Sunday, May 29, 2011


Maddison went on the mandatory year 7 Sydney/Canberra trip last week with her school.  To put into a word the look on all of the expectant, waiting parents at the airport on Saturday, I’d use excited.  The word to describe my eleven year old daughters face when walking across the tarmac – weary.   Her teacher – Rooted. 

It seems she had a great time, with stories of Questacon, a crossed eyed bus driver and friends farting in their sleep amoung the many, but in the last few hours, she had a fight with her very best friend. Maddison claims they are no longer even friends, let alone best of ones.  She was teary, moody and very unreasonable.  In fact, she must have been working on her sulking skills whilst away because if it became an Olympic sport, I do believe she’d be a contender to take out gold for Australia.  

Ahh, the memories. See, I can remember the me of grade 7. Grade 8.  Hell, I vividly remember the graduating year 12 version of me.  These are the tween/teen years and Justin Bieber is only the very start of what is oh so wrong about them. They are angsty. They are full of confusion, and as was my case, chock full of spiral perms.  So if I could go back and whisper in my teenaged ear, what would I say? Maybe this: Dear Miss Bernadette Clarke:

SPIRAL PERMS DO NOT MAKETH THE GIRL:  The year was 1988.  If you didn’t have a spiral perm you were basically dead to the rest of the school community.  Put it this way, with my already half frizz ball/semi curly head of hair and the outright denial for any hairdresser love from my mother, I was at rigor mortis stage.  So to my tween self I would say, don't worry baby, you get your curls.  Sure, everyone else will be straightening theirs by that stage, but don't worry, at some point in your life  your hair will come into vogue. Wait it out.

BOYFRIENDS ARE OVERRATED:  God I wanted a boyfriend.  Desperately.  See I had gotten the entire way through primary school, kissed DAVID and that was it. Meanwhile, my friends were peeling off left right and centre and “going out with” boys.  I wanted in.  And I got in. And I got my heart broken.  Actually maybe I shouldn’t deter my 13 year old self from doing this. I mean, it makes you tougher right?  Being invited to Dreamworld, dropped within the first twenty minutes and then being forced to endure the whole day with the group only to be ignored  by your ex all day is good for you right? No.  In hindsight, having my heart smashed to pieces and listening to Extreme’s “More than Words” on repeat for 24 hours was EXACTLY what I needed to do.  It was fantastic practice for what was to come in the future.

LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER: Oh, you know how you think your mother is an old troll who knows NOTHING?  Yeah, well, she’s more switched on than you know.  She knows that if you go to that party unsupervised you will spew your guts up when you drink too much Malibu and smoke too many cigarettes.   She also knows that when you say you are “sleeping at a friend’s house” you are really going over to a boyfriend’s house.  Either learn to cover your tracks better or don’t be a dirty little stopout.  OK? 

BE NICE TO YOUR BROTHER: You will need him later. To introduce you to your future husband.

APPRECIATE YOUR FIGURE: Because it is the best you will ever look.  You are not fat.  In fact, don’t join that gym in three years time.  It will completely fuck with your interpretation of your body.  Oh, and if for some reason you ignore this advice, hear me on this: do NOT wear the G-string over the unitard.  This can never be undone.

LISTEN IN CLASS: This should be point number one, but I know how you young kids work, you tune out. So here it is. Listen in class, study, work.  Oh and whatever it is that you enjoy doing now, writing, adding, looking after animals, reading about aeroplanes, whatever the hell it is, that’s probably what will make you happy in life.  Gear yourself into subjects that will get you there in the long run.  Nothing is more soul destroying than being 40 years of age and being in a job you cannot stand.  OK. 

IT WILL ALL BE OK: No matter how badly you think you have messed up, no matter how bad it feels when the “love of your life” dumps you, it will all be OK.  Ride it out.  I know. today, it seems like the end of the world.  In ten years time, it will all be but a memory.  A fond one at that.   Seriously, believe me on this. 

