a letter to your teenage self: bertie brandes

It’s the age of insecurities, awkward firsts and growing pains; if only we knew then what we know now! To celebrate the release of The Coming of Age Issue, we’ve asked some of our favourite contributors to write a letter to their 16-year-old selves, or...

by Bertie Brandes
21 August 2015, 9:47am

"My teen self really didn't need much advice. Don't smoke crack just because a boy you fancied did (he threw up for 10 hours). Don't put naked pictures of yourself on the internet. Obviously I did neither of those. I dunno… get off the pill? Other than that, the teen me is basically my idol and I wish she was still around. Dear 16-year-old self, your life was so much more fun than mine is now. I wish we could re-live that time you passed out in the toilets of the Rhythm Factory before leaping on stage with your horrified, highly indie non-boyfriend to do a pre-planned dance routine. I miss the you that had a terribly photoshopped picture of yourself surrounded by beluga whales printed in NME and the you that ruined so many proto-Slimane outfits with a bobbly kitted beret and lacy, mint-green cardigan. You literally had the best life ever. You once threw up all over your shoes while simultaneously making out with a Dior Homme model. Now I spray my bedsheets with lavender oil to prepare for lonely hangovers and throw up vodka soda in the toilet at home at 7am. My friends talk about washing up. We talk about dishwashers. How rubbish. I spent the night of my 16th birthday at the Old Blue Last aggressively headbanging to a band of indie triplets called The Bishops with my best friends in the entire world. How could you possibly improve on that? If someone could have offered me any useful advice in 2006 it would basically only be 'that's the door you can sneak through without having to go past security' or 'turquoise is not your colour'.

16-year-old me clearly had her shit together way more than I do. If anything, I wish she could have written me a letter of advice for now; wear more glitter, wear fewer clothes, go out in Camden more (uhm), stop dating people who wear normal jeans. Stop wearing normal jeans. The 16 year old me would be so acutely disappointed in my barely-there binge drinking belly and non-committal smoking habit she'd unleash a tirade of the kind of self-loathing abuse your pathetic 25-year-old self really enjoys hearing and force me to spend my entire bank balance on a room at The Albion hotel. Speaking of ferocious past-me's, I actually wrote a letter to myself when I was 12 to open at 16; it started with 'Have your parents split up yet?' [Y] and ended 'if you haven't grown boobs bigger than an A, kill yourself' [N]. While proving I'm an awful bitch even to myself, at least that letter was infinitely more hilarious to re-discover than a 25-year-old me pleading with a furious teenager to stop hacking her pubes off with a disposable razor. With that in mind, I think I'd rather write a letter to my 35-year-old self instead.

Dear 2025 me,

Life in the past is fine. I'm just at the British Library scouting for someone to go out to dinner with and then send weird drunk texts to and avoid for ages. I had toaster pancakes for breakfast covered in jam while reading a book called Get The Glow by a nutritional lifestyle coach who used to have an eating disorder and now 'loves to wash her face'. She told me it was simple, cut out all sugars! I hope you haven't done that.

Have you stopped only wanting to have sex with awful people? Ones who your friends look you long and hard in the eyes and say 'seriously Bertie, no' about. Oh and did you figure out how long it is you fantasize about your exes before it means you're truly over them. At the moment I'm thinking roughly two years WBU?

What does it feel like to have sold a multi-million pound book and own a house in Zone 1 and have been on the cover of Vogue and not be addicted to social media and not wake up feeling like a failure every day?

I'm so proud of u.

You better not be married.



Bertie Brandes
the coming of age issue
a letter to your teenage self