In our Twenties: Growing up, dreaming, laughing

A letter from the heart. The Love Project in Barrow has involved gathering stories in our beautiful red tent, and we have had over 50 women join us here. We’ve also invited contributions in writing, in the form of reflections and letters that can be addressed to anyone – a lover (past or present), your younger self, a friend …  This letter is written by Janice, who grew up in Barrow and was in her twenties at the end of the 1990s.

Dear Michelle

I first met you in 1997. I was 24 and you were 20 and our friendship just took flight, I’d never met anyone like you before. It’s true you had a zest for life that people either loved or hated, and you knew it. I believe others just wanted to be like you – you had the ability to trust yourself completely.

Lessons I got from you were to think for myself, not what others think, have no regrets. I hear others thinking how selfish! Is this so untrue? Do we all not wish we weren’t dancing to someone else’s fancy?

Michelle, you got me to be more frivolous than I ever had the nerve to be and in my twenties this was a liberating feeling. And my god did we treat ourselves and think we deserved it! I was overly sensible and for this period of time with you, I discovered so much about myself, this small and shy person got some confidence.

Without you Michelle I would not have known my twenties to be my roaring twenties. I owned a little of the celebrity thanks to you. I experimented, my hair went from auburn brown to blonde and you said “go blonder”. The curly Julia Roberts hair was now drowned away with the invention of serum so we all had shiny, sleek, straight hair that looked better than an ironed shirt.

Make up – now this is where you pulled me away from the Boots range I had been wearing since I was a teenager. You dragged me over to the high-end counters and we spent a fortune. My pale lipstick went to red, my eyes got a sweep of liquid liner and you cut my hair! As for perfume, we discovered the updated ranges and within a few weeks I had my own shelf packed with XS Pour Elle, ditched the old Opium for the Chanel Allure, as for the White Musk, swapped for a light CK One. Each time I catch a whiff of these scents now I am reminded of the great fun we had.

Getting ready for a night out consisted of wearing a tight necked purple stone necklace, a staple favourite worn most weekends. Clothes were simple, black trousers, coloured sleeveless fitted tops and blocked heeled black ankle boots. Music was crying out with female soloists like Natalie Imbruglia with Torn, Tori Amos, Professional Widow, Meredith Brooks … the list goes on.

You may think all this is a little materialistic but to me it’s called growing up, developing into a woman and experimenting, what you like, how you feel, having fun, just for fun and doing it while you can. It is all in the name of building those beautiful memories of your twenties and looking back with a chuckle and a cheeky smile. I honestly believe that these flights of experience are mouldings for our existence. To ponder an alternative, you may not appreciate the fit, but a little of it you may steal away for your own virtues.

I am so grateful for the time we had and our fun days, fun nights and the best bits of getting ready in between. We went out most weekends, sometimes we didn’t drink but just wanted to go out, have fun, stay sober and be a little tired the next day, but so what. We worked hard too, worked six day weeks and long day and night shifts. We had an amazing time, and laughed so much and looked out for each other.

I just want to say, Michelle, you showed me that dreaming was necessary, confidence can be made. To aim for the stars is the only way and not to settle for anything less. So, thank you for the great memories, here’s to our twenties.

From Janice x