1. You will blossom. I look back at photos of myself when I was aged between 11 and 15… that awkward age where puberty had caused a spurt of hair growth- on my face. You resemble a baby monkey, with a heavy monobrow and a moustache that Borat would be proud of; your sideburns are so thick that you look like your father in the 80s. To make matters worse, everyone around you is older and more aware of your hairy appearance (unlike in Primary School where the occasional white boy asked you: “Mehreen, why do you have a moustache?” But no one heard.) Other girls around you, who aren’t Asian, are allowed to shape their eyebrows and shave their legs, but your mum tells you that you aren’t allowed “until you’re 18”. Your frizzy, dark brown hairstyle is highlighted by the wonky fringe that your mother had cut. Under all these layers and behind all these barriers, you forget yourself the face that lies beneath. You’re definitely not the “pretty one” in school and you can’t ever see that changing… but you will blossom. One day (before you are 18) all the above will be fixed and will reveal a stunning face. Your Asian beauty will be breath taking. You will be a superhero with your own secret weapon: laser hair removal. Your thick hair, full lashes and brows will now be your best asset. Your beauty is a hidden treasure, and in the next few years it will be found. Just be patient.
  2. It’s okay to say “pig”. I now wonder what my teachers and classmates must have thought when I volunteered to read ‘The Three Little Pigs’ and every time it said the P word, I said “P. I. G”. This is because my mum had convinced me that “pig” was a bad word. It was haram. It was a swear word. If only someone had told me that saying “pig” wasn’t the same as eating it.
  3. Having oil in your hair is not cool. I still oil my hair whenever I can, but now I know that oil is supposed to get washed out. You are not meant to go to school with oil in your hair. It smells, it looks greasy and it leaves slime on everything around you. You are not a snail. This is not a good look.
  4. Check your hair regularly for nits. Don’t lie. We all had them. Pretty much throughout Primary School. I know it’s disgusting and yes, I’m admitting it on social media to the whole wide world. Because you can deny it all you want, but I KNOW you had nits too. We all had nits and we all passed them to each other. This is not okay. You need to all get together and sort that shit out.
  5. Humans shouldn’t smell of curry. Curry should smell of curry. And curry is delicious. But humans are not curry. They are two separate things. Therefore they should smell differently from each other. Unfortunately, it isn’t customary in Asian households to shut the kitchen door as the food is cooking. Therefore the smell of curry gets everywhere- in our hair, our skin and our clothes. Keep your clothes safe from these deadly fumes! Your future is in your hands! Shut your bedroom door, shower every single day and make sure you use plenty of deodorant and perfume at all times.
  6. Periods don’t mean you’re dying. Hence, taking three weeks off school because you have “become a woman too soon” is not acceptable. Periods aren’t actually a bad thing. They are completely natural; you are completely normal and need to get on with daily life as per usual. (Even as I’m writing this mum is shouting “PERIOD! YOU CAN’T WRITE ABOUT PERIOD!” I’m explaining that it is not a secret. I’m a 25 year old female. Everyone knows.)
  7. Sex education is important. This is not because I am encouraging you to have sex. But I wasn’t allowed to sit in my school’s sex education talk because my mother thought it involved the school showing you porn and teaching you how to do it. Well, as a teacher, I assure you that is not the case. Sex education is vital education for all teenagers.
  8. Their overprotective nature is justified. You get dropped to school in the morning and they’re waiting outside your school gates to pick you up before the school bell has even gone. You were the only kid that wasn’t allowed on your overnight school trip, nor are you allowed to go shopping with your friends. Sleepovers? There is no point even asking. You are not allowed to talk to boys, even if you attend a mixed school or college. (God help you if anyone finds a boy’s number in your phone!) The pressure and frustration of not being allowed to do what everyone else does is really, really immense- but it’s because your parents care. I now see too many young people who I wish were more sheltered. I wish they were more protected. I wish they had less freedom. So despite the fact that our parents were crazy and we missed out on some great experiences, we were also protected from some of the really horrific dangers out there in the world. I didn’t see it then, but I see it now. Give me a parent who shelters me with a main goal to keep me safe over a parent who lets me be exposed to all the evil in the world any day.
  9. Other Asian girls are your friends, not your competition. How many of us were sent to a girl’s school in an attempt to preserve our innocence for as long as possible? Little did our parents know that this only made boys seem like an even more extraordinary phenomenon; perhaps if we had seen boys farting in class we wouldn’t have found them so exciting. But while boys were something to be excited by, girls became our enemy. For some reason, Asian girls grow up believing they are living in ‘Mean Girls’ and there is immense competition between them; but I wish now that we had joined forces. We would have been so much more powerful.
  10. Don’t sell yourself short. You change your clothes when you leave the house and spend hours concocting an elaborate lie so that you can go to shisha with your friends. But just because you were never allowed to show your shoulders before, you don’t now have to show every part of your body to compensate. You don’t have to give your number to every “rudeboy” who asks. Don’t turn from one extreme to another. Keep hold of your dignity and remember your worth.
  11. When you do rebel, don’t slack at school. Your looks will fade, your popularity will change and your friends will leave; the only thing that will always stay with you is your education. Your knowledge and qualifications will carry you through life when all else fails. Don’t miss school to go out with your friends and get the freedom you crave; a solid education is something you can never get back. A pretty girl with no brain is easily replaceable.
  12. Don’t aim to be married by 22. Chances are, it won’t happen. But fear not, you will survive. Doctors and lawyers aren’t just the “type of man you should marry”, but they are professions you can be yourself. Also remember, not all men are either “rudeboys” or like your dad. There are other men out there. Those are the men you want.
  13. Speaking of doctors and lawyers, there are other jobs that exist apart from doctors and lawyers. Do your research and decide what you want to be.
  14. Every guy you come in contact with is not going to marry you and father your children. They are simply a learning curve. Stop planning your weddings.
  15. Dark skin is beautiful too. You don’t have to look like a ghost to be beautiful. Throw away the skin bleaching cream your aunty bought you from Pakistan and work your NC40 girl!
  16. Get braces. Asian parents don’t put major emphasis on oral hygiene. (It’s true, they don’t. Get over it.) But you get yourself braces while they are free! This will save you from spending £4000 on Invisalign when you are older.
  17. Running away won’t solve anything. It will cross your mind on a number of occasions, especially when you’re nearing seventeen. It won’t make you any happier. It’s not how you think it will be. Don’t do it.
  18. Learn about your religion. Ask questions. Don’t just do things because you are told to- understand why you are doing things. Seeing the reasoning behind the laws will help you to see the true beauty of your religion.
  19. It will get better. Your parents do get more lenient with time, even if it seems like the impossible. Not only that, but you will become stronger; balancing your British and Asian culture will become easier. In fact, when you get sick of rebelling and sneaking around, you actually begin to miss being at home. Your dad and brother were psychotic but may actually be the only men who truly respected you. Your mum and your sisters will become your best, most trustworthy friends. Don’t get me wrong- your parents were embarrassing and that will never change. But you will learn to embrace it and enjoy it. (I just told mum that I have deleted the part about periods.)
  20. Have pride in where you are from. Don’t make excuses for not being allowed to do what everyone else is. Be honest about it. You won’t be considered less cool because you couldn’t get permission- you will be less cool by pretending to be someone that you’re not. Don’t give in to what others are doing to try and fit in; you will be respected for standing up for your core values and morals. Stay true to your roots always; those who love you for your roots won’t leave when the Autumn comes.
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