Growing up broke turned me into a con artist, one chocolate milk at a time | Coco Khan | Life and style


I have a friend from uni – let’s call him Jono – who by his own admission fulfils the “comfortable and clueless millennial” caricature so comprehensively that he borders on parody. Last week, he left me a voice note about “subscribing to a cool, new app” where you can get milk delivered in glass bottles. “You mean a milkman, Jono,” I teased.

I tell Jono about my childhood milk scam. Each week, Mum would slip the order inside the bottles for collection; when she wasn’t looking, I’d retrieve the paper, ticking the box for “one chocolate milk”. Periodically, Mum would open the door to find an additional bottle which I’d explain away (“It must be a treat because it’s half term!”), knowing there was no itemised bill to check.

Later, Jono was waxing lyrical about voice notes being the end of the written word. “But people have been sending them for decades,” I countered. As a teenager using pay-as-you-go phones, a call was 10p a minute, but a voicemail fixed at 10p. My friends and I would call but never answer, instead leaving long messages.

“So which rules are you bending these days?” Jono asked, impressed by my aptitude for con artistry. “None. These days loopholes are only for the elite,” I opined.

But the truth is, I have no tricks because I no longer need them. Necessity is the mother of invention, and trickery its cousin. We were broke when I was growing up so ingenuity was required. And in that recollection I am struck suddenly, by a powerful feeling: perspective.

In life the goalposts are always moving. So I’ll count my blessings and take pride in the trophies won along the way. I may not have everything I want, but I have health, friends, chocolate milk and free phone minutes. For now, that is an adulthood well played.

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