that Warner Bros took a punt on a solo Catwoman feature. Sadly, Halle Berry was fashioned into a declawed version of the character, a far cry from Pfeiffer’s complex femme fatale. Directed by the mononymous French effects whiz Pitof and almost entirely divorced from the Batman universe, it was a turgid, half-heartedly jape-y affair, torn between Catwoman’s feline kink and newly earnest solo crime-fighting agenda. No one bought it, and the film failed to recoup its $100m budget.

Six months later, Fox tried its luck with Elektra, having already test-run Jennifer Garner as the martial arts-trained assassin in 2003’s profitable Daredevil adaptation. (She had died at the end of it, but you can’t keep a good – or even a strictly average – superheroine down.) Without the anchoring attraction of Ben Affleck shrink-wrapped in red leather, however, audiences just weren’t interested: released in the infamous commercial dead zone of January, Elektra suffered a swift power cut.

By then, the present age of comic-book movie monoliths was well under way: Spider-Man had become a pop culture colossus again, with Batman (and, with slightly less golden results, Superman) shortly to follow. Studios were pouring millions into glossily redesigning well-known quantities, and getting mega-millions back in return. Their motivation to experiment with new or unproven superhero franchises – like, say, anything starring a woman – couldn’t have been lower.

And so, superheroines were instead successfully slotted into ensembles. Jessica Alba played Invisible Woman (the irony!) in The Fantastic Four. Anne Hathaway clawed back some of Catwoman’s cred in Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. The Avengers and its Marvel Cinematic Universe associates have provided auspicious showcases for Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), while the X-Men series keeps throwing bones to the likes of Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique), Halle Berry (Storm) and Anna Paquin (Rogue).

Yet as the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to mushroom across solo vehicles for superheroes such as Thor and Captain America, Black Widow is kept waiting – with Johansson turning instead to the manga of Ghost in the Shell for a comic-book lead. Lawrence has grown into one of Hollywood’s most bankable names, yet a Mystique movie hasn’t materialised while Fox makes a solo cash cow out of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.

Now Wonder Woman – directed by the long-languishing Patty Jenkins, once booted from Thor: The Dark World and now only the second female film-maker to be given a $100m-plus budget — arrives with a lot riding on her strong, bronzed shoulders. If it lands, could studios be inspired to give the spotlight to a few more ladies in the comic-book canon? Two are already taking a punt, with the Avengers architect Joss Whedon recruited by Warner Bros to give Batgirl (last spotted in the chaotic mix of 1997’s Batman & Robin) an ass-kicking vehicle of her own and Brie Larson joining the MCU to play Captain Marvel. Could Supergirl be far behind, to get her own shot at big-screen redemption? It’s certainly time. For as much as Hollywood would have us believe otherwise, saving the world – and wearing lycra while doing so – is an equal-opportunity skill.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. What’s the new female trophy part? You’d be wrong.

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How, I sometimes wonder, will future generations look back on our era? I imagine there will be Ye Olde Early 21st-Centurie Tours, during which school children will be dragged down recreated pavement streets, dotted with Costa Coffees, Caffe Neros and, the non-plus ultra, Starbucks as they learn about “The Great Coffee Craze” suffered by their ancestors. And they will gaze upon these model stores with the same bemusement with which we look upon tales of leeching and the bubonic plague. Perhaps, too, they’ll learn how these ancestors valued familiarity over variety, preferring their lunches to taste the same wherever they travelled and relying on things called “sandwich chain stores” so they could be assured that the brie and tomato baguette they had in Pret a Manger in Rotherham one week would taste exactly the same as the one they had in Edinburgh the next.

