Moisturising The Desi Way

If you’re invested in an exhaustive skin care regimen, you know how tough it is to find a good moisturiser. There’s the vaguely floral-scented stuff that feels like softened butter and smells of the parties your mum went to in the 90’s. It goes on in a tight layer of grease that’s waterproof (if you splash with water after you put in on, you’re technically not wetting your face) and prevents dehydration, but it isn’t really moisturising, which is a very different thing. Then there’s the pricey stuff that looks and feel like like dew on steroids- a delicate, serum-y texture that your skin’s supposed to absorb instantly. It feels light and lovely, but if you’ve got bone dry skin like mine you need to top it with something more substantial. If you don’t use the right kind of density, serum + moisturiser can feel like they’re weighing your skin down. Many report that the combination feels oppressively heavy especially for daytime. For those with oily skin, it exacerbates the oiliness. Anecdotally speaking, across skin types, everyone’s happier layering and loading in the night leg of skin care. It instinctively feels like the right thing to do.

Day or night, I believe that a good moisturiser is the perfect balancing act. It should feel like it’s sealing moist, freshly cleansed skin off, but not in the stretched- tight way the first commercial moisturizers did. I’m not a big fan of ‘light’ moisturisers or mousse-y textures; their moisturising capabilities are limited. I like to really feel my moisturisers, feel their weight on my skin. I like my skin to feel like a muslin dupatta just strung up on the laundry line- drenched but not heavy. Moisturised skin should glisten the way an orange peel does when you press it slightly and little golden pinpricks of citrusy oil surface, making it noticeably wetter and brighter. It sounds like a simple ask, but it isn’t. Most mass produced moisturisers struggle to get it right.

In the last couple of years, I’ve found a number of excellent moisturisers. They’re mostly developed by small businesses with a small- batch approach to product development. They tend to have short shelf lives, pack seriously high quality ingredients and have a raw, kitchen-made feel to them that I personally find irresistible. Most are more oils than moisturisers, but it stands to reason that a good oil calibrated for density- so it sits comfortably on your skin- should moisturize far more capably than a cream.

The ‘About To Glow’ by Enn is an outstanding way to keep your face soft and moisturised. It’s basically desi ghee washed a 100 times and thinned to a beautiful slippery consistency. Infused with kesar, it has the loveliest, mildest natural fragrance. I massage a fingertip- sized amount over just- cleansed skin every single day. 4 months of consistent usage and my skin has a hard-to-miss radiance. Ghee’s nourishing, restorative properties are no joke.

My little pot of About To Glow with the patron saint of dairy

This isn’t for you if you have oily skin. But if you still want to experience it, you can buy it for the dry, flaky bits on your arms and legs. It works just as beautifully.

The texture and the barely- there natural fragrance are phenomenal, and my favorite things about the moisturising oil

Buy it here.

the spy

Sacha Baron Cohen as Eli Cohen in The Spy

I find it hard to watch spy thrillers without mentally ticking off a checklist. An agent gone rogue, haunted by a dead partner. Sharp suits and trenches. Briefings that inexplicably happen in glass- walled buildings. The hero’s den- usually marked with such Wes Anderson-esque props as floral tea sets, a spare white bed and peeling green walls. The villain’s cave- impossibly hi tech but never not accessible. Car and foot chases through third world cities or the seedier bits of the first world. Women in tight ponytails. Silence, punctuated with the click-clack of weapons that herald a fight sequence. Brutalist architecture. British or East European villains. Disfigured villains. Villains fused with metal. Maximum security facilities fronted by tall gates that always open, no matter what. A red button situation. A suitably hassled head of state conferring with a clench- jawed military general. I believe that every spy thriller can be slotted into one of five elements based on themes of threat perception and destruction- earth, water, fire, air, ether.

Based on real events, films and shows like Raazi and The Spy show us that espionage is anything but glamorous. It has none of the linearity of the heavily stylized imaginings we scarf popcorn to. 

