There was nothing quite like being a Queen’s College girl
What do you mean you didn’t make your Latin teacher cry?
Going to girls’ school on Harley Street in London has certain appeal.
You’re always minutes away from a Little Waitrose, there’s always that dodgy pub down a back street that will turn a blind eye to the copious A-Level folders bundled in to your bag, and you’re probably no more than three people down the row in assembly from a princess or famous person’s daughter. It’s all standard, really.
My school was one of the shining charms on the London all-girls day school Pandora bracelet (one of which you will have received on one birthday or another). Queen’s College has a number of amazing accolades. It was one of the first ever girls’ schools in the world to give women a qualification, and it has generated successful women in all walks of life.
I mean, Asma al-Asaad, the first lady of Syria, was even educated there. She even did a live news broadcast on our front steps. Who doesn’t love a bit of Syrian politics to brighten up your Monday morning at school?
However, needless to say, these aren’t the things that immediately come to mind when you think of life at a London girls’ school. What you’d know if you went to an institution like this, is that you were more likely to be asked questions from your fellow peers about how expensive your school bag was than what your major ambitions were.
My fondest memories were the fashion trends we all rode through. You may think having no uniform is a good way to funnel self-expression from an early age, but you’d be so, so wrong.
First was the Juicy tracksuit and Uggs phase – you were socially exiled if you weren’t able to match your velour with your wool. School discos were a mess of neon tutus bought by your slightly edgier older sisters when they ventured down to Camden Market, and nearly all of our hair had a giant, novelty bow in it to push back the botched side fringe you thought was a good idea to cut yourself at the time.
School fashion peaked when I was in year 9. I will never forget my male deputy head standing up in front of the whole school, having to dictate why it was neither classy nor school-appropriate to “come into school having forgotten the bottom half of your outfit”, and that, “wearing a bikini under a rain mac does not count as appropriate clothing, especially if said rain mac is see-through.”
When “Gossip Girl” aired, I finally felt less alone in this chaotic world of a city day school. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to relate to the good stuff. We didn’t have a male companion school – and even if we did, none of them would have the jawline of Nate Archibald.
What we did have, however, was the same level of bitchiness. If you put 350 girls between the ages of 11 and 18 in close confines, don’t expect them all to bake a cake made out of rainbows and smiles and all be happy.
But the icing on top of the freshly-baked cakes they served at break time was when we got our own Gossip Girl. Little Gossip swept his/her way through all of London’s most “elite” private schools, savagely tearing away at each girl/best friendship/friend group in a way that would put Dan Humphrey to shame.
Even without Little Gossip, people signed up to forums such as Ask.fm and Formspring – anonymous question and answer sites – actually opening themselves up to these levels of criticism. The bitchiness that prevails in these kind of environments is unrivaled by a room full of all the female dogs in the world.
Yes, we may have been thrashed out of any school sports league in the first round. Yes, we may have made our Latin teacher cry once or twice by convincing him the tennis ball we were throwing around the classroom didn’t exist. Maybe a few of us were caught paralytic by a teacher on the side of the road. And yes, we may have had a girl call in her butler to clean yoghurt off her shoe.
But it was not all that bad. Going to an all-girls school taught me that I could do whatever I wanted. I was never told from a young age that I couldn’t study what I wanted because it was a “boy’s subject”, or that I couldn’t do something because it was too “manly” – and I was never told that something was too “girly” or “feminine”. Everything was neutral and I had all the opportunities I wanted in front of me.
What I miss is the solidarity. On a serious level, we were a clan of young Queens. Nothing could take away the power we had. I remember the day we heard the news of the late Peaches Geldof, famous socialite and old Queen: a girl in my year called out our headmistress for not touching on the news, and organised the moment of silence herself.
On an entertainment level, it was much stronger. Our end of term showcases had our girls performing farcical stand-ups concerning what all of us had on our minds. That, and my all-time personal favourite, my younger sister’s year donning masks of all of our teachers and performing a raunchy rendition of Britney’s “Toxic”.
And despite the bitchiness, I always knew I had the best girl squad in the common room to run to whenever I had a problem. And, yes, these girls may have been bitches – but they were my bitches.