Let’s talk about boys. Honestly, sometimes it can feel like they’re on a totally different planet but, the older I get, the more I appreciate the loyal, funny, caring (and occasionally totally stupid) guys in my life.

My first ever best friends were both boys, so I guess I had a bit of a head start. As soon as you start school though, the gender stereotypes kick in hard. You’re told “girls do this”, “boys do that”, and so neat little same-sex friendship circles form around netball vs. football, dance vs. cricket (what a load of BS, we know).

By the time you’re a teenager, those separate groups are pretty well established – and then being just good friends with a boy gets reeeeally complicated by silly gossip, hormones, and unfortunate crushes.

But the thing about boys is they’re not actually as different from us as they might sometimes seem. Forget pretty much all rom-coms, and the rubbish you’ve been told about how boys and girls can never really be “just good friends”. They totally can, and why the hell shouldn’t they?

Having boy friends in your life is great. Variety is the spice of life, and befriending a boy can be a really fun way of mixing up your hobbies and conversations – while also sticking two fingers up at the stereotypes that say boys can’t be sensitive and girls can’t be adventurous.

“Male and female friends make you think and feel differently about yourself – not just about how attractive you are, but about how sporty you are, how clever you are, how good you are at chatting about music, and so on,” explains Dr Angharad Rudkin, a Clinical Psychologist from the University of Southampton.

Of course, boy mates can also offer a valuable insight into the inner workings of the opposite sex, and they’ll often have a different perspective from your girlfriends on life’s dilemmas. In short, a good boyfriend will support you, make you laugh, and offer advice just as much as any girlfriend.

When I was at school, I had two main things in common with most of my best boy friends: we liked a lot of the same music, and we were really good at maths. It really doesn’t take anything more profound than that to strike up a conversation and find that you actually quite like each other.

In fact, those annoying boy-girl seating plans your teacher insists on can actually be really handy when it comes to making friends with boys. If you’re stuck with each other for the whole term anyway, you might as well make the best of it and see if there’s any common ground.

You’re not going to hit it off with every guy you’re forced to sit next to in class (just like you wouldn’t with every girl) but give them a chance. I promise they’re not all as weird and immature as each other!

The school gossip mill can be tricky though, when it comes to maintaining your friendship with a boy. Just because you’re both mature enough to like and respect each other as friends, doesn’t mean everyone else is mature enough not to start stupid rumours about you.

It would be too easy to say: “just ignore them” – although that is also solid advice. The best thing you can do is be open and honest with each other, to make sure you both know where you stand.

“Talk with your friends if you feel things are starting to get a bit different with your relationships – chatting about it is so much easier than trying to guess what the other is thinking,” says Dr Rudkin.

Sometimes that might mean making awkward confessions like: “I’ve developed a bit of a crush on you, but I don’t want this to affect our friendship” – because, guess what, hormones and your blossoming sexuality will do that to you. But mostly it just means being able to say: “Hey, we’re mates, right? I know people are gossiping, but that shouldn’t stop us hanging out together.”

Obviously, it’s also important to choose your boy mates carefully, just like you would any other friends. Make sure they’re respectful – not just to you, but to all the girls in your class – and don’t make you feel bad about yourself.

Hanging out in groups can ease the pressure too. If you and some mates are going to see a band he loves, or grabbing dinner together before the school disco, invite him to come along too. Mixed friendship groups can have a really nice, chilled out dynamic, and you won’t feel quite so awkward as you might do about hanging out one-on-one.

At the end of the day though, Dr Rudkin says: “Just do what feels right for you, and take each person as they are, regardless of their gender. If they make you feel good about yourself and positive about the future, and if they make you more of the person you really want to be, then it’s a good friendship.”

I love all of my girl and boy friends to bits, and they each bring totally different things to my life. With the girls it might be nights in, catching up and watching Pitch Perfect; discussing feminism over dinner; shivering together at a football match; or heading off for a weekend away together.

But there’s also that one guy who’s forever inviting groups of us over for wonderful dinners, or dropping everything to help me out of a tricky spot. There’s the boyfriend who I have endless deep and meaningful conversations with, and who’ll always come to me first for advice. And the mate who’s just as likely to take me trampolining, or on a photography tour round London, as he is to spend hours watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race with me.

I just couldn’t imagine life without any of them.

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We all know that bae has nothing on your BFF. I mean, the second ‘F’ literally stands for forever.

But sometimes, ‘forever’ doesn’t actually end up meaning forever. It might mean, ‘for high school’. It might mean, ‘for the summer’. It might mean, ‘until my crush realises they love me back and we spend the rest of our lives holding hands and gazing at each other while taking long walks along beaches’ (cheers for that one, Bryony).

When it comes to heartbreak, relationship breakups tend to get all the glory. There are gazillions of love songs and squazillions of books (what? Those could be real numbers) that deal with romantic heartbreak. But sometimes friendship breakups are the real arrows to your heart.

