In her final column, Anne Miller talks to Daisy Buchanan about her new book How to be a Grown Up.
Being an adult can be tough. Sure, as Tim Minchin’s Matilda observes, you can eat sweets on the way to work – but then you have to deal with the sugar-crash, do a full day’s work and you’ll probably need to eat something slightly more nutritious before the day is done.
If you’ve ever found yourself wishing there was a manual you could refer to then Daisy Buchanan’s How to be a Grown Up is the book for you.
As Grazia magazine’s resident agony aunt and as the eldest of six sisters, Buchanan is well-versed in sharing both her own tribulations and her ways of coping with the challenges life can throw at you. How to be a Grown Up manages to cover the length and breadth of being a ‘grown-up’, from the big – losing your job and sexual consent – to the smaller: how to wash your hair and how to tweet sensibly. But it always makes every potential problem, large or small, feel valid and worth exploring.
“If you would feel ashamed if someone knew that you were habitually wearing bikini bottoms instead of underwear or you hadn’t made yourself a hot meal in months, then you can probably change that.”
Chapter headings include How to Have Friends, How to be Sad and How to Make Mistakes. Being a grown-up can be overwhelming, but the way Buchanan sets advice in context alongside first-hand examples can make it all seem more manageable.
One of Buchanan’s revelations is that the magic age where you suddenly feel ‘grown up’ doesn’t actually exist.
“Every single person I know in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond would be like, ‘Well, I don’t feel like a grown-up yet,’” she says. “And that’s very comforting because a lot of the ‘not feeling like a grown-up’ comes from looking around and thinking everyone has it together but you.”
Indeed, when we met up to talk about the book we got chatting to the lady on the adjacent table. She was fabulously funny, in her 80s, in London to visit her son and told us that she still doesn’t feel like a grown-up and doesn’t think you ever do.
For Buchanan, one of the keys to successful adulting is “learning the difference between doing what you want to do and doing what you feel like you should do.”
She says, “I feel that we all know ourselves well enough really early on, and going through our 20s is about learning to trust that knowledge rather than necessarily learning anything new.
“It’s about being comfortable in yourself. There will be people who love that and respond to that and you can find them, and it’s so much easier to find them once you’re at peace with that in yourself.”
How else do we improve our basic adulting? Buchanan points out that if you’re doing something that you feel a bit uneasy about, you do have the power to change it.
“If you would feel ashamed if someone knew that you hadn’t changed your bedsheets in two or three months or you were habitually wearing bikini bottoms instead of underwear or you hadn’t made yourself a hot meal in months and months, then you can probably change that.”
She cites Caitlin Moran’s advice of treating yourself like your own pet dog – the importance of regular walks, food, a rest and generally being kinder to yourself.
As a freelance writer Buchanan is accustomed to writing personal pieces, so I wonder what it feels like to expose even more of herself in the book.
“It wasn’t easy to write. Even though I do [tend to] write so personally. If someone says write 800 words by lunchtime you don’t have time to be scared. But if someone says can you do 75,000 words in six months…
“I just really, really want anyone who’s had a bad thing happen to them to feel less alone and, if it does nothing else, I just really hope it makes people laugh.”
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Anne is a QI Elf. She has two Blue Peter badges, reached the semi-finals of Only Connect and really likes puffins. @miller_anne