But something else has come to my attention that evokes a certain aspect of this modern era even better than convoluted coffees in infantalising sippy cups. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons released its latest statistics for procedures this week and reading them is like flicking through a copy of Grazia magazine without the risk of encountering any celebrity selfies or the phrase “bikini body”. For herein we see the obsession with the female body in the most brutally exaggerated form, divested of any euphemisms of the “maintenance” and “tightening” variety, as employed by the former MP Louise Mensch when discussing her facelift on Newsnight. (“I was asked about [my facelift] by the Guardian once and refused to answer as journalists are always trying to trivialise female politicians by talking about their appearances,” said Mensch, who was in no way trivialising herself by talking about her facelift to Jeremy Paxman.)

While it may not have the literary merit of Wolf Hall, there is plenty to occupy one in the 2012 Plastic Surgery Report, such as its use of exclamation marks (“2012 marked the highest number of botulinum toxin type A injections, with 61.m injections!”) and the identical image of the apparently naked woman on every page, suggesting that – as most of us always believed – the ultimate effect of plastic surgery is to make all women look robotic and identical (in 2012 in America, women accounted for 91% of plastic surgery procedures).

But the page I find the most enthralling is the one detailing which procedures have moved up and down the charts, pop-pickers, because it’s here that we really see what’s happening in the world of female body fixations. For example, forehead lifts are down from 2000 by 63%, helped, no doubt, by the rise of Botox, which has increased by 680%. Breast lifts and buttock lifts are (appropriately) up 69% and 114% respectively since 2000, reflecting the trend for certain parts of a woman to be higher and tighter. Once changing from stripes to polka dots marked the changing years in a woman’s wardrobe; now it’s where her body parts are on her body.

While the most popular surgical procedure remains, unsurprisingly, breast augmentations, these have fallen in America over the past year by 7%. By contrast, upper arm lifts are up 4,473% since 2000, and this – while staggering – is no surprise.

In case you have missed the memo, upper arms are the new trophy female body part and not boobs, the one that signifies a dedication to the cause (the cause of having a trophy female body part) and belonging to a certain class, because class is always at the root of this kind of boggle-eyed female body fetishisation. So while New York Magazine was quick to claim that “Michelle Obama’s Arms Spark Liposuction Trend”, their accusation is misjudged. Only those of a certain class have the time and money to do what is required to maintain those toned arms without recourse to slicing them open from pit to elbow, as Anna Wintour (daily 6am tennis practice) and Gwyneth Paltrow (has she mentioned she exercises?) can affirm. (Those women and others such as Jennifer Aniston almost invariably wear sleeveless dresses, even on winter nights, for what is the point of having a trophy body part if it’s covered up? Cardigans are for flabby-armed wimps.) That, you see, is kind of the point of the trophy female body part, and why it constantly changes: it has to be something only the very few can attain, and this is also why the arm will soon no longer be the trophy part as more people attain theirs through surgical means.

So what next, female trophy body part hunters, what next? My money’s on “an enviable back”, followed by a rise in “back lipo”. Trying to spot the next trophy female body part is like playing whack-a-mole on a woman’s body, and it’s a lot more painful for the woman than it was for the mole. Since spending time in LA during Oscars season, I thought I’d heard of all possible forms of plastic surgery, ranging from toe-shortening (can’t have talons crawling out of your Jimmy Choos) to lip lifting (for that crucial Joker look). But as even the most casual reader of the Mail Online’s sidebar of shame will know, there is an inexhaustible number of body parts for which a woman can be criticised (“What is wrong with Zooey Deschanel’s eyelid?” Mail Online, 12 March).

Ultimately this isn’t about plastic surgery – it’s about what part of the female body will be fetishised next and used to make other women resent the body parts they have. And if some of them feel driven to carve up their skin and muscle in order to fit some kind of bill, well, that’s not self-loathing – that’s just the modern way.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. What every feminist can get their girlfriend for their birthday, and not worry it will be the wrong gift.