With romantic splits, people expect you to wallow. Everyone gives you a free pass if you are unable to get through a two minute conversation without weeping. You’re allowed to hole up in your room and refuse to eat anything of nutritional value, while concerned friends and family stroke your hair and tiptoe round bringing you cups of tea and letting you have the best biscuits.

But, when you break up with your BFF, everyone expects you to carry on as normal. To change that profile picture of the two of you, smiling with your arms wrapped around each other, without fuss. To ignore the eery silence of your phone, which no longer lights up every two minutes with a message from her. People expect you to be angry, not sad. To bitch and rage and plot revenge, not dissolve in a pile of tissues every time you smell her favourite body spray.

Well, screw that. I say you’re allowed to grieve for friendship breakups.

Hell you’re more than allowed – I fully encourage it.

Eat ice cream straight out of the tub. Put on your comfiest, grossest pyjamas. Watch The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants twice. Or three (ok, eight) episodes of Friends. Don’t wash your hair. Make a weepy Spotify playlist filled with heart-wobbling songs by Adele and Drake.  Let yourself be sad.

new girl

There is absolutely nothing wrong with letting yourself be sad. I weep at the John Lewis Christmas advert for two months solid, so it makes sense that I weep for the end of my actual, real-life friendships.

But then – then, you need to put your tissues away, paint your nails turquoise blue and get back on the horse. Focus on what the friendship taught you. Maybe this BFF taught you the importance of honesty, or that sometimes you should be kinder than is strictly necessary. Maybe she taught you how to do the macarena backwards.

Whatever it is, looking for those silver linings will help you form stronger friendships in the future.

Of course, you might get back together one day, and your friendship might be stronger because of your time apart. But if you don’t, there are seven billion (this one is an actual number, I promise) other potential friends waiting out there who would be lucky to have you.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

One of the best heart-to-hearts I ever had as a teenager was in the car park in Moor Park station, waiting for my dad to wend his weary way home from work on the Metropolitan line. It was dark, and neither Mum or I could really make out each other’s facial expressions as we discussed Charlie Laurens and first date etiquette. Mum gave me my first – and best – piece of dating advice: don’t order a salad, and never be the first one to text after a date.

Alas it was too late for my crush, Charlie Laurens; I’d already been there, done the ordering a salad and texting him first post-date thing – and been rejected that morning in two devastating sentences. Hence the mum chat: prior to that I’d handled boy stuff well enough with the help of friends and siblings, but I LOVED Charlie with a love too precious, too DEEP for the common room, and only my mum could help me move on.

She helped me swiftly, and conclusively. She ‘fessed up about her first crush, Richard, and how she still didn’t understand why they weren’t together. FORTY YEARS later. Yet with two marriages, two children and a load of great mates under her own belt, she was pretty confident my life would go on. By the time dad came into land, my wounds were – if not healed, then at least bandaged.

I don’t look back longingly on Charlie Laurens; but I do reflect on that conversation, and how being side by side, looking forward in semi-darkness, enabled me to ‘spit it out’ in a way I’d never managed sat opposite someone over lunch in broad daylight. Since then, I’ve found there are a number of times and places in which real, juicy heart-to-hearts are best conducted. Here, in no particular order are mine:

1. In the car

Whether driving or stationary, the same principle applies here as it did in the car park: you don’t have to face each other. Difficult, awkward or potentially embarrassing messages are easier to deliver when one of you’s in the back, or you’re side by side. No one can storm off if things heat up, and the radio is there to helpfully fill any long silences.

Good for: Deep-and-meaningful conversations (DMCs), problem solving, philosophical debates, confessions

Not so good for: shouting matches, beginner drivers who haven’t yet learnt to talk, listen and drive all at the same time, convos that are best resolved with a hug

2. On the phone

The fact that Donald Drumpf made national news the other day for hanging up on the Australian PM tells you everything you need to know about phone etiquette. If you or your partner in conversation haven’t grasped its basic principles – basically, not slamming the phone down – then this isn’t the place, and you should find another time. If you’re a phone fan, though (retro) this can be perfect. Make sure you’ve got minutes plenty of time, and you’re somewhere quiet, free of distractions. Maybe with snacks.

Good for: DMCs, problem-solving, philosophical debates, confessions/awks chats where you’d rather not see the other person’s face

Not so good for: phone-phobics, convos that are best resolved with a hug, Donald Drumpf

3. On a walk

Preferably with dog in tow – to give you some focus and/or comical distraction when you reach a conversational mud patch – but not always. I’ve chewed many a cud on a dogless walk, and 99 per cent of the time they end in success. There’s the winning combo of fresh air and exercise boosting your mood and wellbeing; there’s your surroundings to remark over when things get sticky (“ooh look! A bird”); and again, there’s the possibility of directing any awkward or difficult comments to the sky/trees/your feet/some place other than their face.