LISTEN TO MUSIC: Constantly.  Don't let the top 40 dictate your selection.  You have no idea how much music will influence your life.  Keep continuing to seek different sounds your entire life. 

That's it I think.  

Any advice you’d give yourself as a kid starting out in the big wide world of high school? Stay off Facebook? Moisturise? Don’t touch Pro-Active?  Love to hear it.


Mrs M said...

Don't give your Year 7 English shit. He may just turn around and be your 3 unit English teacher in Year 12. Then you will pay for your sins.

Love & stuff
Mrs M

Ms Styling You said...

I have two teens and I try and telepathically tell them all of the above. Something's working as they're way better behaved than I was at their age!

Caz Makepeace said...

Believe in yourself. You hold all the answers and you don't have to look elsewhere for them but inside

Great post

jenny @ let the children play said...

Dear lord, I remember the spiral perm. And forgive me for my hair sins, but I had one myself.

Anonymous said...

There's no need to try and grow up too fast. It's not a race - enjoy being a kid while you can. I'm not allowed to watch Disney movies or do fun things without a minor supervising me.

We were young once too and our advice comes from hindsight and experience... My dear, think about how you behaved when you were 8... Were you intelligent and infallible? Did you always make the right decisions? Of course not. The fact is, you're going to make the wrong decisions even now and it's just going to take you a few years to realise it. This is hindsight... this is experience... We have it and we want you to benefit from it as much as possible. Learn from our mistakes.

I understand sometimes you need to make mistakes for yourself, just please don't write-off everything I tell you. At least consider it. In the end, it's not for my benefit - everything I tell you, everything I say and everything I do I'm doing it for you.

Twitchy said...

"do NOT wear the G-string over the unitard. This can never be undone." BAhahahaha! Can't say I ever did *that*.

"whatever it is that you enjoy doing now...whatever the hell it is, that’s probably what will make you happy in life" SPOT on. Excellent call.

I guess I would only add to your wise words are that the people you think are so cool now, are not necessarily the ones you will admire later on in life. Befriend a geek. Respect that bookish girl. Own your oddness. You will be the interesting ones later on. xx

KittenFlower said...

I'd tell me: You're not ugly, you're not stupid, you're not boring. High school really isn't the whole world and there are people out there who will love you from the first second they meet you. You are not fat and in five years time your bottom-half will be highly fashionable... and probably about a million other things! :-D

Anonymous said...

Wow Bern, a spiral perm actually sounds nice compared to the hair disasters I had. Grade 2- body wave on my FRINGE only, Grade 4- full bodywave, grade 6- boy short haircut. This is what happens when your Mum Is a hairdresser...The advice I'd give my kids now- stay away from Grandma if you're in an experimental hair mood.

Jane said...

Love this. Especially "it will always be OK". Too true!

I wrote a similar post on my blog a while ago... I'm constantly thinking of more and more things to add to my list, like how I shouldn't have cried and stressed over my Year 8 design project. It was Year 8 and it was a fucking stupid subject anyway.

Great post, Bern xxx

So Now What? said...

I'll go have a look Jane. I know, the things we used to stress out about. Chill.

Nathalie said...

Get off Facebook having 700+ friends is not real life. Your friends are countable on your fingers. Quality not quantity. There is a world of amazing things beyond face book. Get cooking, read, play sport, dance like there is no one watching, spend time with your real friends and family. Life is for living have a real conversation, have a real get together and have a real belly laugh today, with yes someone human not some random who is your random friend who you don't know. Lecture over.

Carol said...


Can you please have a chat to my teenage self, too?


Jodes said...

Bern i sooo desparately wanted a spiral perm but my mum wouldn't pay for that much for my hair....... god bless her.
I am going to link this to facebook for my teenage nieces :D xx

Miss Pink said...

