Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

“Why the scars of schoolgirl friendships take years to heal”: Lucy Mangan on the lasting effects of teenage angst


Stylist columnist Lucy Mangan shudders as she recalls her teenage years

I recently declined to attend a school reunion. The very idea made me go cold. The freezing hand that clutched at my heart and stomach in the old days, whenever I walked into the classroom or joined ‘my’ little group in the playground and was greeted with silence or – worse? – sidelong glances and ostentatious but indecipherable whispers (about my new shoes? Because I tried something different with my socks? Anne-Marie was always very against people trying new things), grasped my innards once more.

Anyone who wasn’t in the first cohort of cool in primary school and stayed there forever (in which case WHO ARE YOU and WHAT ARE YOU?) will know the feeling. The most humiliating moment was probably when I was mock-Valentined and they all gathered round to coo and gush before revealing that – ha ha! – Michelle had sent it. How did I – with my glasses, my short hair, my no boobs, my utter loserdom that ran through me like a stick of rock – ever think a boy would fancy me? The rest was lower-grade stuff, but delivering the same message and somehow all the more effective for its gentle persistence.

So I read with consuming envy the news that Wimbledon High School for Girls has hired an education consultant specifically to teach girls how to avoid the cliquery and toxic friendships that abound among teenage girls. 

Because it takes years to undo the damage they cause. Some say that it breeds character. I agree. The problem, however, is the kind of character it breeds – cramped, cowed, bitter, defensive, cankered of heart and calcified of soul. Though I’m really fun now, honestly.

But, enduring personality defects aside, what I really mourn are the years I wasted thereafter, thinking – ’scuse my language, but duty calls – that all women were bitches. It kept me from making proper female friends for so long that I could throttle myself.

Because, while I have always had lovely, precious friendships with men – my oldest friend is a boy from primary school (he’ll always be a boy to me, even though we recently worked out that we are now older than our parents were when we first met. This is not a revelation anyone should have when they have work the next day. You have to drink and you have to drink a lot) – there is nothing, absolutely nothing like real, female friendship.

I got my first taste at university with people who just… liked me. No, I can’t explain it either. But they listened when I spoke, understood what I meant when I couldn’t put it into words, laughed at my jokes, let me cry when I was sad, told me I was a dick when I was being a dick, and we were – suddenly, miraculously, irreducibly – friends. They never tried to blindside or trick me or make me feel uncertain, guilty or bad. It was wondrous. They were wondrous and so were the women I met in my 20s and 30s without whom I now simply could not survive. I could not live without the absolute mutual comprehension, the bespoke emotional support that is given before you even know you need it, the ease, the solidarity. The laughs. Beyond all else, the laughs.

So good luck, Wimbledon. Speed your students past the sh*t as fast as you can. Teach them solidarity instead of cliquery. It’s so much better on the other side.



This week's Style List


Meet the first female double amputee hoping to run the Boston marathon

speech 2.jpg

The one ridiculously simple way to influence people at work

Sally Nixon 11.jpg

These illustrations beautifully capture women's everyday lives

johnny depp.jpg

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard issue bizarre video apology over dogs


Pedantic about grammar? It's not a flattering sign, says science

Alessandra Ambrosio Coachella style.JPG

Rainbow hair, pool parties and boho luxe: The A-list do Coachella 2016

lily 6.jpg

Lily Allen speaks out about her terrifying stalking ordeal


Lucy Mangan: “Apathy is domestic violence's biggest ally”

We shouldn't as why women stay - we should ask how it came to be that it was impossible for them to leave

by Lucy Mangan
01 Aug 2017

Lucy Mangan: we should “think twice” before considering porn harmless

“Porn has become normalised, placed almost beyond criticism by its sheer prevalence”

by Lucy Mangan
25 Jul 2017

Lucy Mangan is defending our right to platonic friendships

Our columnist on the infuriating mistrust a one-on-one dinner with a friend provokes

by Lucy Mangan
11 Jul 2017

Lucy Mangan: being ambitious isn’t for everyone

"I cannot live at full stretch"

by Lucy Mangan
08 Jun 2017

Lucy Mangan is exhausted by the “age of extremes”

“Can’t we all just agree to meet half-way?”

by Lucy Mangan
17 May 2017

Lucy Mangan: “Why I regret losing my religion”

"The older I get and the more chaotic the world gets, the more I wish I could trust in a higher power."

by Lucy Mangan
03 May 2017

Lucy Mangan exposes the dangers of parental point scoring

“Enough of this parent worship”

by Lucy Mangan
01 May 2017

“Family planning: the equality question”

Lucy Mangan on the burden of contraception

by Lucy Mangan
01 Apr 2017

Lucy Mangan on why feeling beautiful starts with your thoughts

“Erase the ugly voices in your head”

by Lucy Mangan
01 Apr 2017

“A step-by-step guide to sexism”: Lucy Mangan responds to ‘Legs-it’

You are a lady and you have legs. Use them to kick ass.

by Lucy Mangan
01 Apr 2017