Good for: shouting matches (no one can hear you scream); DMCs, problem solving, philosophical debates, confessions/awks chats where you’d rather not see the other person’s face, convos that are best resolved with a hug, Donald Drumpf

Not good for: people who can’t walk easily, rainy days

4. Cooking (or washing up)

There’s nothing like the meditative mindlessness of peeling carrots or washing plates to get the conversational juices going, while at the same time the act of working together toward a shared goal (dinner/clean dishes) offers a safe space where you can discuss everything from TV to online dating, to politics, feminism and – a personal fave – what religion you’d have been brought up in if you could choose.

Good for: DMCs, problem solving, philosophical debates, confessions/awks chats where you’d rather not see the other person’s face, convos that are best resolved with a (soapy, damp) hug

Not good for: shouting matches. Not with all those sharp objects around.

5. Cup of tea

Needs no justification. It’s tea. It’s the British answer to all the world’s problems. My advice – if it’s particular, tricksy convo that’s called for – is to go out for your cuppa, so you’ve got some neutral territory to really thrash it out in. Put your phone away (right away in your bag, not face down on the table) and get some cake in: sounds ridic I know, but somehow sharing food creates a bond than can weather even the hardest of conversational storms.

Good for: shouting matches; if you’re out, the public nature of the place will force you to keep your voices down, and the cake will keep you together.  

Not good for: awkward confessions. Having tea together generally involves sitting opposite and sharing and if you or the other are embarrassed or awkward it can get a bit intense.

6. In the loos

The tendency of girls to have some of our best bants in the ladies is one that has baffled scientists to this day. Maybe it’s the women-only vibe? Maybe it’s the amount of we time we spend queuing in them. Either way, there is something about weeing, wiping, powdering and hair-fluffing that makes us feel comfortable sharing, not just concealer, lip balm and quality chat, but the deepest secrets of our soul.

Good for: DMCs, problem-solving, confessions/awks chats where you’d rather not see the other person’s face, convos that are best resolved with a hug and anything to do with relationships

Not good for: philosophical debates. There’s only so long you can spend in the loo before people outside start to be alarmed and send in Immodium.

@finney_clare

Image: Katie Edmunds

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1. You promise to message and meet up all the time.

text-ok

2. You judge each other’s uniform.

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3. They quickly find new friends and you get protective. How dare they.

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4. You stalk everyone involved in any second of your spare time.

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5. You debate joining a sports team just so you can go to their school and fight the new friends.

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6. Your best friend starts to change and you don’t like it. At all. You agreed Snapchat filters were overrated and now look! She’s wearing a flower crown!

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7. The “Do you mind if so-and-so comes?” texts start to roll in and encroach on your BFF time.

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8. Your parents start to ask why you haven’t mentioned your best friend in ages.

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9. But then, suddenly, they turn up in your Facebook messages when something goes wrong. They need you and only you.

Best friend back

10. And you realise that no matter where you are, how you’ve changed, and what you’re doing, that’s just life and you’ll always be each other’s number one.

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10a. (Fine, and the new friends are actually ok…)

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@louisejonesetc

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

It’s not fair. It seems like the summer holidays had only just begun, then suddenly the shops are full of the dreaded ‘back to school’ gear and the start of a new term is here. Unfortunately we can’t predict what this next year has in store for you, but we can pretty much guarantee these things will happen in the first week…

1. Someone will doze off on the school bus

After six weeks of lie-ins and naps on tap, getting up at the crack of dawn for school will be a heck of a shock to the system. If someone’s not snoozing on the way in, they will be on the way home.

2. You’ll have a special ‘returning’ assembly

You know the one, where you’ll be told to set an example for younger students and that you represent the school within the community and should behave accordingly. Blah blah blah.

3. Everyone will have new stuff

New coats, new rucksacks, new stationery. You’ll spend the first few days eyeing up everyone else’s new shoes and wondering if you should have begged your mum to buy you block heels instead of ballet pumps.

4. All the boys will be a foot taller

In fact, everyone will look different somehow. How can people change so much in just six weeks?!

5. At least one girl will still have a colourful hair wrap she got on holiday

And she probably won’t stop going on about her exotic vaycay either. We get it, Louise, you went to the Bahamas.

6. There will be a new person

It’ll be really exciting if it’s a new student, and everyone will bombard them with loads of questions about where they’re from. But if it’s a new teacher you’ll regard them with suspicion until you’ve got them figured out.

7. No-one knows where they’re supposed to be

Everyone will be late to lessons while they get to grips with their new timetable – even the teachers. Fingers crossed your classes aren’t on separate sides of the school grounds.

8. You’ll do your very best handwriting in all your new exercise books

Well, for a few days at least, then you’ll fall back into your usual scrawl. Who cares as long as you can read it, right?

9. There’s a mad rush for the best seats

If you’re going to spend a whole year in the same seat in each class, you’ve got to make sure it’s in prime position next to all your mates (you want it to be as easy as possible to pass notes, don’t you?), so you can expect a bit of a scramble at the start of the first few lessons. Elbows at the ready!

