Increasingly often, I'm only too glad social media didn't exist when I was a teenager – all those tantrums, mistakes and bad selfies that'd haunt me now if it had. The thought of it makes me shiver. I'm also thrilled, no matter what I do, that very few people – other than parents and close pals – are particularly interested in seeing, or taking, photographs of me. I was reminded of this yet again when I saw pictures of Lily Allen getting herself into a bit of a state at this year's Notting Hill Carnival.
It's easy to look at these shots, long of lens and short on sympathy, and feel disapproval. All the familiar tropes rise up from the pit of your belly. "Isn't it time she grew up?" "Good grief, she's a mother!" And, of course, "Oh no, yet another meltdown for Lily!" But I didn't see the pics through those eyes – I have enough bones in my closet to keep a pack of guard dogs occupied long enough to empty Buckingham Palace of its entire contents. I looked at them as someone who, on quite a few occasions, has taken things a little too far on a night out.
The Sun claims Allen has gone from "budding star" to "tortured soul" thanks to a "debauched decade". Reports say Lily was seen downing punch, drinking straight from a bottle of Jack Daniel's and, most hilariously puritanical of all, smoking a "suspicious looking cigarette". When you consider two million people attended the Carnival, many of them a great deal younger and more carefree than Lily, it's fair to say she won't have been the only one to get a tad wasted and take a puff on a joint.
The difference is, of course, that Lily's been growing up in public for the last decade, and she isn't done yet. Ten years ago, her debut hit Smile propelled her to no.1 and into the pages of tabloids, at first impressed and supportive of this opinionated, down to earth fun-loving popstar. But to know the highs you have to taste the lows, and Lily's personal life has, like most of our own, been a series of peaks and troughs – relationship woes, partying a bit too hard, making mistakes and, when she made them, the world was watching. She's 31 now, but go have a look on social media to see what 31-year-olds are up to – the temples may be greying slightly but they're still living in full colour.
Is Lily's blowout anything to worry about? Following a similar bender at last year's Glastonbury, should we be staging an intervention, rallying the troops in case she's headed for one of these "meltdowns" the media loves reporting so much? In all honesty, no, probably not. I'm sorry to break it to the yummy mummies, baby boomers and gossiping grannies in suburbia but what Lily did, and this includes any alleged passing out and chucking up in the street, isn't too far removed from what many people her age get up to at the weekend, especially on a bank holiday.
Lily's hedonism of her early 20s gave way to a quiet period where she got married and raised a family; now that relationship appears to have entered a different phase. And that's before you even get to the fact Lily recently had to deal with a stalker, which she said had made her "a changed person". It's understandable she'd want to blow off steam.
It's very telling that Lily's blowout is being portrayed as a meltdown or "almighty fall" – it's very unlikely any man passing out at Carnival or Glasto would come under the same scrutiny. She may be a parent, but she's still human.
That we expect women with children to stay home and not get wasted, yet give men a free pass, is good old Sexism 101 and grossly unfair
I'm sure the prospect of dealing with two small children with a monumental hangover the next morning was "punishment" enough for overdoing it – she doesn't need us adding to the choir of disapproval. That we expect women with children to stay home and not get wasted, yet give men a free pass, is good old Sexism 101 and grossly unfair; it's an attitude we need to ditch.
Any deviation from devoted mother or innocent angel, any flashes of humanity and vulnerability, and we instantly cry meltdown. Female celebrities letting their hair down – or letting things get to them – seems to inspire more delight than a comparable loss of control by a famous guy would. Witness the relentless hounding of Charlotte Church through her "troubled" teenage years, from big nights on the booze to bad boyfriends.
When female stars have a tough time, it's big business – from Sheridan Smith's struggle to perform following her dad's cancer diagnosis to Madonna's emotional outpourings during her rift with son Rocco, via the endless list of female stars being labelled as "worse for wear" in the tabloids. Since Britney's unfortunate breakdown in 2007, the world has been distastefully waiting for a successor.
Lily's response to concerns was one something we can all identify with: "I'm just a lightweight". That she's out having a good time despite some of the adversity she's faced is a good thing; would we rather she was at home crying, all by herself?
Anyone condemning her would do well to remember Carnival is the biggest street party in Europe, with sound systems blasting all day and two million people out to have a good time together on the very last bank holiday of the year before Christmas – four months away. I'd challenge anyone to leave it sober! Factor in the added buzzkill of a camera snapping at every swig of your drink and Lily's party ethic becomes even more admirable.
Leave it to Lily and her nearest and dearest to sort if there are any problems at home. But let's not blame her, or any female in the media, for trying to forget them just for one day.