Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Today women know their alcohol, but this is what you need to know.


Women have caught up with men in the amount of alcohol they drink and are doing increasing amounts of damage to their health as a result, according to a global study that looked at the consumption habits of four million women over a period of over a century.

The change is partly the result of successful marketing campaigns and the creation of sweeter products aimed at young women or girls, as well as cuts in price, say health campaigners. Some studies have even suggested that younger women may be out-drinking men. Blushing with embarrassment.

This news has implications for the framing and targeting of alcohol use prevention and intervention programmes. Alcohol use and alcohol-use disorders have historically been viewed as a male phenomenon.

Historically, far more men drank alcohol than women. Men born between 1891 and 1910 were twice as likely as their female peers to drink alcohol and more than three times as likely to be involved in problematic use or use leading to harms. But in all three respects, this had almost reached parity among those born between 1991 and 2000.

Women’s drinking has increased for a number of reasons. Those who have succeeded in obtaining jobs that were once the preserve of men have joined – or found it necessary to become part of – the after-work drinking culture.

But drops in the price, which have led to wine and beer becoming regular items in the supermarket shopping trolley and part of everyday life at home, have also been a factor, alongside deliberate marketing targeted at women.

Since the 1950s we’ve seen women’s drinking continue to rise, and drinking at home has continued to increase and because alcohol is so cheap and easily available it’s become an everyday grocery item. We’ve also seen a concerted effort from the alcohol industry to market products and brands specifically to women.

We know from the annual Dry January campaign that people often don’t realise that alcohol has become a habit rather than a pleasure, with women having ‘wine o’clock’ most nights of the week. I know I do.

Drinking too much, too often, can store up future health problems, both mental and physical, with people not realising just how easy it is to go over recommended limits.

This is why we need mandatory health warnings on alcohol products and a mass media campaign to make sure the chief medical officer’s guidelines are widely known and understood. So always read the label before drinking.

Some of the drinks now available have been targeted at young women who “pre-load” while getting together to dress and do their make-up before a night out. Three large glasses of wine can be the equivalent of nine units.

Babycham was the first drink specifically designed with women in mind in post-war Britain. Today there are many others including Lambrini, which is aimed entirely at young women. “Sweet or fruity? Lively, smooth – or are you a classic kind of girl? With a Lambrini tailored to complement your own personal style and taste, you’re going to love our new collection!” says the advertising on its website.

Alcohol advertising and sponsorship is also noticeable in TV programmes aimed at women. For example, Baileys backed Desperate Housewives.

Women’s bodies do not tolerate alcohol as well as men’s, however, because they have a higher fat to water ratio. Because they have less water, the alcohol in their system remains more concentrated. They also have smaller livers than men, which makes it harder to process alcohol safely.

Bottoms up!

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


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. There are ways we can begin to positively influence the minds of young women. One of these is mentoring and nurturing.


“Run like a girl.”

“Throw like a girl.”

Show how girls’ impressions of themselves change when they hit puberty really brings home the lack of confidence that some young women have in their abilities.

Who is to blame for this? Men? Women? Society? Certainly not the girls themselves.

Changing society is a pretty big task, requiring a fundamental shift in the (largely unconscious) prejudices that many of us grow up with. Having said that, there are ways we can begin to positively influence the minds of young women. One of these is mentoring and nurturing.

Girls have too few real role models

Women are under-represented at the highest levels in most industries. Decision makers, influencers, editors, politicians – all these roles are dominated by men. This is not only worrying from a business perspective, but also because of the message it sends girls and women around the world: this is a man’s job.

It doesn’t help that women who do make it to senior positions in the public eye are held to often impossible standards and derided publicly the minute something goes wrong. Think Helena Costa, the Portuguese football manager, or Maria Miller, the former culture secretary.

So, perhaps we’re short of female role models in business, sport and politics – but what about our female celebrities? Surely there are still some role models out there? It’s true that some celebrities set a good example, inspiring and encouraging the younger generation, but in an industry that judges women largely on their appearance, these should not be the only role models our girls have.

We’ve heard all this before.

And this is particularly acute among girls in low-income communities, who had few role models in their own networks. If you can’t see any women doing a job you aspire to, then it’s very difficult to believe that you can get there yourself.

Deeper conversations challenge stereotypes and widen aspirations.

