Next week sees the publication of a guide to etiquette for modern teens, called For Weddings, a Funeral and When You Can't Flush the Loo. The author is 24-year-old Jane Goldman, who must always have been pretty sophisticated: she married Jonathan Ross when she was 17. Anyway, it's jolly sensible and friendly, full of tips and tactics on dating, how to impress at job interviews, being the perfect guest, and what to do when you meet your idol. If only I'd had a copy in the Seventies.

Is there any polite way to avoid eating food that you don't like?

Pre-teens. Horrid junior school forces frightened tots to eat lunchtime meat. Dreaded liver appears on the menu at least once a week. Sometimes it can be hidden under mash. On boiled potato days, a more elaborate ploy is necessary: I slowly fork bite-sized chunks into my mouth, fake chewing until no one is looking, "cough" offending item into hand, then throw gristly mess under seat of innocent tot adjacent. Not bad for a five-year-old.

Next school has nice food. Sadly, dreaded liver coincides with dreaded bread-and-butter pudding the day the headmaster sits on my lunch table. I burst into tears. Sister summoned from big kids' table. We are ushered into teacher's office, from where sister improvises brilliant cover-up: trauma caused by recent passing-away of great aunt Lil. Incident triggers school dinner phobia, followed by several months of maternal toing and froing every lunchtime.

Jane's advice: "If you hate everything you've been served, it's quite hard to leave it without appearing rude ..." How true.

What should you do if you break or damage something?

Pre-teens. Family visit to grand house belonging to friends of parents. Mid-afternoon trip to little girls' room. Toilet fails to flush. I lift up lid (porcelain) to cistern (porcelain). Splash about for a few minutes. Attempt to reflush. Lid comes crashing down and splits neatly in two. I run away. After a miserable afternoon, find mother in quiet corner and guiltily report disaster. We return to toilet. Press two halves together. Run away. Outcome: we never see the grand family again.

Jane's words of warning: "If no one saw the incident, don't be tempted to keep it quiet. Your host will assume that it was you, and will quite rightly be very cross."

So how do you know what sort of clothes to wear to a party?

Early teens. I am the new girl at school. Decide to make friends by solo visit to weekly disco. I wear my best clothes: a denim A-line skirt, matching denim waistcoat, multi-coloured stripy toe socks and (borrowed from sister) shiny yellow clogs with silver rivets. Unfortunately, local teens are into Status Quo, not Elton John. I am laughing stock. Entire disco appears to be staring, pointing, giggling, whispering.

Jane's sadly-too-late advice: "Before you make a decision, it's always a good idea to talk it over with someone else who is going."

Asking for a date.

Mid-teens. The same youth club. Have junked the clogs in favour of fashionable wedges. Still no one fancies me. But I fancy Keith Swaybe. I tell my friend. She tells everyone in school, including the boys and including Keith Swaybe! I am a laughing stock. Everyone is staring, pointing, giggling, whispering "Ruth fancies Keith Swaybe!" I never speak to him again.

Jane's pearls of wisdom: "Ask in person ... Have good timing ... Be direct and to-the-point ... Give plenty of notice ... But not too much ... Be casual ... But not too casual ... Be confident." Too bloody late.


Early-teens. Initially problem-free, eg rich people with catering-size boxes of sweets in the pantry never seem to notice that I sneak two Twixes, two Kit-Kats and two Crunchies every Saturday night, to compensate for not having a boyfriend.

Then it all goes wrong: I stand in for friend at last minute. The new couple own an adolescent Alsatian. "Biff him on the nose if he gets a bit frisky," trills lady of the house as they leave, handing me a truncheon made from rolled-up newspaper. Momentsafter their departure, dog growls. I biff him on the nose. Growl turns into snarl. I biff him again. Dog grabs truncheon and shreds it. I back into kitchen to fetch comfort bag of crisps. Dog rips them from me, rushes upstairs, in and out of children's rooms. I follow ineffectually. Dog chases me downstairs. I spend rest of the evening on couch, dog's jaws gently but firmly round my left hand. I have to watch Match of the Day. Lifelong dog phobia begins.

Jane's advice: "Even when you've got the place to yourself, show a bit of respect ... You'll get extra points for politely taking phone messages and tidying things up a bit if you get the chance ..."

You've just had your hair done and you hate it.

Mid-teens: bleached punk crop goes orange. Blue punk crop results in removal from Maths O-level (on the grounds that I am distracting the other examinees) followed by rapid fade to Brillo pad green.

Late teen disaster (a curly Suzy Quatro, care of a salon training school) is minimised by wearing a beret morning, noon and night; luckily, my boyfriend (at last I have one) is the polite type.

Jane's tactic: "Explain you're not happy with the do and would like someone else in the salon to give you another cut/colour job to put it right."

Oh Jane, where were you when I needed you? I could have been so happy, so well-adjusted, so popular. I might even have married a TV star.