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Here’s the problem with feminism: it makes Birthday presents very hard. Particularly when it comes to gift-giving. Of course, most women are content with something pink and expensive. But what about those feminists who demand presents that don’t prop up the patriarchy, gifts that don’t give in to gender stereotypes, trinkets that don’t trade in transmisogyny and objects that don’t objectify? It’s a minefield, basically – and one you should tread carefully. Everyone knows feminists don’t have a sense of humour.

Thankfully, there are already numerous gift guides tailored to the feminist in your life – you know, as opposed to all those other women who are not interested in equal-gifting rights. According to these guides, feminist-friendly presents include a Uterus Plush Figure (“an informative tag describes the wonders of the womb”); a $155 (£122) Vagina Charm Necklace and a body-positive iPhone case.

These are all bloody good suggestions, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, however, a feminist just has more vagina charm necklaces than she knows what to do with. So, I’ve helpfully put together a few more ideas to help you close the gift gap for your girlfriend’s birthday.

1. A nice broomstick

Definitions of feminism can differ so it’s worth quickly recapping what the f-word actually means. Pat Robertson, an American televangelist, might have said it best when he described feminism as a movement that “encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practise witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians”. Now, I hate to make sweeping generalisations, but if you’re going to practise witchcraft, then you’re going to need a broomstick.

2. A witty slogan T-shirt

If you’re a feminist but don’t have a T-shirt proclaiming you’re a feminist, are you really a feminist? Probably not. Women have never had so much freedom to purchase hideous T-shirts that let the world know that they truly do buy into feminism. With slogans such as “Girls just wanna have fun-damental human rights”; “Who needs gender roles when we can have pizza rolls?”; or “Ovaries before Brovaries”, you can show the world how important it is to have equal access to terrible puns.

3. A mullet

The bigger, the better. What, did you think the patriarchy was going to topple itself?

4. A pinky ring

If you like feminism, you should put a ring on it. More specifically, you should put a pinky ring on it. Fred+Far, an LA-based jewellery company, offers a “self-love pinky ring” billed as an anti-engagement ring. “Woman,” the website says, “reclaim yourself … choose power, choose fulfilment, choose choice … choose yourself.” If you think this sounds like some grade A bullshit rather than Serious Feminism™, I’d caution you not to be so cynical and have a little feminist faith. Buy a $325 (£256) pinky ring and equal rights will undoubtedly follow.

5. Some fancy makeup

Don’t let anyone tell you that makeup is a foundation of patriarchal oppression; makeup is war paint. Suffragettes suffered for our right to go to Sephora and we should celebrate this freedom, not debate it. In case you still need convincing that eyeliner won’t ruin your feminist credentials, may I remind you that the Nigerian writer and feminist role model, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is a beauty ambassador for Boots No. 7. In an interview regarding this role, Adichie says that she wanted to be “part of the message that women who like makeup also have important and serious things that they’re doing in their lives … it’s time to really stop that ridiculous idea that somehow if you’re a serious woman you can’t and should not care about how you look.” So, there you go: makeup still maketh you a feminist. A(wo)men to that. See the pun there?

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. It’s okay to feel insecure sometimes. We all have bad days. Days we feel bad about ourselves.

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We’ve heard it all before: women need to up our confidence game. We need to work on our self-esteem, feel beautiful just the way we are, lean in, be bold, practice self-care, battle our imposter syndrome and be a girl boss. A day doesn’t go by on social media where a friend doesn’t share some sort of inspirational meme created for women – it’s all motivation all the time. It’s … nice, I suppose.

Surely there’s something to it – there’s nothing healthy about walking around hating yourself, and there’s no doubt that self-loathing is a long time female rite of passage. So, I understand the ubiquity of self-empowerment directed at women these days: a lot of us need it.

But when it becomes all-encompassing – when we feel compelled to constantly buck up outwardly and in our inner lives – well, it can all be a bit exhausting. Lately, the anxiety around being more confident is starting to feel like a bigger problem than the insecurity itself.

