Written by Dotty Winters


Letter to a past me: Dotty Winters

Comedian Dotty Winters grabs her shy student self by the lapels and (politely) demands she go forth and sparkle.

Young Dotty sitting on her bed in pyjamasDear Dotty,

I know that you are worried about the future, and that sometimes you cry a little bit about the thought of growing up. You’re right to be worried – a lot of being a grown up completely sucks. But if it’s any comfort, it’s not the bits you think.

As you already know, in the future you will have a platinum bob, a hoverboard, a robot butler and cyborg overlords. The only part of this you need to worry about is the bob; you can do a bob, but you’ll always have hamster-cheeks so you’ll need to find a trustworthy robot-hairdresser. Unbelievably, you’ll eventually rock a fringe that won’t make you look like you fell asleep for a nap and your mother attacked you with hedge-clippers.

The key to fringes is to remember that, unlike school blazers, you shouldn’t get one with the intention of growing into it. As a consequence, you will spend a lot of the future getting very tiny fringe trims. You don’t know it yet but your life’s purpose is to grow and then grow out a series of fringes; we don’t know why this is important yet, but we are sure it is.

Anyway, stop worrying about your hair – there are bigger fish to fry (please note: you’ll never be good at frying fish, even when the whole world discovers griddle pans in the early 2000s).

I want to tell you that you’re operating under a misapprehension; you’ve spent most of your teens believing that confidence is something that you are given, or that you earn. This magic-beans approach to confidence is flawed, and very soon you’ll realise this. In the future you will learn that confidence is like body odour – much easier to detect in other people than in yourself.

Two or so years from now, you’ll have one of the weirdest days of your life. Your parents will drive you to York with most of your belongings and your lava lamp, and abandon you in a university’s halls of residence. Up until this precise moment you’ll have devoted a huge amount of energy to NOT thinking about what happens next, because you know that if you start to process the enormity of moving away from your small-village life you’ll freak out and stay there. As you sit on an unfamiliar mattress, looking at the bags of quirky vintage clothes you’ve acquired in order to dress like a student (but have never, ever worn, because people know you), you’ll realise something important.

“You’ve spent most of your teens believing that confidence is something that you are given, or that you earn. This magic-beans approach to confidence is flawed, and very soon you’ll realise this.”

No one here knows you. You know exactly the version of you that you’d like to be. You know the big and small changes you’d like to make, the bits of fear that you’d like to ditch and the shackles you’d like to shed. So you decide to do it. You grab that moment before you go downstairs to meet people and decide that you are going to be confident now. Just like that, you decide not to let fear stop you.

And it works. It isn’t a quick fix: you’ll need to keep making that decision – some days you’ll have to make it minute by minute, other times you’ll go months on end as this new, confident you. But it works, and it’s real. That decision isn’t false or fake or pretend. The reason it doesn’t feel fake is because, much like body odour, that confidence was there all along. That’s why when you decide you can do it, you can. You’ll pull on your charity-shop faux fur coat, and those beaten-up biker boots, take a great deep breath, and reach for the door handle and start the rest of your life.

Dotty with an aubergine bob and fringe

The most recent incarnation of The Fringe.

So there you have it: sit tight. I am not writing this so that you can make this choice sooner. In fact, after you make your choice, you’ll come to realise how important all the time before the choice was to who you become.

You don’t have long to wait, so keep yourself busy in the meantime – read even more books, maybe learn to knit (you’ll wish you had). Alternatively, if you get a spare minute, this would be a great time to invent a portable music-playing device with really high usability and design standards and the ability to store hundreds of albums. Or, you know, just keep watching Saved By The Bell; that’ll work out fine too.

Lots of love and with very high expectations of you,

Future-Dotty x


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Written by Dotty Winters

Nascent stand-up, fan of fancy words, purveyor of occasional wrongness, haphazard but enthusiastic parent, science-fan, apprentice-feminist.