Lucy Mangan: “The best gift for our future selves? Stop putting up with things we know we shouldn't.”

Posted by for Lucy Mangan

Our columnist reflects on the lessons she’s learnt over the past 10 years

The end of a 10-year span is an excellent point for reflection. A decade is long enough for perspective on all triumphs and disasters (and to see which were actually more of the other, whatever they felt like at the time). It’s enough time for matters internal and external to have changed sufficiently to reward scrutiny.

There are many different filters you can apply: comparing your dreams then to your dreams (or your reality: brace yourself!) now. Achievements versus failures (are you winning or losing at life? This game is fun!). But I have found that one question will, like the single twist of a kaleidoscope creating a comprehensible pattern, bring many into glorious focus at once. Namely: what is the shit I used to put up with but to which I now wouldn’t give the time of day? I have thought about this and my answers include…

Bad service

I barely recognise myself these days. Gone is the woman who would quietly eat the cold meal, drink the wrong drink, wait patiently in for repair men or deliveries long after the appointed time had passed. I send stuff back, ring up and hassle/reschedule and just get on with my day instead. I’m not rude. I just don’t consider my money or my time to be of any less value than anyone else’s.

Bad sex

The same would basically go for sex too, if I were still having it with different people. But this one’s fully trained.

Bad books

Or books I’m not enjoying. I have realised that I own them, they don’t own me. I don’t have to finish something I’m not enjoying (see above). Life is finite. I can walk away from something that is not rewarding my effort without feeling like I’ve failed.

First offers

10 years ago, I was five years into freelancing, but still about eight years away from pushing back on the first fee offered for work. Now I do it as a matter of course. Revolutionary.

Men

All of their crap. Not all men, but yeah, all of their crap. I ask them to move their akimbo’d legs so I can sit down. I cut off their mansplaining. I walk away if they’re only interested in their own monologue (TBF, I do this with women too but there are far fewer of them). I haven’t been flashed at recently but I am SO ready.

Fad diets, exercise crazes, clothes that do not privilege my comfort above all else

I will never like courgetti. Ditto running. Ditto being uncomfortable unless I’m attending a once-in-a-lifetime event that lasts only two hours and I can take a taxi home. I like spaghetti, swimming and big cardigans.

All of which is to say that – THANK THE LORD – I have grown in confidence over the last 10 years from the barely sentient little mouse-doormat I was. And in much of it I have been helped by larger movements and figureheads I would have thought equally inconceivable a decade ago. Everyday Sexism, #MeToo, Time’s Up, Greta Thunberg – these have all helped us, collectively and individually, to realise that we are not powerless, we are not unworthy of our rights, we are not less than the person to our right or left, ahead of or behind us.

Such reflection also makes me wonder: what else will we find unacceptable in 10 years’ time? And what if we started now? As a gift to our future selves? If I’d started everything above 10 years earlier, I’d be richer, more successful, with a lot better sex under my belt and – you can never be sure, but I’m going to play the odds – even happier. So go on. Treat yourself. See you back here for our platinum anniversary. It’s going to be a good one.  

Images: Getty

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