Last year my niece turned 21. Here are the life guidelines that I (very helpfully) bestowed upon her:
Don’t go on dates because you feel that you should. Holding off on buying the nacho share plate because you’re poor and not sure if you work with his jowels, or his accent, or his chunky knit cardy, plus he’s mardy and hardly a man you’d want to bring home.
Don’t trust in those in which you share darkness. To each other you are currents in late night shanties. It’s too close to godless, a noxious surge.
As your aunty, I insist that you always have taxi money tucked inside your tight leather hot pants.
Don’t be a nob.
Deal with piles at the first set of symptoms.
Be the other woman once only so that you know worthlessness to be a badge of dishonour, accepted nowhere, that will not so much as get you a seat on the tube. Don’t get comfy with that feeling of being special only in the afternoons, not wearing perfume or glitter, in case you infect his clothes, his life, litter. Watching him leave through the gap in the blinds. Try not to be bitter. Clutching gin that collides with the part of him that rusts inside, your downfall/demise.
Don’t buy the triple X Sony amplifier headphones; the first headphones on the internet. They are shit.
Do dance in the rain, at bus stops, on your way to pay council tax. It’s as close to the end of the rainbow as you’ll ever feel. (Not as depressing as it sounds).
Be you. In all your complexity.
Use your best china. I have an Andrew and Fergie mug up for grabs.
Flee to mountaintops, tread water by barrel reefs and dive. Clock kaleidoscopic spheres as they thrive, before they drain white.
Fight for our air. Make your carbon footprint as slight as you can.
You will find things, If not God: symbols, totems. Let them not be lighthouses or numerology, Guinness or BBC 3 comedy.
Don’t buy a Stevie Nicks phone cover from I Phones 4U dot com. Like much in life, it will never arrive.
Instagram at all times. But not food. No one cares what you’re eating babe.
Always do April Fools. People who cannot laugh at themselves need to learn softness. Give it to them in cling filmed toilet seats.
Don’t tweet when unhappy or floating in gin.
Don’t like anything cat related on Facebook.
Empty the bin as much as you can.
Don’t kick out house mates if they are messy, light fingered or loud. Just leave in a shroud, in the night (you’re allowed) slip free like a bored infection. Your own private whirlpool.
Don’t be a nob.
Do wear a helmet.
Live in Berlin before it is colonised. Swim in Badeschiff, a pool on a river. Break into Spree Park and run through deserted, broken dinosaurs.
Force yourself to see blackness. Close your eyes by the creaking, squeaking turbulent skies.
Look up Manuel Schmutte and say ‘Lolly says hi’.
Finish cheese boards before your compadre.
Have midnight picnics with people you can only love periodically and who it’s best you never see again.
It’s OK to carry a hip flask as a secret sling beneath weathered skin.
Live somewhere safe with good central heating and a view of trees. Make sure it has good night buses, at least two door keys and is north of the river. No one wants chicken bones between their toes in summer.
Don’t microwave mackerel or your popcorn will taste fishy.
It’s OK to carry a hip flask as a secret sling.
Always know the way home. You never know when you may find yourself without power, hope or a good pair of ruby shoes.
Know that you can call me day or night. Know that there is always a solution. When faced with stagnated Sahara sand, blown inner land, disband bad thoughts… hailstones will appear and wash away hardness, an inability to love, GDR bricks blocking kindness. The smog clears with snowflakes. In a white, reflective snow globe, we are paused and we are perfect.
Cry when it hurts.
Tinder is not an option.
Never expect a boomerang to return.
Never expect a ginger man to return.
Always expect piles to return.
Do not lie about your intelligence or social cigarettes. They are not social. They are £8.80 a packet. They are both damaging and glorious.
Lie about your age, your bra size and about how much you actually enjoyed India.
It is OK to carry a hip flask.
Always help your mother/my sister with Christmas dinner.
Always make sure your aunty’s glass is topped up with fizz.
You are brilliant.
You are beautiful.
Use your best China. It’s OK to be a broken tea cup. A pasted together saucer.
I wanted to buy you a compass for your 18th but Topshop Accessories were all out so I bought you a Cheryl Cole album.
I took an oath before a God I no longer believe in to protect you.
Throw me as hard as you want. I will always return.
Quieten as much as you need. I will hear your black box, twenty miles below the sea.
And if you want the Andrew and Fergie mug, just fucking ask me.
I have gin with which to fill you up. And a flimsy map home.