Next up in our Ask a Teen 2016 column is 17-year-old Manvir Dobb of Birmingham, England. We talked driving, “uni,” the one outfit everyone wears, Tinder and her love of the Shrek 2 soundtrack — which is apparently controversial! Ready?
What do you typically do on the weekends?
Homework. I try to get all of my homework done on Friday and Saturday because I think Sunday should be a no-homework day. A day of rest. It’s fine — I’m not allowed to go out clubbing yet. Until then, I’m going to be a committed student.
Can you drive yet?
I can start learning how to drive this year. I’m ready to hit the road. I’m trying to find someone to teach me. There’s no drivers ed at my school. I don’t think it’s taken seriously. You know how in My Super Sweet Sixteen in America, everyone gets a car, and everyone’s like, “Oh my god, dad, a car? I love you!” It’s not really like that here.
Do you go into London often?
I live in Birmingham, which is two hours away from London. I hadn’t properly seen London as a tourist until we had a Canadian exchange student. We went to see London, and I just thought it was the most magical place I’ve ever been. I’ve fallen in love with the city. It’s extremely expensive, though. I’ll live there one day when I’m the editor of a famous magazine.
You want to work at a magazine!
Pandora Sykes inspired me to become a journalist. She’s the fashion features editor of the Sunday Times Style magazine. I’m in year 12 here, so I have one more year to go until university. I just started A Levels, where you lower the amount of subjects you take to four: Maths, History, which I love, Spanish and Art. Once you take your A Levels, you start narrowing the area you’ll study at uni further. We’re expected to have our career paths set earlier in the British education system, whereas in America, I think it’s more liberal.
Being Indian, living in Britain — I’m quite lucky that my parents aren’t making me become a doctor. They’re supportive of what I want to do. I’m grateful they are supportive. At the same time, the creative world isn’t something they’ve ventured into themselves. They want me to have a steady career, so when I go to uni I’ll probably focus on something that gives me a steady career, like economics and history or Spanish with economics to broaden the horizon.
Looking at colleges and choosing your major is always so, so stressful.
It is. I have a STACK of books about college and I’ve been looking through them with my mom. It’s overwhelming but she was like, “We’re going to take a deep breath and go through this step-by-step. “As long as you go to a good university, you’ll be great,” she said. I recently went to the Edinburgh open house, though, and they had a great fashion program. My friend Dotty and I have joked about starting a fashion line. Her name’s Dorothy; we want to call it “Dot and Dobb.”
I thought about looking at unis in America, but it’s so expensive to attend as an international student. Then Trump won and I was like, I probably wouldn’t even be let in.
So you were following the US election?
Oh yes. It’s a topic that’s going to affect the whole world. My friends and I are quite into politics. On the 8th of November we tried to stay up all night to see what was happening. We all thought Hillary was going to win at first, then the swing states had those awful results. The whole school was in an outrage. All the lessons were taken over by the election. Perhaps we were just being melodramatic teens.
No, no. People were very emotional about it here too. I bet it was a bit like Brexit.
I’m still quite upset about Brexit. I had a really hard time at first. But the reality is that we have voted for it, and now we’re going to have to deal with the consequences.
It must have been frustrating to not be able to vote for it.
It still is frustrating. I feel like I can’t do anything. My friends and I discuss it a lot. Birmingham is not the place to go around knocking on doors to share your political views. It’s more conservative here. But my school encourages us to learn about politics, and my friends encourage one another.
Okay, let’s change the subject. What are you listening to?
Baby Metal at the gym.
Oh my god you don’t know Baby Metal? They’re this Japanese rock band — three girls who sing heavy rock songs in Japanese. They’re quite big in the UK. I listen to them at the gym even though I don’t know what they’re saying. I recommend you listen to “Gimme Chocolate.”
What about pop music?
Oh, I listen to the top 40 music. I don’t diss on that. Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez are my guilty pleasures.
What are your absolute favorite musicians or bands?
Amelia, this is more stressful than asking what i want to do with my life! Hozier. He has a such a beautiful voice. He’s amazing. Aurora — she’s a Norwegian. Oh Land. She’s wonderful. I think her music’s really beautiful.
I also like Alt-J. Bombay Bicycle Club. Vampire Weekend. They met at Columbia, which is why I wanted to go to school in America. Oh: the Shrek 2 soundtrack is AN ABSOLUTE BANGER. I can’t even contain my excitement. The second movie is a bit controversial because everyone thinks the first one is the best.
“Bangers.” I like that. What other words are you guys using?
“You snake!” It’s not a serious insult. It’s more light-hearted. “Why didn’t you wait for me at the bus stop you little snake?” My teacher told me that in the ’70s, they used to say “pseud” in the same way. We’ve had enough of snake so we’re trying to bring back pseud. It’s a work in progress.
Do you still say “lit”?