There’s a booming business in helping women to feel better about themselves; the self-esteem industry never tires of telling us the various ways we consciously and subconsciously belittle ourselves or don’t adequately cultivate our power. We say sorry too much, don’t take our seat at the table, don’t ask for what we deserve.

A lot of these are real, actual problems, but there’s a difference between taking on tangible issues – such as not asking for as much money as men – and being on constant guard for momentary lapses of confidence.

The truth is that there’s nothing wrong with women feeling inferior from time to time. It’s a natural reaction to a culture that largely tells us that’s what we are, and a little insecurity can actually be a decent motivator. Why not sit for a moment with our crises of confidence and accept them as normal, rather than constantly trying to battle through them?

 Feminism isn’t just a fad – and that’s why so many anti-feminists are angry.

I simply don’t buy that the spiral of self-awareness is entirely a good thing. I don’t want to constantly be working on myself, or powering through tough times with validating, feel-good platitudes. We have bad days; we feel bad about ourselves. That’s OK. Believe me.

There’s a longstanding feminist saying that in a culture that disdains women – the way we look, the way we age, the way we act – that loving ourselves can be a revolutionary act. I agree. But part of that self-love has to be forgiving ourselves when we’re not feeling at the top of our game, instead of treating the feeling as a deficiency that needs to be tweaked or fixed.

I do hope that women feel good about themselves. I like that we’re in a moment of feminism where women feel comfortable declaring themselves bosses and badasses, especially those women who have long been treated as if their self-confidence is unfounded or unattractive. I just also hope we can make some room for those difficult days and bad feelings. They’re part of us too.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. High heels are glamourous and tres sexy, but they are not empowering for women.

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It may sound a tad retro-feminist, and possibly taking ‘high heels’ too seriously, but how in heaven’s can items of footwear that in effect hobble the wearer, be empowering except for a dominatrix.

Indeed, high heels could hardly be said to have been empowering even when they were intrinsically bound with very real power. The high heel was a symbol of political privilege in the French court of Sun King Louis XIV (1643-1715). The king himself owned a pair of five-inch heels and his nobles followed suit, although never in heels higher than the king – that was banned by royal decree. At 5ft 4in (1.63cm) Louis was less than statuesque and probably used heels to elevate his royal personage. But high heels weren’t just about adding height. They said something else about the wearer – their very impracticality proclaimed that here was a person of such wealth and privilege that he didn’t have to labour in the fields, or indeed trouble about walking too far.

The Sun King’s court at Versailles was a famously paranoid and rancorous place to be. Its well-heeled nobles were enslaved by the necessity to compete for the king’s favour and dictated to by fashion and foppishness. High heels may have been a symbol of being close to power, but the wearers could hardly be said to be personally empowered.

Heels have come and gone from fashion in the 300 years since the Sun King’s court. Their association with women caused them to fall out of fashion with men, who presumably threw them to the back of the wardrobe with a grateful sigh. At times, they have been wildly out of fashion – it wasn’t done in Napoleonic post-revolutionary France to be seen prancing about in high heels. Neither were they a good idea in 17th century Massachusetts where a woman could be tried as a witch for seducing a man into marriage by wearing them.

But they came into their own in the 20th century – specifically the latter half, when in 1954 Christian Dior and shoe designer Roger Vivier developed a low-cut shoe with a narrow heel called a stiletto, named after a particularly vicious type of Italian dagger. “Killer heels” were born.

Back in the 50s, however, high heels were simply glamorous and sexy fashion accessories: no one tried to argue that Marilyn Monroe posing above a subway grating in stiletto-heeled sandals and flying dress was about girl power.

It took the power dressing 1980s to make that link, and now that seems to have extended to sexualised dressing in general. Female power is about wearing what you want to wear, the argument goes. I would argue, however, that the lines have become blurred between the freedom to express our sexuality and sexualisation. One is about the free will to choose what we wear, the other is about buying into the illusory power of the dominatrix, which is less about female empowerment than about a certain type of man trying to work through some complicated and unresolved childhood issues.

