To upset your parents, don't do drugs. Say you intend to be a pizza boy

What would you think of the young person who dared to state openly that, after leaving school, a nice, safe job at, say, Halfords or the local bakery would suit them down to the ground? That to take on a more challenging job where they'd have to compete with others for money, power and status made them feel physically sick? My first reaction would be: "Wow, that kid's parents are in big trouble" - quickly followed by a guilty, queasy: "Why not? Good for you."

What a breeze it is for modern kids of middle-class professionals to torment their parents. Forget getting caught up in drugs; the teenager who wants to drive his mum to drink simply needs to say the words I heard last Wednesday: "When I leave school next year, I'm going to be a pizza delivery boy."

John the architect and Sophie the graphic designer are convinced that their son means business this time. A clever lad, he's honed his little charade into a Bafta-winning performance by researching his future "career" just enough to sound serious. This was how the conversation went after a disastrous parents' evening.

Mummy: "You are going to college, whether you like it or not. Anyway, you couldn't live on a pizza boy's wages. Your allowance is already over what they earn. You couldn't even afford to eat."

Son: "I'd earn lots of tips by delivering quickly. And I'd eat free pizza. Duh!"

Mummy: "Carry on like this and I won't buy you a car for your 17th."

Son: "Don't need it, thanks. I'll be driving a company moped soon."

Daughters are even worse. The chances of hearing a little girl say she would like to be a vet, a nurse or a bank manager are slim to nothing these days. Spurred on by the something-for-nothing society that puts tits with low self-esteem (called Jordan) and tight bums with reedy voices (called Kylie) on the front pages, girls have become obsessed with the idea of fame sans fatigue.

Twelve-year-old Leigh gave me the bog-standard response when I asked about her plans for the future. Flicking her long blond hair from side to side, she giggled: "I'd like to be a model. No, a singer, someone on telly. Something famous, anyway." If this is the future of girl power or feminism's next stage, kill me.

Yet according to some desperately careerist parents, this attitude simply shows a healthy ambition: a need to get ahead, to hit the big time. I hear this rubbish time and time again. It's usually followed by a heavy sigh and the desperately hopeful: "She'll grow out of it before exam time."

The age of the model-actress-whatever is here. I should know, having been at the vanguard of this particular movement. Several years ago, I was both an actress and the sort of model who earns a living by standing next to fridges and grinning. I really did want to be on stage, though, and thanks to relatives, I had a pretty good idea that real acting (as opposed to life as a Hollywood star) offered little in the way of "Hi-diddle-dee-dee" and could lead to depression and being in debt.

Touring Austria and France taught me the meaning of hard graft. It was tough: no fame, no big parties and no Spielberg. It was also the happiest, most fulfilling time of my working life.

Those still convinced that all thespians are ponces should try starting work at 5am for ten months. Driving thousands of miles in a cramped, dirty van, braving blizzards to pack and unpack an entire sitting room full of furniture. All this, plus a two-hour performance up to three times a day.

It's tragic the way some kids imagine that the bright lights and fake smiles of the TV studio offer greater happiness than the knowledge of a simple, anonymous job, done well.

By the way, did you see me on Richard and Judy this week? How did I look?

This article first appeared in the 04 March 2002 issue of the New Statesman, Lord Snooty and his party pals