We still say “lit.” And we try to incorporate puns a lot. That’s a British thing. My best friend is having a pun party this weekend. I was thinking of going as a pot head, with a flower pot on my head, but she said it wasn’t appropriate. Now I’m thinking of what else to be — maybe a pig in a blanket. A bag of M&Ms with photos of the rapper Eminem tapped on me. Actually…I don’t know if the pun thing is a British thing or just a me-and-my-friends thing.
What’s the outfit everyone wears?
In the summer it was a choker with a denim or suede A-line skirt. Now it’s high-waisted jeans with a black turtleneck or crop top. It’s a nice look but when everyone wears it, it loses its wow factor.
Do you feel like your high school experience is different from that of an American student’s?
I just watched this BBC documentary on American high schools. I think it’s more extreme in America, but we have all the same groups of different people: here there’s the popular kids, the not-so-popular kids, the weird kids, the artsy kids. I’m friends with the artsy kids. In our school, the younger years have to wear school uniform. From grade 11 onward we get to wear our regular clothes, and I do stand out a bit. The other day I was wearing red tights. Very different. But it was quite sweet because people told me they’d never have the confidence to wear that.
Where do you get your own style inspiration from?
Sunday Times Style magazine with the Wardrobe Mistress series that Pandora does. And Alexa Chung. She’s such an icon. I use her app Villoid a lot.
What’s going on with social media. What’s everyone using? Do you miss Vine?
I didn’t use Vine that much. I’m not too bothered that it’s gone. I’m not a person who keeps up with tech. Snapchat — I just maintain streaks with friends and look at Tastemade because I love cooking. I don’t use Facebook. I don’t think it’s useful. If I could live in Jane Austen’s era but with women’s rights, I’d be so happy and content.
Are you dating?
I don’t date at the moment. I go to an all-girls school but there’s a boys school next to us. It’s our brother school. We have a close-knit community. We’ll do drama productions together and various other clubs. So far I’m not attracted to any of the boys in that school. I’m waiting for one of them to become taller than me. I’m 5’8.”
Do people in your school use Tinder?
This summer everyone started downloading it before the summer holidays, but everyone got bored. It was exciting at first because it’s a thrill to swipe random people, but no one was really meeting up. Although, a friend of mine met her boyfriend through Tinder. She was walking in the shopping mall and saw one of her friends from the boys school with a random guy and thought he was good looking, but she assumed they were never going to meet again. She found him on Tinder, was like, “That’s the guy!” And now they’re boyfriend and girlfriend. I’m warming up to it because of that, but I’m still all for the rom-com situation.
What’s the most annoying thing adults do?
Ask you what are you thinking about doing with your life. It’s really frustrating.
What do you wish they’d ask you?
Anything. “Tell me about your favorite book — something interesting that you’ve read recently. What’s your hobby? What do you like doing in your spare time?” My spare time is limited these days but I like to do things other than work. I read, I bake. I want to be the next Mary Berry. She’s a British baker who everyone loves. I play the violin. And there’s always TV.
Do you do the whole Netflix thing?
I don’t have it but my mother promised me I could get it after my exams. Now she’s backing down. I want to watch The Crown, Orphan Black and Orange is the New Black.
What’s your dream outfit, even if it doesn’t exist yet?
I want to be profound and say something like “the skin in which I am encased,” but I honestly think I would feel like my life was complete if I were put into the most beautifully dramatic ball gown. The movie Anna Karenina (up there in my favorite movies) has some admirable gowns. Zac Posen could make this dream outfit with those magical hands of his.
What’s the worst thing about being a teen?
Exams (of course) and the environment. I really think that we are the last generation that can truly save the planet, and the fact we’re not changing our bad habits nearly as fast as the world is changing for the worse scares me.
What’s the best thing about being a teen?
Not having to pay taxes and being able to experiment with your style without having people judge you as much as if you were an adult.
Where do you get your information from?
My phone. But even then, I’m not on it as much as most teens. My friends regularly yell at me for not replying to messages quickly enough, but I actually want to look up and see the world that surrounds me.
What do you think about print journalism like papers and magazines? Do you prefer to read books in their book form, or do you read them on Kindle?
I love print journalism. My family and I are dedicated readers of the Sunday Times newspaper and I read the Metro when on the train. This week, my history teacher showed us old newspapers and one was from 1808! I realized that they give such valuable insight into what people thought of the history they were actually living through, which gives a completely new perspective to the facts and figures we learn from a textbook.
I love the smell and feel of the individual pages of a book as I turn it! However, I do think that I should invest in a Kindle because it’s easier to carry around and doesn’t kill as many trees.
Is there one TV show/song/movie that you feel really defines your generation?
High School Musical!!!! It has affected my generation to such an extent that my friend and I create renditions of its songs for history presentations.
What are you excited for? (Literally in regards to anything.)
In the short term: CHRISTMAS!!! In the long term: being able to decorate my own house.