Gideon Raff, the name behind Homeland and the creator of its allegedly superior Israeli original, Prisoners Of War brings us a 6 part Netflix series so bingeable you can say goodbye to your weekend plans right now. Based on the true story of Eliyahu Cohen, an Israeli spy hired by the Mossad to infiltrate Syria’s military hierarchy in the 1960’s, The Spy speaks to the Jewry’s post-war anxiety around the annihilation of their existence. Unable to bring diplomatic or even military closure to violent territorial skirmishes with Syria, the Israeli government began to scout for a human chameleon who could cross over and pass on valuable intelligence. Hounded out of anti-semitic Egypt, immigrant nobody Eliyahu Cohen was perfect for the role. Overnight the ordinary accountant transformed into Kamel Amin Thaabet, a slick Buenos- Aires- based Syrian tycoon filled with nostalgia for his motherland. His handler tasked him with charming the socks off the Syrian expat community in Argentina, important men and women with skeevy histories that wanted a hand in the political reconfiguration of Syria. Thaabet’s money and amoral offers of help were theirs for the taking. He cultivated them assiduously, never losing sight of his real life with a lovely wife and children. He’s played by Sacha Baron Cohen of Borat fame, his ridiculous comedic muscle vanished, his long, expressive face exquisitely transparent in its agony. Cohen the spy was so good at his job he was appointed chief advisor to the Syrian minister of defence. In a Vanity Fair interview, Cohen the actor calls him one of the greatest method actors of all time, a man who stayed in character for 6 years. In this, the Israelis drew on the Soviet spy tradition of plucking a man out of anonymity and alienating him from his reality so completely that he became his character. This was different from the American approach to espionage- shorter assignments, less character play. The key nuance was that the Israelis allowed their spies to come home on breaks as a sort of safety-valve measure for their tenuous sanity. On Cohen’s last break, he sensed that he would never return and begged Mossad to terminate his assignment. The Israeli Prime Minister vetoed the idea out of concerns for national security. The series begins at the eventual outcome of that decision. 

Sacha Baron Cohen is incredible in the role. 80% of the run time you catch him composing his facial features to meet the curveballs in his way- subtle flutters, a muscle slackened, a self- conscious swing of the chin, a too- wide smile. That’s what makes this such a simultaneously tough and arresting watch- you’re watching a man contort his face to save his life. To understand how insane that is, please watch the FBI clip below on decoding body language. 

The Spy airs on Netflix. 

the darkness at the heart of gold

At The Heart Of Gold is a 90 minute film about the failure of US gymnastics authorities to protect their athletes from sexual abuse. The key to understanding how team doctor Larry Nassar got away with what he did is to ask some fundamental questions. What is gymnastics? Is it dance or sport, or both? What does it prize and reward? The answers may seem obvious, but the truth is that no other sport has seen its goalposts shift as massively as gymnastics has. In the early 60’s it was a sport for older women hitting their 20’s. You scored for balletic flourishes, for artistry, for emoting through movement. It was all dance and deftness, and femininity was important. The reigning champion of that era was Czech gymnast Věra Čáslavská, pictured above. She did her routine with her hair in a beehive, thighs clapping gloriously.

Since then, gymnasts have gotten younger. This shift can be traced to the early 70’s Soviet obsession with precocious sporting wins. They began training their athletes early. Peak performance was now pegged to pre pubescence, before the muscles could fill out into curves. Body lines were hard and angular, thought more suited to tougher routines that prioritised precision and agility over dance and expression. To emphasise their youth and innocence, the Soviets trotted their gymnasts out with white and red ribbons in their hair. Tiny Russian wunderkind Olga Korbut (below left) destroyed her competition in the 1972 Olympics wearing two beribboned pigtails. Were the bottom of her leotard a skirt she could’ve walked into a classroom and no one would have blinked. Other innovations in dress and appearance were calculated to stun and awe. Romanian champion and perfect 10 history maker Nadia Comaneci (below right) wore a white leotard with stripes running down the side in the 1976 Olympics. This was so you could visually measure the exact impossible angle between limb and torso at any point in her routine. The entire machinery of training took on mathematical levels of sophistication. The USSR and Romania led the way in both technique and presentation. Comaneci’s 1976 set at the Olympics included five more flight elements than Korbut’s 1972 performance, indicating tremendous raising of skill and risk profile in just 4 years.