So, what’s the solution?

More role models! And not just in the media, either. Evidence and experience show that it is personal relationships and deeper conversations that really make an impact.

Girls need role models they can relate to. Girls need girls.

It’s easy to look at the gender inequality issue as an insurmountable problem, but by sharing our experiences, expertise and passion with the next generation of women leaders, we can take steps towards a more diverse, balanced working world.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. The reality of rape is still clouded in myth. This is what you need to know.


A study of more than 8,000 adults found that two out of five men and one-third of women thought that a woman was partially to blame for being sexually assaulted if she was out late at night, drinking and wearing a short skirt.

This isn’t shocking because it’s new – it’s shocking because it’s nothing new. Even today, in the midst of marches to highlight injustices against women, archaic attitudes still burn bright. There still exists a mind set that sees nothing extraordinary, repellent or plain wrong about blaming a woman for being sexually attacked simply because of the way she’s dressed or because she’s been drinking.

In the study, there was the usual boorish tosh from people who seem to think that droning platitudes about “personal responsibility” puts the little feminist ladies straight. Perhaps in some misguided attempt to play devil’s advocate.

It bewilderingly suggested that women in short skirts were looking for sex. Erm, no, not all women wearing short skirts are looking for sex and frankly who cares if they are? Looking for sex is not the same as wanting to be sexually attacked. The first is a matter of personal agency, the second is a crime.

As it happens, I’m all for personal responsibility – women looking out for themselves and each other. I remain a huge fan of the “girl pack”, which certainly helped keep me safe on many a wild night out, even when I was wearing one of my special “fuck me” mini-skirts.

However, I’ve come to realise that this angle is a tedious red herring – no one concerned about rape has ever argued in favour of people taking less personal responsibility. No one has ever said: “Women should definitely not look after themselves – they should place themselves in harm’s way at every conceivable opportunity.”

People who are concerned about rape issues want it to be acknowledged that the only person to blame for a sexual attack is… the sexual attacker. Not only because the person being raped has suffered enough without being somehow blamed, but also because the very notion of someone provoking their own sexual attack, with their choice of dress or behaviour, is offensive and ridiculous. Rape isn’t fundamentally about sex or attraction, it’s about violence, abuse, power and opportunity.

If it’s astonishing that two out of five men still require this basic education in who’s to blame for sexual assault, then it’s downright depressing that one-third of women are just as ill-informed. It suggests an attitude among some women that dressing and acting in a certain way deserves a certain vile outcome. A woman-on-woman psychological distancing, a treacherous sense of them and us, that is truly disturbing. Though is it really so surprising or just a reminder that there’s no convenient gender barricade for the kind of social conditioning that produces rape misinformation?

In truth, these prejudices swirl around us all the time, a poison gas to be breathed in by men and women alike. Thus, while it’s supposed to be men who succumb to Madonna-whore syndrome, women are not, it seems, immune. All of us are susceptible to this brutal compartmentalisation, dividing women into the pure and good (who don’t deserve to be raped) and drunken sluts who do.

If people want to talk about personal responsibility, then here’s an opportunity to demonstrate some – by fighting these prejudices all the way.

Devastating news: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg isn’t your friend. Zuckerberg, who’s promised to combat fake news, may be a bit fake himself, at least where his chummy, spontaneous Facebook posts are concerned, including ones on jogging, reading with his daughter and some excruciating “joshing” with A-listers such as Morgan Freeman.

Apparently, Facebook staff produce their boss’s charming posts. Which sounds almost as though Zuckerberg were a billionaire CEO, heavily invested in personal “brand management”, who’s been putting emphasis on a more presidential, down-with-the-people image. Oh, hang on…

If we’re all feeling a little unfriended right now, it’s small comfort that Zuckerberg appears to be even less friendly towards his Hawaiian neighbours, some of whom are being strongly encouraged (involving legal action) to sell him land for his beachfront estate. Though it’s shocking to find that Zuckerberg isn’t our buddy, it’s even more upsetting to discover some people are so thick they believed the social media mogul was “liking” their cat photos. These people need to stop being so gullible – President Zuckerberg wouldn’t like that.

