A story for me
Five women make friends with their 16-year-old selves in intimate letters.
You've just turned 16. The day before your birthday Nelson Mandela was released after serving 27 years in prison.
You watched on television as he walked through the gates of Victor Verster Prison, but you had no real idea of the monumental changes taking place around you. You'll look back in awe at the history that you were part of, and wonder why it seems so distant. At the moment all you care about is boys, bicycles and music, so any other advice I give you from the future will be lost on you. I'll try stick to these topics.
Don't settle for anything less than the respect and love you deserve, even if you're offered high adventure and the keys to open doors. The price for these is exorbitant, and those doors will close in your face. Don't be seduced by good looks, edgy madness and dark, tormented souls - they'll end up bald, fat drunkards, tormenting those around them.
Keep riding your bicycle. It makes you feel free, fit, healthy, happy and independent. Music will continue to be your sanctuary, your tonic and your antidepressant. You'll travel a lot, but take the time to travel more, even if you have to go alone - you'll always have music to keep you company, and you'll be surprised by how easily you make friends. But don't be too trusting. Don't let anyone take advantage of you. It's a wild world out there.
Be proud, not envious of the success of your friends. It is detrimental to your sense of self to compare yourself with others. Everyone progresses at a different pace, having their own strengths and weaknesses. Stay strong in the face of manipulation, especially when it comes from the opposite sex. Remember that your first love is always there, and he'll always give you good advice. He'll always love you, too.
Lastly, get independent of soul, mind and finances sooner rather than later or else, like with our Madiba, it will be a long walk to freedom.
Andrea Nagel is a senior writer at The Times
You've been kissed for the first time. You'll never hear from him again. The tickey box [public phone] down the hall is not ringing for you. The next time you kiss is a long while off. By the time you learn to recover from heartbreak, it will be too late. You'll no longer need to know how. In the meantime, don't hide behind bad grooming and plumes of dope smoke. This does nothing to help your fragile self-esteem, nor your school marks. You are angry with who you are and with those who don't share your point of view. You hate the boarding school mistresses who, with scary facial moles and spoonfuls of awful medicine, keep your personality deeply downtrodden.
It's hard to imagine at 16, but you'll soon be free to explore ideas and study what you want. But you've got little direction, and even less focus. Your delight at being an adult takes long to wear off. You will forgive yourself for this one day when you're living a fixed routine, in what seems a tiny world raising children. You'll work, but without always knowing for what ultimate purpose. But that's okay because it will give you pleasure. You could be braver in what you do, and more demanding. Take risks and don't worry about the mistakes. There will be many.
You will make good friends, and like having them. Keep them and find those you've lost. You'll have the children you've always wanted. Not six, but three, who will fill your life and squeeze it with joy. Spend as much time as you can with your grandmother. She'll die and you'll miss her more than you can imagine is possible. Try to know your father because he will die too young. For the rest, and for the most of it, slowly, slowly, you'll learn to be yourself.
Jackie May is features editor at The Times
If only you had taken note of the warning signs and that little voice in your heart, you would not have married so young and ended up divorced. Both will be rewarding experiences for different reasons, although you will not understand these at the time. The best part of that marriage will be a son named Jayden.
But, rest assured, you will love and be loved unconditionally and have your heart broken, again. One day, all your fears will, however, help strengthen you. All that made you angry, caused you hurt and made you feel like a failure will recede in your 30s and connect you with the real You.
Chandré, you are special and wonderful. You will one day become the envy of many from the neighbourhood and even your friends and family.
Much of what I'm telling you now might seem surreal. After all, you are just an ordinary girl who goes to a government school, but the world will become your oyster.
Never mind those who come from money and speak in their coconut accents, always trying to impress the teachers with their fancy holiday destinations and the big cars their parents drive.
You will one day look at them, and pity some of them as they become alcoholics or teenage parents who work as cashiers or sales staff at clothing stores.
Actually, you always knew you wanted to be better than them. But, you had to struggle to come out tops. The love and support from your parents and siblings often made it seem like child's play. I'm so proud of you for persevering.
If I had one wish for you, it would be that you could feel as confident at the age of 16 as you will when you are 35.
PS: Stop fussing about your hair. There will be a fantastic invention called GHD.
Chandré Prince is a senior journalist at The Times
You made a "wait until you're at least 18" celibacy vow. You wanted losing your virginity to be an epic, romantic moment. Well, I'm sorry to disappoint. Your biggest regret won't be that it happened prematurely, because that will be beyond your control. Your biggest regret will be pretending it never happened.
You're not going to lose your virginity. A friend's older brother is going to steal it . I wish I could prevent your fate, but, sadly, nothing will prevent it from happening. It wasn't your fault . If you don't believe this, he will try to convince you that it wasn't a crime. His sister denying that she heard your screams will discourage you from reporting it.
Stop rationalising, analysing and justifying your inaction . Rather tell somebody what happened. Most of your anxiety, anger, shame and stagnation will disappear the moment you speak about it.
Don't give him power over you and other unsuspecting girls by accepting what he did to you. Your accepting it normalises it. If you don't speak out, we'll continue to live in a society that warns girls against rape instead of teaching boys that it is wrong.
Your fate is inevitable, but don't despair, your life will be beautiful. You will reclaim your freedom and grow into a woman who can smile in the face of adversity.
Refilwe Boikanyo is a features writer at The Times
Get your nose out of that calculus textbook. You will never need to know about derivatives, integrals or infinite series. Learn, instead, to ride a bike. Buy purple lipstick and turquoise eye shadow. Stop being a nerd.
Oh, and give yourself a break when you look in the mirror. Forgive those spots you see as carbuncles. They'll disappear, until you hit menopause, when they reappear as mysterious bumps under your skin. Erm . talking of menopause, celebrate your flat stomach and your impossibly high, perky breasts. This is the best your body will look. Ever. So stop hating your fresh, firm, vigour-filled self. Know this: Champagne is not a food group. You know, already, that you don't drink like a normal person . It will become a problem, so nip it in the bud now and save yourself gut-wrenching feuds with people you love and hectic despair.
Embrace your youth with a lot less care and a lot more abandon. Be reckless now while you're arrogantly confident and still awed by the unknown. The time will come when you will e-mail hotels asking for a virtual tour of their rooms - including the bathroom and view from the balcony - because surprises appal you. Find the time to fall in love. If you can, marry rich, young. If not, be warned that passing time is not your friend, and that flitting all over the globe constantly in search of happiness is pointless. The perfect partner doesn't exist, so settle. Live your life in the here and now rather than constantly bemoaning what wasn't, constantly yearning for what could be. Learn how to be happy.
Procreate! When the first hot flush arrives and you realise that reproduction is no longer a choice, you might regret not having children. Sure the childless you will, in deep middle age, have more money for holidays and Louboutin spike-studded stilettos, but by then the less confident, stay-at-home you will forgo the first and your hobbled feet and groaning knees won't allow the second. When you're 27, you will be offered a tiny house in Clifton for R40000. Buy it. It's on the market for R37-million. That should take care of our retirement.
PS: I'm sorry I didn't love you enough. (Actually, it was often difficult to love you at all.)
Charmain Naidoo is a business manager at Avusa