Comaneci’s coaches, couple Bela and Marta Karolyi gained worldwide fame for their methods, in particular their aggressive training of 6 year olds. They hastened the de-ageing of gymnastics with their obsession with scouting at kindergartens. They insisted that training facilities double as hostels, so parents could leave their girls to their practice for days on end. By the time the Karolyis took on the US team, their methods were the gold standard in training. At their Texas coaching facility they forbade parental contact for the duration of the athlete’s training. These conditions were ripe for predators like Nassar.

This heartbreaking film attests to how girls’ bodies are at the heart of the sports- corporate complex, driving sponsorships, viewership stats and TV programming. The sport breaks their bodies to build them, unmakes them to make them. Gymnasts are expected to power through pain and injury as long as it isn’t debilitating, causing one former gymnast to liken her kind to wounded animals who can’t show weakness no matter what. An inside not-joke goes like this: when a gymnast plays football for a day, she’s sore, but when a footballer does gymnastics for a day, he’s dead. It is one of the few sports in the world that completely lacks a recreational element. You don’t take that sort of risk unless you’re around trainers and physiotherapists, competing formally.

Larry Nassar understood all of this intimately. He was the classic serial predator- likeable, meticulous, opportunity- minded. What is different though is his mass gaslighting of an unusual cohort. His victims were elite athletes, taught to clamp down on their pain and keep their sights fixed on gold. He used their ambition against them. Over decades hundreds were entrusted to his care, and any whispers were dealt with swiftly and decisively by a network of denier- enablers.

At The Heart Of Gold speaks not only to institutional failure, but also a cultural one. When we value politeness over safety and conformity over dissent, we tell our girls that their minds and bodies don’t matter. ‘What we really have to do is we have to start listening to our kids,’ says a child health and safety advocate in the film. ‘If a child says to you they don’t like how someone touched them you don’t say ‘But that’s one of the nicest people I ever met.’ You sit down and you say, ‘Why? What was wrong?’

It is hard to watch his victims struggle to reconcile their admiration of him with their revulsion. This is where the film shines. In letting the survivors wrestle with their feelings honestly, it lets us know that there is no singular template for survivor behaviour, that coping mechanisms must always be read in context.

Watch it if you’re a parent, a survivor or just someone interested in human behaviour. If you’re in India, watch Erin Lee Carr’s At The Heart Of Gold on Hotstar.


Me 20 minutes into SUPW craft homework with friends. SURE MEHEK WADHWA LET’S SEE WHO CAN BE THE MOST GLITTERY, I ACCEPT YOUR TOTALLY REASONABLE CHALLENGE PREPARE TO GO BLIND. #glitteroff #shiny #SUPW #projectrunwayschooledition #sofashun

dr. sheth’s pure olive squalane

I came to Dr. Sheth’s by way of the internet, which sometimes has a way of landing you on life- changing things. This dermatologist- led Indian brand claims to have distilled the knowledge of three generations of dermatologists into a tightly edited bunch of potent brown glass bottles. The skincare market is still eurocentric; even though the Koreans seem to be changing that with exciting formats like sheet masks and their uniquely kawaii take on packaging, their slant on skin lightening muddies the waters a little bit. Melanin- rich Indian skin, the product of generations of vegetarianism and protein- deficient intake, is unique. Today, rising incidences of PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), associated hormonal wonkiness and type 2 diabetes are wreaking havoc on our skins, causing complications like patchiness, oiliness and hyper pigmentation. The urbanite’s skin responds especially badly to environmental stressors- pollution, long commutes bookended by hasty, poor dietary choices, punishing workdays that leave little room for mindful eating or exercise. We’ve always needed homegrown solutions that straddle kitchen science, naani ke nuskhe, heavy duty Ayurveda and a modern understanding of formulations. This is why Dr. Sheth’s works.