It is hardly surprising that the lines have become blurred. It is still relatively recent history where the showing of an ankle could lead to social ruin. It is no wonder-women, whose sexuality was for so long suppressed – and still is in many parts of the world – revel in being able to express themselves. Wearing what we like demonstrates our free will, doesn’t it? Yes, it does, but it doesn’t follow that the choices we make are always sensible.

I’m not arguing that women shouldn’t wear high heels – but please, let’s give up the pretence that they are anything other than what they are. Glamorous, yes; sexy, yes; empowering, certainly not.

Still, maybe I shouldn’t be so concerned. My dominatrix days are over. That’s a joke by the way.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. No wonder I feel lucky. 23 year-olds have the best of times.

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In news designed to make a small, specific segment of the population feel very smug, researchers have discovered that 23-year-olds are more popular than any other age group. At 23, humans will have an average of 80 friends – 30% more than the average across other ages, being 64. Your popularity has peaked because you’re still in touch with your old school friends, but you’ve been in the workplace long enough to have forged strong bonds with your colleagues, or at least have gone drinking outside of the office and passed out on their sofas a few times.

I turned 23 this month, and although anything could happen in the next 23 years, I wholeheartedly agree with the researchers. I’ve never counted my friends – I don’t trust the number I have on Facebook because some of them will be fake, but I can confirm that as I approach 24, my friendships are of the highest quality.

This isn’t because I’ve become wiser, hotter or otherwise more attractive to new acquaintances, but because I’ve recognised my limitations. At 20, my friendships were forged over spilled sticky drinks and speakers playing sub-par house music. At 23, you’re just about self-aware enough to realise that if a friendship is best nurtured in an environment where you’re both blind drunk and unable to hear each other, the Elizabeth Duke fragmented heart BFF necklace you just bought was a total waste of £14.99.

Your late teens are a terrible time to make friends. They’re a terrible time to do anything. You’re still working out who you are and what you’re into, and usually the only way to discover anything interesting is to make a series of temporarily disastrous mistakes. You lack any kind of perspective, you’re useless to workplaces everywhere, because your blind enthusiasm is terrifying and no one will show you how to send a fax or explain to you why fax machine use has persisted over a decade into this millennium.

As a result, you’re broke and anxious, and your living arrangements probably leave much to be desired. I can’t be the only one who has unthinkingly invited friends to come over for dinner, only to remember as they arrive that the flat has no communal eating space, and they would have to consume their meals while sitting on my bed, like the grandpas and grandmas of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. That’s a joke by the way.

I believed my teens were supposed to be my best years, and wasted a lot of energy panicking and running around to ensure that even though I was having a miserable time, it looked fun in the photos. I wish I’d known that ageing would bring me nothing but joy and perspective, it seemed unthinkable that I would ever land a job I really loved, or a relationship that made me truly happy. Let alone live in a flat that didn’t frighten me, or get to a point financially where I could use my debit card without holding my breath and making the sign of the cross. It does get better. Unfortunately, there’s no way you can speed up the worst parts of your teens, but working through it is what makes you strong, secure and happy at the end of the decade.

Although I’m not sure that I’m more popular than ever before, at 23 I’m confident that I’m a good friend. I might not be more interesting than before, but I’m more interested. I know listening to other people and learning about the world around me has more value than trying to be the loudest, most outrageous girl in the room. I value kindness over coolness, and I’d rather go out on a limb to help someone than hold back and hope I don’t seem too keen. Most importantly, I’ve been an adult for long enough to know that friends are flawed, and they come and go. It’s better to have five emotionally sound pals than 50 idiots in your phone book. Ironically, this sense of peace and security sends new friends flocking. Everyone wants to be your mate when you stop pursuing fair-weather pals. It isn’t until you’re 23 that you realise your mum was right all along. You’ll never be popular until you genuinely stop caring about being popular.