Let’s talk about our ‘awkward stage’…
Pri: Let me paint you a picture: untamed eyebrows, velour tracksuits, braces, a middle parting (not the chic kind) and the humble beginnings of a mustache. The tracksuit you can maybe excuse as a product of 2000s but the rest of it was definitely courtesy of puberty.
Edi: My awkward stage was nice and protracted, just like a good awkward stage should be. I was painfully thin from the age of 11 till about 17, and had terrible skin, wild hair and my full, adult face all blending into a perfect cocktail of boyfriendless teenage perfection. Of course, my undeniable unattractiveness meant I was left to get on with school work undisturbed, and I did very well in all my exams. So that was a plus.
Sophie: My awkward stage has not yet finished so I’ll have to let you know when it does. Don’t hold your breath.
Okay, just to clarify my comment; I’m not sure that awkward stages end, they just develop. So my standard awkward phase went from about 12 till about 17 maybe. It was a lot of band hoodies, chains, stripy socks, pink hair clip in things, braces, filthy amounts of acne, listening to grunge and pop punk like I was the first one doing it and not being at all sure where I fit in socially. Now, the clothes are better (I hope) but I’m still the same festering puddle of social anxiety.
Bethan: My awkward stage started as I started growing awkwardly aged 10. My feet and my nose grew first followed by my legs but my torso took many years to catch up. This combined with braces, a large forehead, and a hairstyle like the Hanson brothers made my early and mid teens quite tough.
Eve: My awkward stage involved braces/orange hair in an attempt to have it light brown like JLo/stupidly small Just-Do-It school backpacks and terrible choice in fashion (pink Timberlands anyone??), but I wouldn’t have it any other way. A standard awkward phase is very important to growing up, like you know…if we had just gone straight into being a fabulous selves now from puberty what would we have learned?
How did you feel about it at the time?
Bethan: It was tough, especially as all my other friends seemed to develop so proportionally and gracefully and attracted attention from boys. But…I found success at school during this time which gave me confidence to eventually get me out of my awkward stage!
Pri: Up until about 11, I thought I was the baddest chick in the game. Whatever game I was playing, I don’t know. Then I got to secondary school and all the cool kids had Jane Norman bags and Nokia 3310s. I still had a phone with an antenna. I read that a girl’s self esteem peaks around that age, which is tragic, but also very believable. I became a lot more self conscious during my so called awkward stage definitely. As much as I wasn’t actively trying to look like a hot mess, I was aware that I was struggling in that department and it kind of mirrored the bundle of confused emotions I was experiencing inside. It didn’t help that my mum didn’t let me touch make up or my monobrow until years later.
Edi: I went through big swings during my awkward phase. One day I wanted what everyone else wanted, the next day I couldn’t care less. One day I wanted wear makeup, the next I just wanted to play on my game boy. I definitely steered more towards the ‘couldn’t care less’ side of things, which ended up shaping my entire personality – now I actually do not give a shit what people think or do etc. The only exception was fancying boys, when I was a hot mess without fail. Then I wanted to be pretty. The rest of the time, it was tracksuit bottoms and zelda ftw.
Sophie: I think, of course, there were times when I felt like a weirdo and wished I was cooler or thinner but, other than some minor bullying when I was 12/13 maybe, it’s mostly happy memories. (Or maybe I’ve blocked it all out.) Seriously though, I think I felt about awkwardness how I feel about it now; there are days I feel embarrassed to be me and worry about what other people think but generally the feelings of being happy with my lot are more common. Though I wasn’t the coolest or whatever, I had great friends and being an absolute nerd, and loving the buzz of academic achievement as well as getting on with pretty much everyone meant that I had my own niche/place in the hierarchy. ONE EXCEPTION: I will forever be extremely awkward and odd around men. I was back when I was 15, and now 10 years later, that’s just me.
OH another thing! I remember feeling not exactly awkward but more…mildly aware that though I went to a very very multicultural school where people were divided by their ethnicity (not in a hostile way, people mixed but friendship groups were pretty homogenous), I was always the exception. I was the brown girl that was only friends with the white kids. It didn’t make me feel awkward necessarily, just more aware of myself.
Eve: I’d say my awkward phase was brief from an outside view but actually aren’t most people’s teenage years just one drawn out awkward stage? Even if you look cool on the outside (hello Just Do It bags and pink Timberlands), everyone is secretly concerned that they are now haemorrhaging out of their vaginas and have little hard titties. And that’s a bit awkward no? In hindsight I’m just annoyed I wanted to grow up so quickly (said like a true adult). What was the rush? And at 24 I still feel like a silly teenager quite frequently.
