How Dumb Were You at 22?

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22…

That’s a lie. I’m painfully aware of the fact I’m soon to be turning 32. On the plus side, I’m old enough to realise that 32 is no age at all. Likewise, age is relative – like many things in life.

But enough about yours truly. In case you’ve never used the internet, there’s a certain ‘influencer’ hogging the headlines at the moment. Hot off the heels of a podcast with the latest BBC Dragon, ex-Love Islander Molly-Mae Hague has got herself into hot water with some pretty controversial comments.

The most offensive thing…

In one hour and 42 minutes, Pretty Little Thing’s creative director manages to make a series of tactless remarks, seemingly without knowing. Far from the “same 24 hours in a day” platitudes, we have the woe-is-me moments as she bemoans six-figure stamp duty fees and having to give up her jewellery.

The lack of self-awareness isn’t just palpable. It smacks you in the face like a flying brick with a million followers. It’s cringey. It’s painful.

And yet…there’s a naivety to it that almost makes you want to pat her on the head.

The lifeguard from Hitchin cannot possibly know that PLT items are sourced from Bangladesh for as little as 70p. That the brand scores one out of five for its treatment of people. That there is minimal information about forced labour, gender equality or freedom of association.

Beyond all that, one of the most offensive things for me was the shoehorned product placement. At one point, Molly asks, “what’s this drink?” as the camera hovers over a bottle of Huel. Honestly, we’d rather have adverts.

You have to hand it to Molly.

But I digress. Other than a toe-curling declaration that she cannot pass a homeless person without emptying her purse, Molly is not one for virtue signalling. (At least, not in this podcast – I’ve neither the time nor inclination to investigate her any further.)

In this podcast, she’s not telling us to use paper straws as she boards a private jet. She’s not lent her vocals to the best-known line on the Band Aid single. Other than hiding behind fillers and filters, she’s pretty ‘real’ about who she is – however achingly un-self-aware that may be.

As this ageing, unmarried, childless 30-something ponders the podcast, she cannot help looking back and thinking…she was just as much of a fool at that age too. Allow her to explain.

At 22…I was just like Molly.

Sort of. I didn’t have a 6.2 million follower count, and I certainly didn’t have seven figures in the bank. In fact, a cursory scroll through 2012’s Facebook statuses shows me declaring that I have £36 in my bank account. Goodness.

But there were some similarities.

I cared about things that really didn’t matter.

At 22, I graduated with a (fitting) 2:2 in Spanish and Linguistics. Four years wasted. I’d never get anywhere with a Desmond (God rest his soul), would I? Much like Molly’s obsession with Instagram followers, I was fixated on those numbers. Ten years later, they don’t matter. (Though I’d like to apologise to every employer who hired me under false pretences.)

I had an all-consuming obsession with my appearance.

Molly is hailed as a hero for choosing to dissolve her fillers in her early 20s. Well, Molly, I was obsessed before fillers or Instagram were even a big deal. Specifically, eschewing carbohydrates for my sister’s impending wedding. I even posted my weight on Facebook. Cringe.

I had things handed to me on a plate.

While I can’t comment on Molly’s upbringing, other than her “lack of financial struggles”, I did have handouts at 22. Two thousand pounds from my nan’s house sale was a very welcome addition to the £36 in my bank account.

I was embarrassing on social media.

Far from the podcast, Molly has been slammed for insensitive comments on social media. Looking back through my Facebook feed, I wouldn’t say I was so much insensitive as I was plain mean. I would tear X Factor contestants a new one. I was an angry troll.

And as for this monstrosity…

jimmy savile 2012

I hasten to add, this was taken in February 2012 and the truth was revealed in November that year.

I made some effing stupid decisions.

Fillers and Facebook faux pas might be one thing, but 22 is a time when everyone makes bad life decisions. I was hunting down a career in journalism at all costs. Taking a job at a soon-to-go-into-administration call centre was not my smartest move.

Should we forgive Molly-Mae?

Once again, this is not an endorsement of Molly’s comments, but it is an admission of guilt: we were all 22 once, and we all did some stupid things.

The key difference is that Molly is in the public eye. Everything she ever snaps, says or tweets will leave an indelible stain on the internet forever. Or at least until we find the next female Gen Z to attack.

In the best-case scenario, Molly will grow up and look back on this episode as one of her biggest embarrassments. She’ll learn the error of her ways and use her influence for good – perhaps, let’s say, to front the creative direction for an ethical fashion brand.

If you must meme, meme fairly.

Again (and the lady doth protest too much), I do not condone Molly’s comments. But I will agree with host Steven Bartlett, who said that the media disproportionately attacks women while men get away with murder.

In some cases, this is literally what happened. In the last few months, Alec Baldwin has shot Halyna Hutchins dead. The Pope has criticised childless people for being selfish. Prince Andrew could even be let off for a sexual assault case. Chances are, people will be talking about Molly-Mae for far longer than any of these offences.

I’m not asking anyone to be kind to Molly-Mae. I too mocked her and compared her to Chris Lilley’s Ja’mie King – honestly believing she was a caricature rather than a real person. Characters like Molly will come and go, and are so often satirised in popular culture. Just look at Ariana Grande’s Riley Bina in Don’t Look Up.

All I ask is that you don’t stoke the flames. Laugh at the memes, sure, but remember you were foolish too. We can only hope that Molly will cringe at this in years to come, rather than being doomed to follow in the footsteps of stars like Britney Spears.

And now, just to lighten the mood…

What’s the dumbest shit you did at 22?

I asked my network. The names have been hidden to protect the innocent.

“Joined the police.”

“Kissed a friend when I wasn’t single. Reader, my boyfriend at the time still married me.”

“Married my ex-wife.”

“Moved to a city to be with a terrible ex.”

“Didn’t go to Band Aid.”

“Lost house keys while drunk and put my hand through a glass window.”

“Jumped over a hedge and crippled myself.”

And my personal favourite…

“Ordered an online Asda delivery of just Foster’s beer because it was three for £20 and I got £10 off the first delivery. The delivery man laughed in my face.”

I said dumbest!

Reader, you don’t have to be kind, but perhaps laugh to yourself and remember you were 22 once. Your mistakes will be consigned to the annals of history – not clickbait for the masses.

And if you want someone to take the piss out of, here are some of my stupidest moments from ’21.


Have a great ’22.

katie cheryl cole 22
Katie Lingo
by Katie Lingo
8th January 2022