“I like your hair, did your mum do it for you?”

Gem Turner sat in car

Ok, let me take you back to 10 years ago… 2009. The year I left high school, the year mum let me box dye my hair nearly black and I was probably texting from my velvet covered Nokia flip phone asking my friends “wuu2?”.

I wasn’t as shy as I used to be at this point but I didn’t ooze confidence either. I was thinking the other day about the kinds of things people said to me when I was a teenager. Don’t get me wrong, when people say these things now, I usually know what to say. But when you’re hitting that age where all you want to do is blend in and avoid awkward moments – adults around me didn’t make it easy for me. So I thought I’d have a chuckle and throwback to what people used to say to awkward 16 year old gem…

You’re so cute!

When you’re 16 you want to be a lot of things. Cute was at the bottom of the list. I wanted to be cool, stylish, funny – anything but cute thank you very much.

I like your hair did your mum do it for you?

I take pride in how I do my hair. Yes, sometimes if I’ve got a broken arm I get help brushing it from friends or PAs. The ironic thing here is that mum can not do anything with hair. Bake a cake, sew me a bag or rustle up some Yorkshire puddings without measuring anything yes, but could she do a french plait that I always so desperately wanted? Could she eck.

People asked this a lot when I was younger. It was like whenever I made an effort I could see their brain ticking, questioning how it was done. Strange.

You’ll find someone… special

Crushes and boyfriends were a hot topic at this point, or the lack of them. Mostly adults would say this to me and I would sit there red faced. What is special? What does that even mean? Where would I find one of those? It’s one of the reasons why I still cringe if someone asks me about my “love life” today but maybe that’s for another blog post…

Do you wear kids clothes?

Imagine 16 year old gem trying to look like the nearly adult I was, in an outfit that I thought was so on trend (probably double vest combo with a long pearl necklace) and suddenly someone looks me up and down and says “do you wear kids clothes still?”. At the time I would huff and feel embarrassed, especially when I was with my friends.

Where do you sleep?

This makes me laugh. I think because people saw me in my chair every day, they pondered if I ever got out of it. I mean my chairs comfy, but it’s not that comfy. I can announce to you all, drumroll … I sleep in a bed.

I know, shocking.

Anyway, 10 years later …

  • I’m now blonde
  • I still wear kids shoes (and love it)
  • I’ve learned “finding someone special” was a cover when people felt awkward talking about disabled people having relationships – top tip just be chill and talk as you would with other kids!
  • I don’t mind being called cute (as much)
  • Mum still can’t do french plaits

but I did once sleep in my chair after a few too many bevs…

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