Parents are unruly creatures. When I was a teenager, I could never figure out how mine were going to feel about things. I could disappear into town all day with a fiver in my pocket from the age of 12, and they wouldn’t bat an eyelid. I could rent movies with an 18 certificate and they would gladly watch them with me. But then they could draw the line in what felt like utterly random places: I had to be home by midnight, and not a minute before. I wasn’t allowed go to music festivals. I couldn’t sleep over in a boy’s house, even if he was just a friend. The list goes on. Even today, I still struggle to understand why my parents let me do some things, but not others.

However, I have realised one pattern: most of the things my parents wouldn’t let me do, turned out to be pretty crappy anyway. Look, I’ll prove it. And if you assume I’m lying just to make you feel better, well… I’m not. Shh. 

Festivals

I wasn’t allowed to go to festivals until I was 18, and you better believe that I went mere days after turning the illustrious one-eight. My friends had already been going for years – some since they were 15 – and I was fed up of feeling left out of their stories. I was ready to tick everything off of my festival bucket list in three days: I was going to share a water with a minor celebrity. I was going to meet a mystery boy at a silent disco. I was going to have that kind of complicated festival hair that is woven with flowers and glitter. I was going to be IT. 

The reality? By day two I wished that my parents had extended the ban until 21, or possibly 30. I was too poor to buy the incredibly expensive (not to mention unhealthy) food at the festival, and was instead slowly giving myself scurvy by subsisting on Nutrigrain bars and lipgloss. Everything I owned was damp, especially my socks, which seemed incapable of drying and very capable of giving me trench foot. You can imagine my delight when, on the Sunday morning, my friend got an asthma attack and we all had to leave early. 

Staying out past midnight

Look, I’m an adult who can go to bed whenever she wants and doesn’t have to answer to anyone, and I still leave the party at midnight. Believe me, nothing good is going to happen after the witching hour.

Travelling

Another thing that you should wait until you have actual money to do. At 19, I backpacked through Spain, France, Amsterdam and Germany, where my budget was £38 a day, exactly. That’s including accommodation. Needless to say, I spent a fair amount of nights “sleeping under the stars” – which, believe me, is nowhere near as poetic and romantic as it sounds. 

Dating

Your parents think you’re too young to go on dates? I’ll let you in on a secret: dating is not good when you’re young. It’s not good when you’re old, it’s basically good never. Sure, going out to a restaurant or to the cinema or to a gallery with someone you really like is great fun, but ‘dating’ – as in, turning up at a place and eating food with a near stranger – can be absolute hell. You never know who is supposed to pay and you always forget the point of your story halfway through. Avoid this one for your entire teens, or your entire life if you can manage it. 

Going on holidays with your friend’s family

This is something that, when I was around 13, everyone started doing. Suddenly, families everywhere seemed to be extending free holidays – FREE! – to feckless pre-teens who did nothing to deserve it other than befriending their wretched spawn. I was incredibly jealous of all this free holiday action, especially because everyone who went on holidays together seemed to return with a stronger, more sisterly bond. 

My parents were cynical about the prospect of letting me go on holidays with other people’s families, partly because they were afraid of having to return the favour, and they were not the kind of people to give some rando teen a free holiday. 

However, time taught me that going away with your friend’s family is not all its cracked up to be. You’re basically expected to be a guest, 24/7. That means no arguing, doing exactly what your friend’s parents tell you to do, and going along with their weird family traditions and crap car games. Who wants that? You’re supposed to be on holiday. 

@Czaroline

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First you saw the event – ‘near you’, not ‘invited to’ – on Facebook. Then you overheard those people you thought were your mates, discussing what they were going to wear and who might get with who. You hold out hope for an invite: none comes and then finally, to add insult to the indignity, someone asks you if you’ve been invited to so-and-so’s party.

No, you say, you haven’t. Cue awkward silence.

Maybe it’s a mistake. Maybe they simply forgot to invite you. It’s easy enough to do, particularly on Facebook. But if you want my advice, it would be not to go down this particular route. If it is a mistake, that will probably at some point emerge and either be sorted out, or apologised for. But if it’s not, you’ll only open yourself up to further misery if you force the issue only to find out so-and-so has definitely, actively not invited you.

What do you do then? Well for one thing you should make alternative plans – and no, these should not be ‘lying in bed feeling sorry for yourself’. My dad, bless his heart, has the emotional grasp of a park bench, but when Emily Richards missed me off her invite list, even he sensed the pain I was going through (the closed bedroom door and muffled sobs gave the game away) and knew I needed something to do.

I’ve loved the Nutcracker for as long as I can remember. There was a showing that evening, and a table for two at Italian restaurant ASK. He and I rarely hung out one-on-one – we’re a big family – but that evening, we were a duo. The sheer novelty of that, the anticipation of my beloved penne al pollo della casa, and the spellbinding thrill of the Sugar Plum Fairy blew all thoughts of Emily Richards out of the water. There have been, there will be, many other parties. That evening with my dad was one I’ll never forget. 

So that’s one idea. I don’t necessarily mean the ballet and the penne al pollo della casa (the calzone is also excellent, btw) – I mean the principle of spending time with a relative you don’t often spend time with. It could be your brother, mum, cousin or aunt. It could be a whole gang of you. When was the last time you cooked for your family, or rallied them into some board games? It might not sound as cool and bantz-filled as the Richards’ place, but trust me: investing in family time will yield far greater return than investing in schoolmates who haven’t invited you to their Christmas do.

My third tip – in case the prospect of time with the fam jam fills you with total horror – is to find who else hasn’t been invited and make them your friend for the night. There are three advantages to this strategy: you’ll be socialising, you can commiserate with each other (though make this brief, it does not do to dwell) on the lack of invite, and you may, by the end of the evening, have made a new or a closer friend. I did this only the other week, in fact, with a girl I don’t see that much, and not only did we make ourselves feel better but we even found ourselves laughing at the self-importance of the man – ok, boy – holding this apparently exclusive party just up the road. 

Because that’s the other thing you need to think about when your invite doesn’t arrive: what kind of friend leaves you out of a party without explanation?

There are some excuses – restrictions on space, parental rules, catering – but if one hasn’t been offered, then that person is just not a friend. You don’t need them in your life, making you feel inferior to the rest of the world. And FYI, while it might feel like the rest of the world has been invited, they haven’t. This is just a handful of people who on one evening partied without you. In universal terms, this is space dust. There’ll be many, many more Christmas parties during the course of your lifetime, and the chances are most of them will be infinitely better than Emily Richards’ will be. The Christmas party doesn’t exist: for better or for worse, Christmas comes every year.

So hang on in there. Your lack of invitation doesn’t make you a lesser person: it’s not what happens to us in life, but how we respond it it that defines us. That’s why Emma and I ate a whole Waitress cheesecake, each, that afternoon.

Months later, I found out why I’d not been invited to Emily Richards’ party: she told me she was worried the guy she liked would fancy me instead. False flattery? Probs, but I’ll take it anyway. Often, exclusivity says more about the insecurities of the host than it does about you.

@finney_clare

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