10. The school will have done something totally radical

Like changing the lunch menu or moving break times slightly – and everyone will be talking about it for days.

11. There will be an outrageous rumour about something that happened over summer

It’s usually about a girl in the year above getting pregnant or someone’s brother going to jail. It’s probably completely untrue, but everyone loves a good gossip.

12. Your teachers will get right back on it with the homework

Nope, there’s no easing you back into things. And even though they’re happy to hand out homework with reckless abandon, it’ll be weeks before they mark the assignments they set over summer!

13. Everyone’s a bit smug about going up a year

If moving up a form comes with any privileges, such as a common room or jumping the lunch queue, you’ll be sure to rinse them for all they’re worth. And even if it doesn’t, you’ll still feel a bit superior to all the students in the years below you.

14. You promise yourself you’re going to buckle down with your studies

You tell yourself you’ll do your homework the moment you get home, that you’ll keep a razor sharp focus in class and that you’ll start revising for exams months in advance. But let’s be honest, you probably won’t. And that’s fine, just do your best – it’ll be the summer holidays again before you know it!

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The start of the school year always brings new things. New shoes, maybe a school bag, and definitely loads of stationery. But it can also bring a new school – and if you’re joining at any point other than the very start, then you’re the ‘new girl.’

Once upon a time, I was the new girl. I joined my school late after returning from living in Australia. I had a funny accent, weird clothes, and no idea which classroom I was meant to be in. Everyone else, meanwhile, knew everything – each other, how to find the lunch hall, and a lot more French.

As my accent and I learned, it’s not easy being the new girl. I did a particularly bad job of it – especially when a game of ‘piggy in the middle’ with my notebook led to it flying out the window and landing in a puddle right by the headmistress’s window. I was promptly taken to see her and told that my lack of respect for the school was unacceptable, and if any of my belongings ended up in places they shouldn’t again then I’d be looking for another new school. Sure, because that’s fair.

Thankfully, the rest of my books stayed where they were meant to and I didn’t get into too much more trouble. Mostly. But it took me a while to find my place, and I sometimes found it tough.

I hear from other former new girls, though, that getting to know a whole new bunch of people can actually be fun. So, if you’re the new one this year, here are a few tips to help you on your way:

1. Don’t feel like you have to cling to the first person who shows interest.

When you first turn up there’s likely to be one person who’s really keen to befriend you – they might just be really lovely, they might be a bit lonely, or they might think you look like someone they’d like to be friends with. And that’s great. But don’t feel like you have to cling onto them and not get to know the rest of your new classmates. It’s worth taking the time to find the people who will be your new BFFs for reasons other than they got there first.

2. Sometimes first impressions can be wrong.

When you’re in a new class there are lots of people to get to know all at once, so it’s easy to stick with first impressions. But it’s not always wise – some people might be having a bad day, or aren’t sure what to ask you, or are a bit shy. Give them a chance, and get to know them a bit. And don’t worry too much about what impression you make. I’ve been told that the first thing most people thought about me was the I had a really weird fringe, but thankfully they moved past my odd hair and got to know me. And then told me my fringe looked stupid.

3. Be ready to answer the same questions a lot.

Where have you come from? Why have you moved? Is there some dark secret about why you’ve turned up late? It can’t be as simple as your family just moving house, or this seeming like a better school for you. Nope, you must have done something so appalling at your old school that you’ve had to change schools. And maybe your name.

Obviously it’s tempting to make a story up (both my parents are SPIES!), but keeping up with your own lies gets tiring. Just stick with the truth instead.

4. Got a talent? Use it.

One of the easiest ways to make friends is through clubs and teams. Or so I hear – I’ve always been so appallingly terrible at sport that the chances of my making it onto a team were slim-to-none. I did try to play tennis one lunch, but swiftly got banished from the courts when it became apparent that I couldn’t even hit the ball. My sister-in-law, meanwhile, has been blessed with the gift of coordination, and after changing schools at 14 found some of her best friends in the hockey and netball teams. So if the thought of someone hitting or throwing a ball at you doesn’t make you want to hide or cry, then go try out.

5. Be yourself.

It can be tempting to try and act like someone else if you think that’ll get people to like you, but it’s just not worth it. Keeping up that pretence is exhausting. I’m speaking from experience here – it was only when I stopped pretending to like boybands, dyed my hair black and wore of a lot of angry band t-shirts that I became friends with the girls I still love to this day (they invited me to join their band, because I had the right look. Never mind that I couldn’t really play guitar.)

There are bound to be people there who’ll like you for you. After all, if people liked me when I was a strange goth with a weird fringe, there really is a place for everyone.

