Dear teenage me, stop being such a feartie

Inspired by some of my old colleagues, who were in turn inspired by Victoria Beckham, I’ve penned a letter to my 18-year-old self.

Me at 18 – this is the only pic I can find without going up the loft. Honest

Hi Frances

The nicknames will come, I promise, but sadly no one will ever embrace Frankie. More on that later.

Right now you’re an incredibly naive 18-year-old who is about to start college and embark on a career in newspapers. You haven’t got a single clue, but that’s ok. Neither does anyone else in your class. And you don’t know it now, but you’re about to make one of the most significant and long-lasting friendships of your life.

You chose journalism because you have a passion for writing, but somewhere along the way you’ll lose sight of that because words will become your trade, not your inspiration. Fortunately, there’s this incredible new invention coming along called the Internet and you’ll rediscover your writing mojo. Embrace it.

You’ll eventually lose the naivety. That bit won’t be pretty, but you’re more emotionally mature than you give yourself credit for. And you’ll always have humour to get you through the worst days.

Oh yeah, on humour – sometimes, no matter how funny you think you’re being, you should know when to shut the eff up. Timing is everything.

You’re not fat. Honestly, you’re not. You’re a wee bit plump. Try not to be quite so self-conscious – eventually communal changing rooms will die and you’ll be able to strip down to your scants without worrying about a judgmental audience tutting.

The chest region is, however, over-endowed and that’s never going to change so get measured properly for a bra much earlier than your 30s (!) and never ever skimp on well-upholstered lingerie.

Most of all, you’ll stop being afraid. Afraid of change, afraid of being on your own in the flat at night, afraid of being embarrassed, afraid to move away, afraid of a new job, afraid afraid afraid.

You will have a good career and be sensible – eventually – about your finances and mortgages and stuff. Then it will all go to glorious pot in your 40s but that will be even better because you will have stopped being so bloody scared of life.

Most of all, you’ll stop being scared of who you really are. You’ve always known you are a lesbian, but the very idea of even saying that word out loud has turned you into a bit of a baby bigot. Making snide remarks about other women/girls who might or might not be gay is not cool. You’ll learn that the hard way. So stop it now.

But when you do finally accept that everything – fun, joy, passion, love – is passing you by because you are living only half a life, you will be free. And you’ll get horribly hurt and do some horrible hurting of your own and all of it will be worth every miserable, splendid, unforgettable second because you’ll be yourself.

Appreciate your parents much more than you do – they are magnificent and you’ll only realise how magnificent when it’s a little too late.

Most of all, know that nothing in life is ever set in stone. No job, no relationship. Change will become something you embrace, not evade. And when the greatest change of all comes along, it will be because of the promise of all-encompassing love.

Grab that change with both hands. It will be the best thing that ever happens to you.

Enjoy the ride, Frankie. Okay, maybe that’s a nickname just for me and you.


Debbie also penned a letter to her 18-year-old self. Unfortunately, we don’t have a pic of her from that time… yet.

Dear Debbie,

You’re 18, what do you know? Actually you know a lot! You know that you value people above objects, you know that you want to make things better for everyone, and you’re already hoping that there’s a certain someone for you.

You’ll spend years having fun, taking wrong turns, trying to make up for mistakes that weren’t yours in the first place, and even when you’re having the best fun ever, you’ll worry that you’re not good enough.

Know three things:

Everyone round you will have more qualifications/degrees than you but you know as least as much as everyone else

Fighting for equality is never a lost cause – there will be rewards in the most unexpected places.

And hold on to the fact that the love of your life will find you and make you feel more happy and complete than you can ever imagine – at the exact point that you are able to accept that you are worthy of the happiness she offers.

More than just lip service?

Role models for the LGBT community positively abound right now. Our cup, it seems, runneth over.
During my angst-ridden (ha! I was the least tortured teen ever) teenage years, the only gays in the figurative village were screaming queens like Are You Being Served?’s Mr Humphries and Larry Grayson with his tales of “Slack Alice” et al.

Lesbians were even less visible, being confined to fictional characters in Gothic horrors such as The Killing of Sister George or butch extras in Within These Walls.

This was what once passed for lesbian chic ...

Now you can’t move for terrific examples of fine human beings in the public eye who just happen to be gay or lesbian.

Or even bisexual – Jessie J, we’re looking at you (even tho we know you’re really a big ole dyke).

Being pleased to discover that someone famous is one of them gays can be hard to explain to those who are not … er … gay and I’m sure I won’t express this properly but here goes.

When you know you’re part of a minority – and a minority that for the most part is invisible – it can be incredibly uplifting and heartening to see someone you believe is like you achieving success. Despite negativity and ingrained (and often unacknowledged) homophobia, they have made it and if they have, so can you.

Even better is when their sexuality is recognised as being incidental or irrelevant to their success or achievements.

I know I’ll live long enough to see the day when the media no longer feels it has to label LGBT people in a way it would never occur to them to do with heterosexuals.

Anyway this is a long-winded way of getting round to my main point – the return of the BBC3 drama Lip Service.
Auntie describes it as a “provocative drama” about the lives of a group of lesbians in Glasgow.

Frankie and Cat break off from back alley shagging - it's just like real life

I prefer to call it L Word Lite. The L Word was the ludicrously glossy and impossibly glamorous US TV series about a group of lesbians in LA. It started off as great fun but quickly became bogged down in clichés and impossible scenarios and bonkers plots.

Lip Service series one pretty much followed that template with only one big plus for me – Glasgow looked fantastic in it!

Last night series two kicked off and yet again I thought it was pants with a capital P.

Dire dialogue, cardboard cutout characters and some “comedy” scenes that had me squirming in embarrassment.

But here’s a thing. Does it actually matter if a cynical auld moo like me thinks Lip Service is rubbish and that if the gay scene was populated by the likes of its gorgeous cast, more cynical auld moos like me would be happy to spend time on it?

Imagine you’re 18 and gay. In fact, imagine you’re 25, 35, 55 or whatever age. There, on primetime telly (even if it is on a digital channel) is a whole hour of role models. Not always positive, that’s true, but still, lots of lesbians doing ordinary and occasionally extraordinary things.

There’s been very little angst, no one crying into their beer that they can’t handle their sexuality.

And, almost unheard of for television lesbians, no one is yet a murderer, stalker or bunny boiler. For that alone, Lip Service probably deserves an award.

Last night I imagined my 17-year-old self, holed up in my bedroom in a bungalow in Ardrossan, having a programme like that to watch and pondered on what it might have meant to my self-esteem and my ability to deal with my burgeoning sexuality. My teen self would probably still be doing mental cartwheels.

If we’re sick of tokenism in terms of representation on the box – and I’m looking at the soaps in particular here – then we should applaud shows that unashamedly place LGBT characters centre stage (I’d wish for originality and quality, too).

So I’m going to shelve my cynicism and negativity for the next few weeks and hope that Lip Service does more than simply pay lip service to a community crying out for positive representation on the box.