In hindsight, would you change any of it? What would you say to your younger self?
Sophie: I don’t feel sad about it or regret anything. I think the awkward is stage is completely necessary to overall development. You have to work out what you don’t like and what’s not you before you can work out what you do like and who you really are. To my younger self…I would say don’t worry about speaking your mind, life passes you by if you let it and you’re constantly changing as a person so just embrace it all.
Eve: Yes no regret! Those years aren’t called formative for nothing. Every bad haircut/boyfriend/miscalculated fashion purchase has helped us become the gorgeous fluttering butterflies we are today. Okay…so maybe we’re still learning. But that’s great!
Pri: I wouldn’t take it back at all. I definitely learnt a lot about myself and invested in things that I don’t think I would have had I thought I was the bees knees and got attention for how I looked or dressed.
But at the same time, I think, like someone mentioned earlier, there was a danger for me of feeling like I’m still in that stage. In the sense that I don’t always realize how much I’ve changed or grown…because that velour tracksuit and monobrow only feel like a few years ago. This may just be me and my warped sense of time but..sometimes I catch myself having to make a conscious effort to be like…okay you’re not an awkward 13 year old with a handbag and nothing to put in it. You have periods now! And boobs! And a degree! And a job! Speak up!
Bethan: I think I am largely echoing what everyone else has said and no definitely not, it is all one big learning curve! The advice I would give would be based around investing more time and energy into what I enjoy and value rather than the people around me.
Edi: I wouldn’t change it, as I think part of becoming anything means going through that initial stage of ‘I don’t know what I’m doing shiiiiitttt’ phase first, then learning from experience, then coming out clean on the other side. Without the awkward stage, I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today (cheese alert). It was like learning how to walk again in a sense. I would tell my past self to keep at it! Don’t overthink what other people say about you, then and now – haters gon’ hate. Also, quick tip with the benefit of hindsight: bitches be crazy. What out for those ones.
Eve: The thing is we’re obviously going to look back at this in five years time and laugh too. It’s just a constantly growth isn’t it?
Do you think girls now still have that awkward stage? Or have filters and social media accelerated their progress and made it easier to jump out of the cocoon and into a butterfly?
Eve: I think it’s sad because I’m sure they feel just as awkward as we did (surely?), but you get 13 year olds now scrolling instagram and checking out Kim Kardashian’s ass and then posting exact same pose selfies so although they might feel like an ugly caterpillar, they pretty much just look like Kim Kardashian.
Sophie: I think the awkward stage has always and will always exist, it’s just part of becoming an adult. I think they reach the stage of looking like a butterfly earlier but in reality they’ve not done any of the work to feel like the butterfly yet. They look like women way quicker than they become women
Edi: I think, if anything, the awkward stage is worsened and magnified by social media. Any stupid thing you say (and there’s plenty of that), any naked pic you take and send off at the age of 14, any really heavy makeup looks you post on instagram, all exist forever now. All someone has to do is take a screenshot and repost it when you’re 22 and be like REMEMBER WHEN ALL YOU WANTED TO DO WAS GROW UP TO BE LIKE KIM KARDASHIAN and you’re reliving it. We don’t have to relive ours at least – they’re firmly in the past.They may have better highlight and contour than us, but they’re just as awkward to me
Oh, and they’re probably under a lot more pressure than we were. Like I said, I could pick and choose when I wanted to go with the crowd, and even when I was trying, when I got home changed into my pyjamas and turned on Drangonball Z, no one knew the difference. Now you have to be able to take a sexy selfie as and when. I’m tired for them.
Bethan: Working with young people I am aware of the day to day struggles a lot of them face to either fit with celeb trends or even friendship group trends. Generally it is those girls that I worry about the most as you can see this tends to result in them struggling to be confident with their own identity. I definitely think that girls still go through that awkward stage especially when they are trying to make choices about friends, hobbies, attitudes towards school etc. Generally, I see the girls that are the least drawn in by social media, and concerns about appearances are more confident, and seem to be more content which makes people gravitate towards them more. Many of these girls have chosen not to join social media sites as they are aware of the negative experience many of their peers have.
Priya: As much as a tiny part of me would like to increase the brightness and shove a Valencia filter over my own record of puberty, I think Sophie hit the nail on the head. These girls have the tools to look like they have their shit together but that in itself comes with a lot of new pressures. As if being a teenage girl in today’s world wasn’t a bit of an uphill struggle as it was. Obviously this is a huge generalization and applicable to every generation, but I think there are dangerous implications of looking and presenting yourself like a grown woman before you are one.