Their Pure Olive Squalane is a light, colorless olive oil- derivative that subs beautifully for moisturiser. A small lick spreads easily and evenly on your skin, and is best applied to a freshly cleansed face spritzed with natural rose water, which has astringent properties. For those wary of the heaviness and low absorbency of facial oils, this product is perfect. Because squalane is a version of a compound produced naturally by our sebaceous glands, it is a skin- safe emollient that is capable of squeezing into the interstices of skin cells and deliver instant smoothening. I love how visibly my face comes alive when scrubbed clean and slathered with the oil. It’s an all- weather moisturiser that works best on dry and combination skin, though I’ve read reports of people with oily or inflamed skin thrilling to how natural and barely-there it feels even hours into application and yet how efficient it is.

I’d recommend it for anyone working in an airless, heavily air-conditioned cubicle farm. Keep a bottle on your dresser and you know you have an ally that won’t let your skin feel or look wrung out by evening. I’m on my second bottle and can’t get enough.

Available on the Dr. Sheth’s website.

everyone knows girls are flowers

Everyone knows boys are farm machines. 

Seed drills and tractors first-

sow your oats. put your seed in her. plow that.

Combine harvesters after, 

when they winnow through throngs of women then reap plush spoils.

And everyone knows girls are flowers 

showered with sweet botanical metaphor when little

saddled with grim agricultural metaphor after and

lascivious, fruit- based innuendo in between. Observe the ages-

फूलों सा चेहरा

कलियों सी मासूम

ओस सी कोमल

कच्ची कली

budding breasts

ripe curves

juicy body

full and luscious

आँगन की तुलसी




सूनी कोख


then to be beautiful and powerful and ruthless 

and some parts giving and some parts selfish

and some parts self- pitying and some parts conceited

and some parts brave and some parts terrified

and some parts tired and angry and bitter 

and all parts determined

is to say 

I am neither fruit nor flower

nor soil nor earth.  

I am sky, you may go through me but you will not touch or thwart me.

I am above you, both shelter and curse,

and you can not, shall not know when I will turn.

When I am unremarkable, you will forget I am there

to your own detriment and downfall. 

I resent and defy expectations of pleasantness or predictability. 

I will roar often, turn grey and sombre, threaten to fall

to be heard.

I will smite you,

soak you in your own misgivings, 

drown you in your worst fears

freeze you out of comfort and familiarity

blow grit in your eyes so you are left panicked and scrambling.

I will not be ignored, or dismissed, or forgotten

not even when I’m quiet. 

to think that I am tame or tameable when sunny 

is to walk into a trap.

There is no knowing the shape of me

and yet,

there will be calm,

there will be mornings of generous light 

the air so clear you want to dance and give thanks.

I am capable of unexpected kindnesses- good weather that lasts, 

good weather that won’t trick you into misery or disappointment.

The great, oppressive sulk just before I give in to the thirst of the earth

is me hoping you’ll notice 

that it is my greatest wish 

to be feared and to be loved 

to be deferred to and to be befriended

to both blend in and stand out,

to be trusted, but never, ever taken for granted,

to give, but also to take away, 

to reward and to punish,

to be just but also, to respect my inner barometer 

to never have a man pin me to a green screen 

and point smugly with his wand at my contours and declare 

‘Light showers expected.’

And this is why it is important that I defy your greatest wish

for me- to be invisible.

Not in your wildest dreams 

am I a thing you can know or wish away.  

