HOW TO BE A POPULAR GIRL IN 2004

What were your favourite parts of being 14? I myself enjoyed Monday nights, because that was when my friends and I hit up the local youth club. The adults who ran it had painstakingly graffitied the walls, because kids love graffiti, and from 7-9pm every Monday I would sit on bean bags and talk about Avril Lavigne and gorge on strawberry laces from the tuck shop. It was fun. We had fun.

There were also several not-so-fun parts of being 14. In fact, a LOT of being 14 kind of sucked, and I think anyone who says otherwise either is lying or had an extremely lucky past self. I would absolutely not “give anything to be a teen again,” because although I recognise that teenagers are incredible and a lot cooler than the rest of us put together, I am still pretty sure that I am happier and more comfortable being 27. Like, I no longer want to cry every time I look in the mirror. I don’t really care anymore if someone dislikes me. Well I do a bit but not as much AND THAT’S PROGRESS. When a boy is mean to me I either call him out on it or never speak to him again, instead of writing about it in my diary and hoping it means he has a ~secret crush~ that turns him into a massive tool. YOU KNOW?*

*This is really just a reflection of how shy and anxious I was as a teen, not on teens in general, to be honest. Like… sometimes I’m not sure how I got through year 9.

But SOME PEOPLE my age genuinely want to be 15 again. Like that Zac Efron film but not because they are in an unhappy marriage or whatever. Whatever happened to Matthew Perry. I don’t know. I thought about it all and I am pretty sure that these people mean that:

  1. they’d quite like to stop paying bills
  2. they remember blissful weekends spent doing nothing-much-with-friends
  3. they have some unhelpful, nostalgic, Emily Kane-inspired belief that they should still be with their ex, who they dated for three months in 2005, OR
  4. they were one of the popular kids and nothing since secondary school has ever really compared to that.

I was not one of the popular kids (“OMG! SOPHIE! I DON’T BELIEVE THAT FOR A SECOND!” – you. Thanks guys) but I managed to sort-of-scrape-by as a result of befriending one or two of them, which is what EVERYONE SAYS. Honestly, they really do. Ask anyone ever if they were popular at school and they’ll say something along the lines of “Well, I wasn’t popular, but I was friends with the popular kids.” Then they’ll look at you, willing you to challenge them. FRIENDS with the popular kids. Maybe that’s what made those kids so popular. Maybe that’s how we all clawed our way through school – by believing we weren’t lame and would in fact be invited to join the league of cool kids if a space ever became available.

Who can say.

Although part of me wanted to be one of these beautiful, well-liked people and internally sang I Can Go The Distance from Hercules every night, I also baulked at the thought of ever becoming one. This was sort of because I am weird about attention and flit from ‘Notice me!!’ to ‘I am going to throw up if one more person looks this way!!’ every thirty seconds but also because most of the cool gals seemed to follow a different set of rules to me and my friends.

I WILL BEAT THE ODDS! I CAN GO THE DISTANCE!
(I couldn’t. I’m glad I didn’t.)

IT WAS 2004: a different time, a time where it was acceptable to straighten your hair until it fell out and no-one seemed to care if you used the word “gay” as an insult. It was the weirdest, in retrospect. I have literally zero desire to return to the mid-noughties, but if YOU DO and you also have a time machine and a desire to make some new pals, here’s how you can become One Of The Popular Girls:

Popular girl rule #1

You can never bring a pen to class, ever, but instead of feeling a little embarrassed by your lack of organisation, you will wear it like a badge of honour. “Ugggh, forgot my pen,” you’ll say out loud, “HEY, WHO HAS A PEN I CAN BORROW?” All of the quieter kids will ignore you, willing you to move your attention elsewhere, but you’ll stand on a chair and carry on, yelling: “ERR, HELLO? WHY DOES NOBODY HAVE A PEN FOR ME?”

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Me looking for a pen for some dumbass who can’t be relied upon to remember her own stationery

Eventually one of the kinder quiet kids will relent, giving you their only spare pen: a Parker their dad bought them. It’s worth £20 but you care not for pen prices and will absent-mindedly leave it in Miss West’s classroom later that day. Poor Jennifer will never see that damn pen again. A few weeks later she’ll ask politely if you still have it and you’ll say “What pen? I don’t remember anyone lending me a pen.” No-one outside of the popular kid circle will ever know if this is true or not.

Popular girl rule #2

You must carry your P.E. kit to school in a bag from Jane Norman. If you cannot find a Jane Norman bag, the following will suffice:

  • Kookai (maybe Google it if you weren’t a noughties teen)
  • River Island
  • Mango
  • Miss Selfridge (pushing it but fine, I guess we all have our off days)
  • Zara (yes it is paper and yes it will rip in the rain but you have to suffer 4 fashion girlz)
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JANE, NO! YOU HAVE SO MUCH TO LIVE FOR!

You will wonder why Jane Norman bags just say JANE NO on them but will also laugh hysterically at the girls who tentatively ask the question out loud. You will never talk about the time you thought Mango was called “MING” because of those £3.99 MNG vest tops. You will pretend you shop in these stores every weekend even though EVERYBODY SUSPECTS that you too only visited once and bought the cheapest thing you could find: socks you will never wear. 

Popular girl rule #3

You will be really good at sports without trying. Netball especially, duh, but also rounders, hockey, all kinds of athletic stuff (LONG JUMP! SHOTPUT!) and definitely running. You will be able to do the long-distance stuff without breaking a sweat and on your way back you’ll scream obscenities at the kids who are good at maths instead. WHERE’S YOUR PROTRACTOR RACHEL?? PYTHAGORAS CAN’T HELP YA NOW.

You will live for Sports Day, even though that’s undeniably kind of lame. Like, who cares if your team wins at the relay? WHO CARES. You care, though. You will wake up at 6am for the day of events so you can put your water bottle in the freezer for a bit (LIFE HACK AND A HALF) and make plans to spend the non-sport-time sitting on the astro-turf plaiting your friends’ hair and singing the Blu Cantrell bits of Breathe.

YOU’RE ONLY LONELY WHEN YOUR HOMIE AIN’T GOT A RIDE OR NO LOOT.

Popular girl rule #4

You will have a passive aggressive array of almost-insults up your sleeve, ready to be plucked out at any given time. One of your favourites is “No offence, but…” No-one ever knows quite what you will say after this opener but they are confident that it won’t be good. If you’re unsure of how to kick this off, perhaps you would like to choose from some of these examples:

  • “No offence, but your eyebrows are really thick and weird like a man’s…”
  • “No offence, but you wear that skirt all the time. Like, don’t you have any others?”
  • “No offence, but your glasses make you look like a librarian and not in, like, a sexy librarian way but more in, like, a hermit librarian way, like a librarian that no-one would ever go on a date with. Just saying! WHY ARE YOU SO SENSITIVE”

You will open conversations with “Hi, girls!” which sounds alright on paper but actually isn’t, because it will be your everyday mission to twinge it with that perfect level of I hate at least one of you but you have to guess who-ness. If you fancy dishing out a compliment over the coming weeks, give “Oh my god, you actually look NICE!” a go. The recipient won’t know what hit ’em.

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Me at home circa 2004 after receiving 378 “No offence, but…” comments in one afternoon

(Disclaimer: This is written entirely in jest. Slightly bitter ‘my eyebrows would be amazing now if you hadn’t bullied me about them’ jest. IRL popular girls from my school, if you’re reading this… I’m sure you’re all swell now. We’ve all moved on. Even me. EVEN ME!!! *bursts into tears and runs out of the room*)

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