@JackiBadger

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Hailey Hamilton

Sponsored by Stabilo

*Obviously* you have a laugh with your buddies all day, everyday (they wouldn’t be your mates otherwise now, would they?) But, do you ever feel like you’ve got to nurture your friends a bit too? If you’re the first one they run to when they’ve got a problem – a forgotten P.E. kit, a ruined rice pudding in food tech, a lost railcard, no tampons – chances are, you’re probably ‘the mum’ of your friendship group. And do you know what? It’s damn great position to be in. Here’s why…

You’re ahead of the zeitgeist

Which is basically a fancy way of saying you know what’s going to happen before it happens. And, you’re always prepared for it. Rain? Umbrella. Sun? Lotion. Period? Pad. It’s all there neatly packed inside your waterproof rucksack.

You’re the holder of all secrets

Your friends trust you to keep schtum on any juicy goss, plus they have maximum confidence you’ll give stellar advice on any problems. You’re a rare friendship-gem to find, even in adulthood, so shine like the diamond you are.

You’re a great study buddy

Because you’re so organised, your mates know you make THE BEST revision pal. You’ve already got the right books out from the library, you know what homework is due when, and you’ve got the cutest stationary. September’s bettybox features the prettiest pastel highlighter from Stabilo which will fit right in with your desk decor – not to mention work as the perfect lesson accessory.

You’re the boss

If you want to meet at 3pm, rather than 1pm, because you want to slip in one last episode of Pretty Little Liars, it’s totally your call. No one else will have been organised enough to set the time.

Your friend’s parents trust you

Your girl group’s parents have you down as the ‘responsible one’ of the group, so they don’t bat an eyelid when your friends all rock up for a sleepover. Think of the things you could get away with. Of course you don’t have time for silly business, you tell your friends. Not when there’s a manicure schedule to stick to, warm milk to be drunk and a 12-hour sleep on the agenda.

You’re the glue of the group

You hold the whole shebang together. If it weren’t for you, no one would know what lesson was next, half the group would spend their entire weekends hangry, and ‘the feisty one’ would still be fighting with ‘the honest one’. You rule!

Be prepared for anything that the new term throws at you with Stabilo Original BOSS pastel highlighters, available in September’s bettybox, online and in most stationery retailers.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Okay. Take a long, deep breath. This won’t hurt, I promise. All you need to do is pick up your rucksack, heave through those heavy double doors, pull your skirt down just enough to get past Mrs Cadman without comment (she’ll be standing there like a dragon as always, waiting to pounce on the slightest suggestion of an upper thigh) and get to the reassuring banter of your classroom.

Some say the first day back sucks. I always quite liked it: the sweet, the gluey smell of new textbooks, the clean zip of a fresh pencil case, the post-holiday chatter. Even the teachers seem pleased to see you — yes even Mrs Cadman, provided your collar’s flat and your skirt is of acceptable (read, nunnery) length.

So how to make the most of it? How to make those first blank pages count both literally and metaphorically? I’m no expert but I did some research* and here, in no particular order, is what I learned.

*whatsapped the ‘St H Sisters’

Get your sh*t together

Dw, not All of Your Life Sh*t. Just the sh*t that involves putting your pens in your pencil case, and your pencil case in your bag along with your books, your PE kit, your (completed, ideally) homework — that kind of sh*t. Do it the night before — I know I sound like your ‘rents, but they’ve got this one, really they have. They’ve done school. You’ll feel less stressed in the morning. You’ll be less likely to forget stuff. There’s nothing worse than spending the first day nicking your friends old, dry biro and scribbling on borrowed note paper that you then have to spend that evening pritt-sticking into your new books.

Get there on time

See above re stress levels. Some folk don’t care too much, granted, but you won’t know until you get there, sweating and panting your excuses, whether or not your new teacher is a punctuality Nazi — and relative to, say, calculus, getting your ass to school on time is a relatively easy thing to achieve.

Eat breakfast

Even if it’s just a crumpet. Even if it’s just on this day, and you spend the rest of term wolfing down cereal bars at lunch time. Prepare some granola and fruit the night before, or just get up five minutes earlier. It sounds brutal, but you’ll think of me when you look for the White Magnum you were reaching for at 11am, only to find you’re actually in school and not at home next to the freezer.

Speak to someone you’ve not really spoken to before

Once school starts, everyone will settle down into their existing friendship grooves, and you’ll have missed your chance to widen the circle. Some of the best friends I have today were those I made simply by chatting to someone on the first day back, when everything is bit new and different and speaking to someone outside your friendship circle is, for a brief, hallowed period, not totally suspect. In my experience, the finest friends aren’t those you end up with by default, but those you actively choose.

Concentrate in a lesson you’ve never really concentrated in before

You might surprise yourself. The year I did this with German, having written myself off as irredeemably monolinguistic, I changed my grade from C to A, and sort of fell in love with the country, too.

Take a pukka packed lunch

Hummus, avo, tuna and sweetcorn pasta salad – whatever floats your boat. Just ensure it’s something to look forward to, to get you through the dark hours.