While the men guffaw and slander in their pinewood chambers

while they jab a finger at us in Parliament, show us our place

while they plot our demise on colossal mahogany desks covered in green baize and lies, 

while they mock and belittle us and our clothes and our hair and our bodies and our youth even when it is long gone,

(even as their own chins slacken and wag, or stomachs strain their buttons with their wanton spillage), 

while they watch phone porn or hurl chairs and abuse at each other

or bless the circulation of gossip, suggest indiscretions where there were none

we remain

we do not cower 

we contain our grief when we must

we thunder when it is time

we plot vengeance when it is inevitable

Do you realise 

that we are all skies?

Let no indulgent auntie or uncle  

tell you that you are a flower, 

that you await a sowing, or a reaping. 

Ask only to be compared to the sky.

to be both special and nothing special

to be both un-remarkable and hard to miss

to be both vital and unknowable

to be capable of anger both righteous and self- preserving

to be capable of forgiveness but also revenge

to be known for your kindness and also for your power

to shine sweetly, but also flash warnings 

to contain within you a multitude of weathers, entire climates that shape terra firma to their will

to defy forecasts in ways that make men shake their heads and groan and reach for their umbrellas and look silly clutching at spring- loaded scrunched up nylon on a sunny day

to never have a man pin you to a green screen and point smugly at your contours with his wand and declare

‘Light showers expected’.

Images, from top to bottom and left to right- Sonia Gandhi, Mayawati, J. Jayalalitha, Benazir Bhutto, Indira Gandhi, Phoolan Devi, Mamata Bannerjee, Meira Kumar, Mayawati, Smriti Irani, Sushma Swaraj, Vasundhara Raje, Rabri Devi, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Sheikh Hasina.

33 life lessons @ 33

1. You aren’t your work. It’s neat to have your name hitched to a designation, but it’s also important to acknowledge and celebrate your complexity. I call it inconvenient complexity, a bunch of attributes that do absolutely nothing for you at work and could have mildly embarrassing associations. For instance I’ve discovered that I’m a closet grandmother, that I love rustling up expansive, filling breakfasts for my family. The truth is that you are so much more than what fits the little rectangle of your business card or the laminated ID on the secure access lanyard around your neck. It’s important to identify non-work descriptors that capture the you-ness of you so that when your job stops being fulfilling or when strangers at a party go ‘ what do you do?‘ while you’re unemployed, you’re not tipped into an awkward silence that presages a full blown identity crisis.

2. Risks, even when they lead to failure, especially when they lead to failure, are worth it. Risk- taking is an excellent way to grow. Two inadvertent consequences- you become more open to the world and its possibilities, and you acquire a humility and a healthy sense of self- both excellent springboards for any new goals or ventures you might have in mind.

3. No matter how emotionally tough or battle hardened you are, you will never be prepared for that next heartbreak. Don’t beat yourself up about how it blindsided you. Instead, focus on working through it. On a related note, never let your struggles become your calling card. Self- pity is a powerful seductress and submitting to it is lazy and self- defeating. Work to find out who you are despite your struggles, not who you are because of them.

4. Love is the only way to weather a personal crisis. Even in the worst of times, S and I never dispensed with love- affirming rituals. We traveled to beautiful places even when we were broke, celebrated with elaborate meals even when there wasn’t much to celebrate, never tired of telling each other how much their love meant to us. I am here, and I love you is the only thing you need to hear/ should want to say to your partner when your life’s gone pear- shaped.

Bad lighting, great mood

5. For comfort, seek the familiar. For growth, the unknown. You know how they say they’re mutually exclusive? They’re not- sometimes the best way to grow by leaps is to first hunker down in an old, familiar spot where you’re at your calmest and most confident. That spot is your Bat Cave- a place you introspect in, lick your wounds in, draw strength and solace from, invent and plan world domination in. My Bat Cave is writing, legs jammed into a soft crumpled blue Jaipuri razaai I can dive into for foodcrumbs.

6. It’s okay to turn into your mum, to startle from recognising her in a mood or a gesture or a coping strategy. Panic and self- loathing are natural first responses if you’ve had a less than peachy relationship with her, but work your way through the discomfort and you will arrive at a place of quiet compassion and possibly renewed love and respect for her. I am proud that I am, in many ways, turning into my mother.