I have so much that i wish i could have told myself, but at the same time you worry if having known this or that before would you be where you are now? And while it may help with some of the less fun parts of your life now, it could take the best parts too. Very tricky.
I think a good point that you're missing in that (or not as it's a letter to yourself) is about friendships. Not to sweat the friends who bitch about you, who put you down, who use you. The kind of friends you want to make are those who are there for you when you need it too, and who build you up. As a teenager i think we all need to know that, that really it's only a small part of our life, and we should treat people with respect and kindness, regardless of how they treat us. People who put us down are the one's who need the most help in the end.

claudiaaitch said...

Oh, I love this Bern x

My advice to my young teenage self.
- please, PLEASE only wear one pair of socks to the ankle, not two pairs half way up your shins.
- don't dumb yourself down and pretend you don't know how to solve maths equations. It's okay to be good at maths. In fact, it's wonderful.
- your self worth is not built upon whether guys, or girls, like you. Be who you are and enjoy your quirkiness - don't hide it.
- don't bite your nails just because your friends do. It's gross.
- oh, and don't hitchhike to that party at the beach and tell your Mum you're staying at a friend's house. You're going to have a terrible time and freeze your ass off. Instead, stay at home and watch the Late Show, which is what you'll be wanting the whole night...

Lia said...

Dear Teenage Self,

It's best that you learn to accept your face. Without extensive plastic surgery, it's going to be with you for a while yet, so stop obsessing over the fact that you don't look like Alison Brae, and embrace your visage. You'll miss it when it starts changing.

(Speaking of that, unfortunately your mum was right - walking around with one eyebrow permanently set in a forehead sneer IS going to give you a line there. Don't do it. Or at least save it for special occasions.)

robyn said...

Dear seventeen year old me,

Your 'friends' are bitches and they don't matter. You will never see them again after grade 12 is over... You don't have to throw up every meal. It will not make them leave you alone. Your mum and your sisters are so good for you. Your boyfriend is awesome and will one day be your husband. Things will get better. Just keep going and you will get through it.

E. said...

I never had a spiral perm but I did have a normal perm. Why? Why? Why?

Note to a teenage me: Perms do not take well in your hair. Don't bother it's a waste of time and money. And they look tragic looking back on those photos.

And yes everything will be okay.


Nicole Hastings said...

Hahahaa love this post. Note to teenage self, you are not like the baby-sitters club girls, no mother will ever trust you with their baby at age 13.

Moko said...

I said it on Twitter, but, "Buy ounces of gold, not pot."

Jodi Gibson said...

Oh God the spiral perm! Bad memories. Bad, bad memories.
Great advice. Our eldest started high school this year and had a huge fall out with her best friend too. They are now only 'acquaintances' which is fine as she has a new group of fantastic friends. But you are right it is just the start of the hugest rollercoaster of emotions, bad hair, bad clothes and bad moods! Help!

Denwise aka Denyse Whelan said...

Oh me. I "still" remember those years.. And those of my daughter.. And now there are 2 granddaughters around the same age...
What would I say?
You will always have your family loving you. no matter what.
You are beautiful. Full stop.
Friends will be changing. Just like you. Pick ones who seem to share same ideas & values ( alright, that's not a word you know the meaning of yet)
A part time job ( just a few hours) after school or on weekend will actually help with meeting people who will make your parents pretty awesome by comparison
No girl needs to "do it" because a boy says he'll DROP ya if you don't.
And. your body can make babies you know what I mean?

Great post Bern. But we all seem to have to go through this. It's both awful and wonderful when every hour - day - week can see a new tween/teen appear!

ST. MURPHY said...

Kiss boys. IMMEDIATELY! Don't waste your High School years. xoxo

Naomi said...

Love this.

What would I say to myself? Stop trying to be someone you're not. You have real friends, stick with them... the rest will come and go, and that's OK.

Don't believe everything your boyfriend tells you.

You will get your heart broken. But it will heal. Real love will come. Be patient.

And remember, it's never a good idea to drink that much bacardi.

Faybian said...

I'd say to my young self, that its ok to be my nerdy, bookish self. In time people will stop picking on that and actually admire my academic abilities and memory. Also, don't try to be cool, it's so not worth it and neither are those many bad boys you go for. Be yourself, people respect more for that.

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