Pretend it’s another day of holiday

This won’t work for everyone, but bear with me on this because it saw me through a few false school starts. What if school were just another way of spending your holiday? What if you’d just woken up that day, in September, and thought, ‘hey! I wonder what this school business is like? Learning some things with my friends and running around some fields and gently, mockingly resisting the authority of adults?’ What if you decided to do it — just for a day, just to see how it went. You’d probably end up approaching it with a much more open-minded and positive attitude than you are currently, reading this in your pants with one eye on Stranger Things, with the mother of all Sunday blues on your shoulder.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Hotel Chevalier

The only thing worse than having a little sister who adores you and constantly copies you, is having a little sister who has recently decided that you’re less cool than a school assembly about litter.

When I was 11, my 10-year-old sister Beth was my one-girl fandom. I’d dread school break times, as she’d rush towards me in the playground and wrap her arms around my waist like a rubber ring – I’d wriggle and struggle, grumbling as she slowed me down and stopped me from finding a dinner lady to complain to. She made up songs, stories and secret worlds, searching out the weirdness in everything, always spotting something magical amongst the small and unseen.

She filled our shared bedroom with ice cream cartons full of snails, which she ‘raced’ across our garden – and she treated her tiny friends with intense tenderness. When I complained about our new roommates and said it was “disgusting” to sleep with snails, she’d say “Shhhh! They can hear you!” She was passionate, she was sincere, and she always wanted to join in.

But I was horrible to her.

I didn’t want her playing with my perfume or reading my magazines, because she was a ‘baby’. I was too busy talking about boys (not to boys, let’s not be crazy) to be bothered about her snails.

Then, as we both headed towards our teens, something shifted. I guess I got what I deserved.

Beth became cooler than me – and suddenly, I became the annoying one. She found new friends. We started listening to different music. While she’d once begged to be involved when I went on about which song was number one, she started bragging about being a fan of alternative bands, and told me that I was pathetic for listening to what was in the charts. She used to say I looked like a princess when I wore a pretty dress. I was “way too girly” and “clearly had no personality or any individuality”.

I would have given anything – the £57 in my Halifax savings account, my best nail polish, the pale pink Topshop aviator jacket I’d spent months saving up for – to get babyish Beth back. I would have taken her to every single party I was invited to, and she could have held onto my waist all night long. But she’d rather wear a dreaded princess party dress in public than be seen with me.

Beth seemed so tough and together that I was stunned when I walked past her room one morning and heard muffled sobs. I thought she said my name. I must have been imagining things. Then she said it again. I gently pushed the door open.

“Don’t tell Mum,” she murmured, and my brain immediately exploded with terrifying thoughts about what might be wrong. “But I’ve started.”

My first reaction was relief that nothing horrible had happened. But when I looked at Beth’s face, I realised that to her, it was horrible. Her body was changing, and it had frightened her.

I’d started my periods over a year ago, and was starting to find the rhythm of my body quite comforting, from the familiar ache in my lower back, a couple of days before I was due, to that feeling of prickly tearfulness that disappeared the moment the period arrived.

“It’s OK.” I held my arms out to her. “At the moment, it feels like nothing in the world will ever be OK again. But this is the worst part, I promise.” She stayed stiff for a second, then hugged me back.

“You really do have to tell Mum, though. She’ll know exactly what to do.”

We weren’t exactly BFFs again – and as we grew up and got older, we became even more different, and even better at antagonising each other.

But from that moment, we were in a conspiracy of two. A slightly awkward tag team who knew exactly how to wind each other up, but who would always share hot water bottles. Even on the occasions when I was barely speaking to Beth, I’d always offer her my last two Nurofen.

Sisters are strange, and even though we’re both grown up, I’ll never stop being thrilled and bewildered by the fact that Beth can be simultaneously so similar and so different from me. When we were on the brink of our teens, those differences seemed like a huge divide. But learning that our bodies worked in the same way, even if our minds didn’t, brought us back together again.

@NotRollergirl

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: 10 Things I Hate About You

In Partnership With Girlguiding

Admit it, how much do you *really* know about what goes on at Girlguides? Y’know, that female power pack who wear a uniform, collect badges and are always busy doing SO. MUCH. STUFF.

Maybe you were once a Brownie and the seven year-old you found the skort a bit scratchy, or maybe you think the Guides are way too outdoorsy for your liking? We’re not all made for zip-lining, after all.

But whatever preconceptions you have about Girlguiding, you’re probs a little off the mark. See the Guides have come a long way since their rep of do-gooding dib-dib-dobbers (or was it dib-dob-dab?). It’s now a pretty cool way to spend your free time.

Need convincing? Here’s 10 legit reasons why you should sign up…

1. Trips WITHOUT your ‘rents

Oh parents. Whose get all twitchy when you ask to stay out overnight? Miraculously though, your short leash doesn’t seem to apply to Girlguide trips. They’re *thrilled* to wave you off for an entire weekend without batting an eyelid. Bye then.

2. No one cares what you look like. Phew

When you can hang out without having to worry about concealer, choosing outfits or what the heck your frizzy ass hair is doing, it’s kind of liberating. I mean, we all like to look good but give us a break. Sometimes we just want to focus on other things instead.