7. As you age, you’ll be surprised at how much you begin to rely on things you dismissed as silly or inconsequential before- feelings, intuition, the pricking of your thumbs. Delight in your witchy/ grownup abilities to suss a room out.

8. Adversity will change you and your priorities. Don’t fight this. It’s okay to ditch old ways for new ones- change your language, change how you present to the world, change how you negotiate feelings and relationships. Those that care will keep up. Those that don’t won’t.

9. Hold your friendships close, even when you suspect you’re not being that great of a friend. Ghosting a friend is a terrible idea- trust that your friendship can take a difficult conversation.

10. Pay attention to your mental health. Dismissing something as a mood or a phase or shoving it under the carpet is far easier that coming to terms with an axis-shifting reality. Educate yourself, find resources, and seek help so you won’t implode one day and be left breathless from how little you saw it coming.

11. Pay attention to your physical health. Adopt formerly uncool things like dietary changes and vitamins and hourly hydration with a vengeance. Drag your butt to the treadmill. Find a cheap gym or yoga class you can sustain a relationship with. My own moment of reckoning came with Shilpa Shetty’s excellent yoga video, a great introduction for beginners. Watching her bend and stretch in fire station- red lycra to generic flute-y music against the gorgeous backwaters in Kerala was unexpectedly pleasant.

12. The ancient Romans believed that inebriated and thus potentially adulterous women were the single biggest threat to their patrilineal family trees, and so they made their women kiss every member of her family- formally, on the lips- on returning from a jaunt. It was done to check for signs of drunken revelry, a humiliating ritual never foisted on the men, who drank and womanized freely. You must put an end to this invasion of your personal space, the exhaustion from the constant provocation. It’s important to set boundaries. Setting boundaries, guarding your space, protecting your peace- these don’t make you a stone cold asshole. These make you mindful of your mental health. Those that jeopardise it knowingly have absolutely no place in your life.

13. It’s okay to quit. We make a virtue of doggedness, but it’s important to identify the point when the law of diminishing returns kicks in. If it’s making you unhappy and causing you to become a stranger to yourself, it’s okay to let it go. No matter how cliched or eye-roll inducting or easily dismissed as simplistic, happiness was, is and will always be a legitimate goal to chase.

Early AM park run

14. You’re allowed to flip- flop on issues of personal importance- because while others are free to roll their eyes, it’s you that must live with the outcomes. In 2012, I was ready to be a mum. In 2018, I was convinced it was the worst decision we could’ve taken. You’re also allowed to change positions on other issues- such as your estimation of certain people. It’s unhealthy to persist with an opinion because your ego won’t allow a re-evaluation, or because it’s expected of you socially. If certain friendships are centred on your mutual hatred of a person and you find yourself liking said person, the right and honourable thing to do is to speak up and opt out. If dissing someone you secretly don’t hate is an initiation rite for a relationship/ friendship you care deeply about, you need to ask what that’s doing to you.

15. Forgive yourself for not living up to the parental ambitions you internalised. It’s okay to have not won a literary award or invented anything in your twenties. Come to terms- gently, compassionately- with the constraints you were never taught to acknowledge- the relative privilege of others, your relative poverty, a model of parenting torn between modernity and conservatism. You will realise that there does exist ground before that ‘expiry date to blaming your parents for everything’ (JK Rowling)- and it is ground that neither you nor your parents could’ve done much to change despite everyone’s best intentions.

16. It’s okay to downsize your ambition and shift your goalposts. This doesn’t mean you’re settling for lesser, but that you’re acknowledging that different things motivate you, that you find joy and purpose in things you hadn’t given much thought to before.

17. Read as much as you can. If you grew up relatively poor, as I did, your best bet is self- education. Money spent on building a personal library is never money lost.