Scots may be gratified to learn that Mel Gibson was (sort of) responsible for sparking an interest in Scottish independence. Talking about his 1995 film, Braveheart, in which he played William Wallace, Gibson observed: “It certainly woke something up there in Scotland. I know they achieved partial autonomy and I think it is a good thing.” (It’s believed that Gibson was referring to the creation of the Scottish parliament, which followed the 1997 devolution referendum.)

All of which sounds wholly correct. It’s a historical fact that BB (“Before Braveheart”), people in Scotland didn’t realise that they were Scottish – they just thought that they were English with sexier accents or Irish with less sexy accents. Back then, in the dark days of BB, the Scots didn’t even know that Scotland was part of Great Britain. It was only when Gibson appeared as Wallace, shouting “Freedom!” while sporting tartan and wild unbrushed hair that Scottish people finally realised what had been going on with this “United Kingdom” malarkey and, boy, were some of them mad!

After his Braveheart observations, Gibson modestly said: “I like to stay out of the politics of other people’s nations so I won’t go any further.” Such a display of reticence was noticeably absent from his “Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world!” drunken outburst when stopped by Malibu police in 2006.

Sadly, it was also a lost opportunity for film buffs everywhere. I, for one, would love to get the inside track on how other of Gibson’s films shaped world events. Say, how What Women Want paved the way for modern feminism. Or how Mad Max made it all kick off in the Middle East This has film school module written all over it.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Does your voice make you sound less competent, less trustworthy, less educated and less hireable? This is what you need to know.


Patriarchy is so inventive. The minute a generation of women has figured out how to not be enslaved by Ideology A, some new cultural pressure arises in the form of Internalisation B, making sure they don’t get too far too fast. The latest example: the most empowered generation of women ever – today’s twentysomethings in North America and Britain – is being hobbled in some important ways by something as basic as a new fashion in how they use their voices. Or basically what they sound like.

It sounds less competent, less trustworthy, less educated and less hireable: “Think Britney Spears and the Kardashians.”

It is that guttural growl at the back of the throat, as a Valley girl might sound if she had been shouting herself hoarse at a rave all night. The less charitable refer to it privately as painfully nasal, and to young women in conversation sounding like ducks quacking. This vocal tone has joined more traditional young-women voice mannerisms such as run-ons, breathiness and the dreaded question marks in sentences (known by linguists as uptalk) to undermine these women’s authority in newly distinctive ways.

But does cordially hating these speech patterns automatically mean you are anti-feminist?

I myself have inadvertently flinched when a young woman barraging a group with uptalk ran a technology-based conference call: “We’ll use Ruby on Rails? It is an MVC framework to support databases?” Well, will we?

One 29-year-old woman working in engineering told me it was easier for gatekeepers in her male-dominated field to disregard running-on, soft-spoken and uptalking women. “It is difficult for young women to be heard or even responded to in many male-dominated fields if they don’t strengthen their voices, That kind of disregarding response from men made me feel even softer and even lesser – in a vicious circle of silencing.” she said.

Style is content, as any writing teacher knows. Run-ons and “non-committal-ness” dilute many young women’s advocacy powers and thus their written authority. Many young women have learned not to go too far out on a limb with their voiced opinions; but the dilution of “voice” and the muddying of logic caused by run-on sentences in speech can undermine the power of their written thought processes and weaken their marshalling of evidence in an argument. At Oxford University, young women consistently get 5% to 10% fewer first-class degrees in English – and the exams are graded blindly. The reasons? Even the most brilliant tend to avoid strong declarative sentences and to organise their arguments less forcefully.

The problem with young women’s voices is gaining new cultural visibility.

It’s easier for gatekeepers to disregard running-on, soft-spoken, vocally frying and uptalking women.

What is heart-breaking about the current trend for undermining female voice is that this is the most transformational generation of young women ever. They have absorbed a feminist analysis, and are skilled at seeing intersectionality – the workings of race, class and gender. Unlike previous generations, they aren’t starting from zero. They know that they did not ask to be raped, that they can Slut walk and Take Back the Night, Kickstarter their business ventures and shoot their own indie films on their phones – and that they deserve equal pay and access.

Which points to the deeper dynamic at play. It is because these young women are so empowered that our culture assigned them a socially appropriate mannerism that is certain to tangle their steps and trivialise their important messages to the world. But we should not ask young women to put on fake voices or to alter essential parts of themselves.

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


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.


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.