3. You’ll learn kick-ass survival skills

We’re talking den-building, fire-starting, food-foraging. Crazy skills! There might be a time in your life (ok, hopefully not) when you’re stranded in a forest and need to go all Bear Grylls on the situ – building a shelter from twigs and leaves. Could you do that right now? Could you? Could you REALLY? We’ll leave that thought with you.

4. And widen your friendship circle

Ok, so trying to make new mates is all kinds of cringe but the pain and embarrassment of first intros lasts for like, two seconds. And there are literally tons of girls at Guides so some are bound to be your type. Hands-up if you need a breather from your current friendship dramas? That’s why meeting new girls outside of your existing social set is never a bad idea.

5. Confidence building is HUGE

If only you could bulk buy sacks of confidence from the supermarket – we could all do with a bit more of it, right? That’s why we salute *anywhere* that works on building girls’ self esteem, rather than dragging us down. Free Being Me is a Guides session that’s part of a global body confidence revolution, helping us to be happy in our own skin so we’re not held back from doing what we want. Slay.

6. It has famous femme followers

Pixie Lott. Ella Eyre. Little Mix. Lauren Laverne. They’re all humungous fans of Girlguiding because of the positive, empowering message it gives girls. If it’s good enough for the slebs, hey.

7. They know mental health matters

Massive kudos to the Guides for giving a toss about mental health issues. After finding out that 62% of girls aged 11 to 21 know a girl their age who’s experienced a mental health problem, they set about developing their Think Resilient programme. The sessions teach girls problem-solving, positive thinking and self-calming techniques to help us cope when faced with the stresses of everyday life. This we like.

8. It’s all about the action

And no, not just zip-lining across a field. Seriously though, how often do you get to try fencing, kayaking, climbing, potholing or archery in your everyday life? And where else can you get awarded (with a badge! You get a frickin’ badge!) for planning a party, watching a list of movies or baking a batch cakes. Love it.

9. You can shout out your beliefs

Are there TONS of big issues swishing around your brain that you’re really passionate about? Maybe you think that no one is interested your strong opinions RN? Well, here’s a place to channel that fire in your belly and actually make a change (instead of just ranting at your friends and fam). Tackling online abuse and challenging sexism in the media are some of the major campaign wins driven by the Guides. They’re quite a fierce bunch of females.

10. And think about your future

But not in a boring school-careers-advisor-way. At Guides you get to deep-think about the jobs you’d *actually* like to do IRL and learn the decision-making and leadership skills to get you there. AT LAST, someone who believes in your dream of owning a hugely successful puppy-walking business. #careergoals

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Moonrise Kingdom

Look. We need to talk. I don’t really know how to say this so I’m just going to come out with it. Here goes… Summer is ending soon. I know it only feels like five minutes since term ended and you bought your new sandals but what can I say? Mother Nature doesn’t care about days at the beach and barbecues. She’s on a tight schedule.

Thanks to school, college and uni schedules, the end of summer always comes with a side order of existential dread. It feels like you’re on the clock, counting down the last of the sunny days until you have to buy loads of folders and put your uniform back on.

But we’re here armed with good news. It doesn’t have to be like this! It’s time to beat the end-of-summer blues once and for all and we have a plan…

Map out next summer’s road trip. Right now.

If the thought of autumn is killing your mood, just go ahead and skip straight to next summer! Forget rainy days and frozen mornings, grab your mates, a laptop and google maps and get working on next summer’s road trip. Think sandy beaches, camping spots by a lake and maybe a cool city for a dose of culture. Next summer will start to look pretty sweet, pretty soon and you’ll forget all about the (whisper it) three seasons in between now and then.

Start getting excited for Halloween

The thing about summer is that it’s kind of occasion-free. Sure, there’s sunshine and long days but autumn and winter are where it’s at when it comes to the big dates in the calendar and, as we all know, Halloween is the best one. It’s never too early to start planning your costume, so get on that ASAP because 1. It’s something major to look forward to and 2. It means you can claim the best one before anyone else tries to step on your costume territory.

Work on a new goal

Summer is the worst time to be productive or ambitious because going out and walking/sitting/running/lying/anything-ing in the sun is always the most attractive option compared with, well, literally anything else. (Thanks, people who decided to put exams in summer.) So when the temperatures start to drop and going outside looks a little less tempting, it’s the perfect time to set yourself a new goal. Learn a new language, go to a weekly yoga class, learn to cook a killer signature dish; whatever it is you’ll find it way easier to stay focused and, as an added bonus, you’ll be so distracted by your new skills that you won’t even think about that once-dreaded switch from August to September.

Try out a fresh look

Hot weather dressing is mostly about choosing the thing that makes you sweat the least. Autumn is when personal style can really kick in; choosing your outfit becomes less about ventilation and more about fashion. You can go to town with layers, colours and textures and mix up as many influences as you want, so use it as an excuse to style up a whole new look. I guarantee you won’t miss that summer dress one little bit.