18. Invest in yourself. I’ve learned this from the refugee family I married into: no amount of money spent on self- enhancement, on education, on resources that help you learn and grow is enough. Also, get rid of any coyness about money; conversations about spending and saving, no matter how uncomfortable, are important. Evaluate your relationship with money constantly. It’s important to acknowledge when you don’t have enough so you can dispense with expensive habits.

19. Cultivate a rich inner life. Write. Journal. Document via endless streams of selfies. Scribble messy notes in the margins of books. Hoard old magazines and journals so you can pick them apart at your leisure.

New hair, Rome.

20. Calibrate your social media usage. We’re well past the point in history when aimless scrolling could land you in a place of juicy discovery; today it mostly fuels insomnia and existential dread. It also lands you in unsavoury places, like an old colleague’s depressingly wordy, testimonial-fat Linked In. I use mine mostly to network, practice writing, and stay in touch with current political developments.

21. Internet friendships are no less important or real or meaningful than real ones. Reach out to people online you admire. You’ll be surprised at how effortlessly like-minded you can be even when you’ve never met.

22. Never make decisions out of fear. Even as I’ve stayed wide awake at night and wondered how sustainable my unemployed state is, I’ve politely declined some wonderful opportunities to work on a salary. Fear- based decisions never work out in the long term. I can no longer afford fancy dinners, but I’m okay with that trade- off as long as I’m operating from a place of self awareness.

23. Look out for your parents (and if you’re married, your husband’s parents). Terrible things, painful and unforgivable and life-altering things may have happened between you but the fact remains that you owe them forgiveness. This is when there’s a shift in power and responsibility, because they’re coming to terms with their own shitty decisions and their mortality and their friends dying and their lives not quite being what they’d hoped- regular life stuff. This is when you step in- delicately, unobtrusively- to parent them. If not handled carefully, the transition is a painful one. But it is necessary, and it must be done graciously, with all the kindness and forgiveness you can find inside you.

Oh hello, smother.

24. When your heart feels like it’s irreparably broken, trust that it isn’t. It will expand to make room for someone new. Get an animal home and let them fill your life with silliness and love like you’ve never felt before.

Smol joys

25. Don’t let anyone- no matter how close or highly regarded- tell you what to think of yourself.

26. Experiment with your hair. Cut it a lot. One day you’re going to desperately wonder about bangs, but your thinning scalp and faltering courage are going to be the death of that idea.

27. Acknowledge that sometimes you are the asshole. Learn to apologise with readiness and grace. Don’t apologise under pressure. A hollow apology boomerangs on you in the form of pent- up resentment

28. Abandon your defining virtue if it comes to your mental health. I was always the Type A girl/ low emotional-maintenance/ easily grateful. You don’t have to live with these expectations lifelong. I’ve kicked most of my type A tendencies to the kerb, loudly demand acknowledgement for my emotional labour and am now difficult to please- in the healthiest way possible.

29. Don’t take yourself too seriously. No one cares what you do- in a good way. Learn to chuckle at your self- image and stick a pin in your head if it’s swelling a bit.

30. Acknowledge your privilege- relative and absolute. It will help you read the world better, relate to issues more authentically.

31. Fashion-wise, work to find your signature. I’m all about color and especially love a florid pattern tempered with a nice neutral. Print-wise, I like a feral animal against tropical foliage. Or a small watercolour pineapple. Or cactii. I dragged S over miles of cobblestone in Florence so I could grab two cactus- shaped mugs. Sue me. On a serious note, fashion is a relatively harmless- and if you’re into thrifting, inexpensive way to express yourself.

32. Be nice to people. Be generous with compliments. Also, don’t waste niceness on someone who doesn’t have the stomach for it. Nice and Neutral should be the only extremes of your social decency spectrum.

33. Don’t set too much store by plans. They almost always don’t work out. Make room for swerves and about- turns, rests and pit stops. As long as you’re okay with the general direction your life’s taking, you’re in a good place. Don’t sweat the details.