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twenties

A guide to everything you need to know about your twenties

Look after your mental health, be rude to bad people at parties and ignore everything about other people’s sex lives

There’s been a lot in the press about ‘Millennials’ recently. I happen to hate the term – mostly because it elides class, race and gender and tends to involve a set of relatively privileged media pricks (of which I am one) discussing their specific situation among each other. But, as well as this, I have a visceral reaction to the word – I hate being labelled in reference to the Millennium: an evening I spent, aged 12, watching the mum of a school friend I no longer speak to dancing around her own kitchen to Agadoo by Black Lace.

However, this particular wave of interest in the plight of my generation comes in advance of my own 28th birthday - here are some particular things I find I personally have learned in the course of my 20s.

MENTAL HEALTH IS PARAMOUNT

If you do not have mental health you have literally nothing. Depression is a living death and I frankly don’t care about home ownership or using my phone too much or if my “career” is going well or if I’m part of the generation of narcissism or too earnest or too politically apathetic. Prize your mental health, treat it like a god, be selfish about it, drop anyone who threatens it.

IF SOMETHING IS DESCRIBED AS ‘EDGY’ IT DOESN’T MEAN IT’S GOOD, IN FACT IT PROBABLY ISN’T

I’m all for a bit of ‘edgy’ thinking (I mean I am transgender, bisexual, a socialist and believe the original lineup of the Sugababes is probably Britain’s most important contribution to the world) but my 20s taught me a lot of so-called radical culture is actually listening to some guy – who looks like he’s a rejected auditionee for a Nirvana tribute band – being incredibly tedious. Sometimes he’s literally reading a self-penned poem about his own dick. The truly ‘edgy’ people tend not to call themselves such, as a rule, and sometimes it’s just nice to watch Loose Women without an ‘institutional critique’.

 

THERE’S NO NEED TO BOAST ABOUT DOING STUFF ON YOUR OWN

Having been single for all of my 20s, I used to be very snappy about my independence and disdainful of people who publicly displayed a palpable need for love and affection. Then, I had a mental health breakdown (see above!), left my job and moved back home with my mum to recover. For the first two weeks she handed me my antidepressant with orange juice every day because I couldn’t manage to take it myself. We all rely on someone, sometimes.

The romantic couple essentially privatises a general need for emotional, sexual and practical intimacies into one arena – it’s like the iPhone homescreen for emotional wellbeing. While it is nothing to be smug about, its efficiency probably isn’t as much an object of scorn as it used to be and I don’t think there is any inherent superiority in being either single or attached. That said, I still think people who put their partner’s Twitter handle in their own bio are an embarrassment.

BE RUDE TO SOME PEOPLE AT PARTIES EARLIER

Namely, the guy who gets out his guitar and starts singing unsolicited and the random who cheerily starts helping themselves to other people’s drugs. You’ll end up telling them to fuck off eventually – get on with it early. Life’s too short.

SWITCH OFF FROM OTHER PEOPLE’S SEX LIVES

You’ve learned not to ‘shame’ anyone, now you just need to switch off – being too invested (even in an approving way) in other people’s sex lives just leads to loads of circular thinking and anxiety about whether you’re boring. A gay friend texted me one morning last summer saying he was just returning from a “fivesome”. I wasted a good two minutes considering if I was wasting my youth by having never had a fivesome before realising that (a) I’ve never had sex with four other people at once because the likelihood of me even meeting four new people I can bear to even chat to is a pipe dream and (b)  a ‘fivesome’ isn’t a thing – it’s clearly just two sets of people having sex with one person anxiously looking for something to grope.

COME OUT AS TRANSGENDER!

OK OK, I’m only recommending this because I did it.

LEARN TO LOVE YOUR CONTENT FILTERS AND CUSTOM SETTINGS ON FACEBOOK

I have one filter for status updates which I’ve called “Shon’s drunk”. I use it to post status updates in the taxi home at 4am. Only about five equally trashy friends can see thrilling updates like “Omgggg gonna buy a bodice on eBay when I get home cuz I’m a sexy Victorian wench!!!!” which means I’m starting to pass as an adult among the general population.

GOING ON HOLIDAY A LOT ISN’T A PERSONALITY

Travel is great, if you can afford it, but some of the most well travelled people I know haven’t expanded their horizons or learned anything of note about “other cultures” they’ve just bought a prayer mat and done pills.

LIP-LINER

It goes all over the lips before you apply the lipstick. No one told me this until a month ago and it’s changed my life forever.

IF YOU DON’T DRINK RESPONSIBLY BY 28 YOU NEVER WILL

I’d sooner have no glasses of wine than one, frankly. If you’re not abusive and you don’t vom there’s no point trying to beat yourself up about being a lush. In my late 20s I’ve realised if you wear large earrings and some kind of oversized faux fur stole, people think you’re glamorous even if you’re slurring your words. Kinda.