Plan the best autumn ever

We all have a habit of making loads of plans over the summer holidays and then going into hibernation mode the second it’s over, so it kind of feels like our social lives end when summer does. The answer? Make more plans! In fact, you may as well go right ahead and plan the best autumn ever. Schedule in home cinema marathons, day trips, fun new exercise classes, volunteering, shopping trips and crafternoons with plenty of cake (probably more cake than crafting if we’re being honest here). You’ll have a whole host of stuff to look forward to and you’ll beat that ‘fun-ends-here’ feeling that comes around every year.

Pamper yourself

After a season of sun, salty sea and sun cream, your skin and hair can start feeling pretty tired out. UV rays might be good for the soul but they leave everything else in need of some end-of-season rehab. So treat yourself to a mammoth pamper session. A gentle exfoliant will do wonders for dry skin; a clay mask will help sort out those pesky oily patches (cheers, sun cream); a hair mask will sort dried ends right out and a nourishing, natural body lotion or body oil will leave you feeling like a silky smooth mermaid. You’ll be feeling blissed out in no time.

We can already feel those blues just melting away. And anyway, there are only, like, 270 days until next summer…

@SophieBenson_

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome.

Image: Hailey Hamilton

I am a champion grudge holder. It’s not something to be proud of, but I hold onto feelings of anger and resentment like vertigo sufferers hold onto the safety bars on rollercoasters.

Years ago, one friend asked me why I’m always a bit chippy and weird with a mutual acquaintance. “Because she got really flirty with your boyfriend in 2006, remember? She tried to snog him!” My friend had forgotten this incident and couldn’t even remember going out with the boy in question. But I stewed, and struggled to forget something that happened 10 years ago – something that didn’t even directly involve me.

So it’s embarrassing, but not surprising, to admit that I only just ‘forgave’ my ex best friend for being mean to me, even though we haven’t spoken since we were taking our GCSEs, over half my lifetime ago.

When I started secondary school, Kirsty* (*not her real name) was one of my new classmates and I desperately wanted to be her friend. She wasn’t one of the loudest girls, and she didn’t brag about how trendy she was – she was just dry and wickedly funny, supplying punchlines and sometimes reducing me to breathless fits of giggles with a raised eyebrow. She had an encyclopaedic knowledge of Friends, a programme that my parents wouldn’t let me watch. She’d actually been to New York with her Mum. She was cool and clever and grown up, and had a perspective on life that seemed different from anyone else’s. Other people were happy to accept what they were told, but she challenged them. She seemed to know that there was life outside sleepy Dorset, and I wanted her to tell me all about it.

Kirsty was immediately commandeered by Charlotte* a girl I knew from primary school, a friend who was good at blowing hot and cold with me, and was confident in her coolness. I became Kirsty’s stand-in BFF – I was the pal version of a supply teacher, and I used to look forward to flu season because I’d get a full week of Kirsty’s undivided attention.

Then, one summer, Kirsty and I started hanging out together all the time. I felt as though I’d won a competition. She’d bitch about Charlotte and I’d join in, thrilled. I’m not proud of how good it made me feel to be ‘promoted’, but when we returned to school in the Autumn, it was just the two of us. Charlotte was out in the cold.

I lasted a term. For a few months, we told each other everything and spent every spare second together, and after Christmas Kirsty started blanking me. “Nothing is wrong! Why are you being weird?” she’d mutter, as I tearfully tailed her down school corridors demanding to know what had happened and what I’d done. It was as if I’d been dumped. I suppose I had.

For months and years afterwards, I thought of Kirsty as the person who had hurt me the hardest, the girl who wronged me, and the person who had seen something so awful and unfixable inside me that she couldn’t bear to be seen with me any more. It’s only now I realise that what happened probably had nothing to do with me at all.

Before the break up, Kirsty had told me about her parents’ divorce, and how she felt that her family was alternately suffocating and abandoning her. She’d gained weight quickly and then lost it even more quickly, and she was suffering from a severe eating disorder. Like me, she was dealing with the difficulties of just being in her teens, surviving school and dealing with the enormous amount of academic pressure that was facing her.

At the time, I think it made sense for me to experience sadness, anger and confusion. I wish I’d known that then, it was just too hard for her to be a good friend to anyone. She needed to draw people close and reject them, because it was a way for her to show she was in control. I don’t think she did it on purpose, and I’m sure she didn’t mean to actively cause me pain.

Hurt people hurt people, and our teenage years are a traumatic time. In some ways we’re at our angriest – we lash out, yet we’re incredibly vulnerable to the sadness and fury of others. Years later, I can finally see that we reject each other for all kinds of reasons, and most of them don’t have anything to do with the person being rejected.

I wish I hadn’t made Kirsty’s pain all about me. But I’ve finally realised that what happened wasn’t my fault, and I think that makes me a better friend now.

@NotRollergirl

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Manjit Thapp