Whether you’ve already started your period or you’re waiting to come on for the first time, it’s a different experience for everyone – and one we love talking about. So we caught up with the brightest babes on Instagram, Confetti Crowd, who told us all about their first periods…

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And let’s be honest, you probably like that little tingle of validation you get when your mate asks to borrow your nail varnish because they like the colour, or when they ask you to style their hair for them because they like the way you do yours. It’s a great self-esteem boost.

But what happens when they copy everything you do, all the time? Whether they’re copying your style, mimicking your mannerisms or declaring their undying love for your fave band which they’ve only just heard of, it gets tedious fast, so it’s perfectly normal to feel upset and annoyed.

In some ways, it even feels like a betrayal. Friends are supposed to admire each other’s uniqueness, not steal their self-expression. You put the time and effort into finding your own style, so when someone comes along and straight up copies you, it’s like identity theft – like they’re cheating. Grr!

So you’re pretty pissed off, but you’re not alone. Almost everyone we asked has had a copycat friend at some point, ranging from the fairly tame (“she got the same coat as me – her mum agreed to buy it because she thought I was a good influence”) to the downright bizarre (“I was a model and my friend contacted everyone I’d ever worked with and recreated all of my shoots”). One girl even told us her friend dressed up like her and tried to steal her boyfriend! “I felt like she was trying to replace me with herself,” she says. “Everyone else would just laugh it off, but I felt like I was going mad.”

But as infuriating as it is to be the copied, it’s likely that things for the copier aren’t that great either. Being a teenager is really hard and everyone is trying to figure out their place in the world, but the chances are, your copycat mate is struggling with their self-identity, insecurities and self-esteem more than most. Copying you is their way of ‘borrowing’ the self-esteem they imagine you have.

“I’m not proud to admit it, but I copied my best friend constantly when we were in school,” says Sarah. “She was so cool and confident and I felt like such a loser compared to her, so I figured that if I wore the same clothes and listened to the same music I’d be cooler, too. The fact is that it didn’t make me feel any different inside – I was kind of just clutching at straws. What’s worse is that in hindsight I can see that how I behaved made me look even lamer.”

It’s a tricky situation, then. If your mate is copying you because she’s feeling low about herself, you don’t want to make things worse by making a big deal about it, but at the same time, your identity is yours, dammit! So what should you do?

Be patient

Once you’ve noticed your friend copying you, wait it out for a week or two – your mate is probably going through a phase on the way to developing their own style and it might not last that long.

Compliment them

Give them lots of positive reinforcement about the things that make them unique. If you’ve always liked their hair or love their shoe collection, tell them! This will help them realise they’re making good choices on their own without having to copy you.

Keep a few things to yourself

We’re not saying you should clam up completely, but if you’re a bit vague about the things she’s likely to end up copying, she’ll have to look elsewhere for inspiration. For example, if she rings you to ask what you’re wearing at the weekend, just say you haven’t decided yet. If you’ve got a public playlist you’re always adding new music to, make it private for a while. This way she’ll have to try things out for herself (and complimenting her choices will help too, no need to be mean about it).

Enlist the help of a trusted friend

It might be tempting to get another friend on board for a good ol’ bitchfest, but that won’t change things in the long run – in fact, it’ll probably just make things worse for everyone involved. Instead, confide in a friend you trust and ask them, next time the copying crops up, to gently highlight it: ‘Isn’t that the same jacket as Gemma’s?’ or ‘Didn’t Sally tell that joke last week?’ Sometimes, copycat friends get a kind of tunnel vision, so a nudge from someone outside of their bubble can give them the jolt they need to change their ways.

Confront your friend

If the copying continues, you’ll have to talk to your friend, otherwise the bubbling resentment could ruin your friendship. Have a conversation in private and keep it light-hearted – they might be a little defensive at first. Try something like: “I noticed you’ve been wearing and buying a lot of the same things as me lately. Sometimes it’s okay, but the whole point of these things is to highlight your own unique style. That won’t happen if you’re getting everything that I’m getting!”

Take a break

If the copying continues even after you’ve spoken to her about it, it might be time to take a step back from the friendship. That doesn’t mean ditching her completely, but spending time around other people will help her expand her style horizons and give you the chance to cool off.

And remember…

The way you express yourself through fashion and music is important, but you’re so much more than your outfit and favourite bands – you’re completely unique without them as well! Just keep doing you. Your friend will find herself eventually.

@RachelEngland

Image: Getty

There’s something super romantic-sounding about love at first sight, isn’t there? Your eyes meeting across a crowded room, knowing immediately that they’re the one for you. Or, if you don’t fall in love in that VERY instant, at least embarking on a whirlwind romance that sees you smitten within days, if not hours. It sometimes seems like only love of the fast, breathless, thunderbolt variety is deemed really, properly proper.

Well sorry, but we’re calling bulls**t.

There’s another way to fall. And it isn’t glamorous. But it can be totally awesome. The cosy pyjamas of the relationship world, if you will. We’re talking about when your buddy becomes your bae.

There are tons of benefits to being friends first, but let’s start with this lightning bolt: you probably actually like each other. We know: duh, right? But don’t try and tell us you’ve never considered going out with someone just because it’d look good. (“They’re in the year above and in a band for chrissake. I can totally put up with narcissism and a terrible sense of humour!”) But friends first = you’re probs dating a genuinely good human.

And even better, your attraction’s probably based on more than looks (although wanting to smooch them constantly is great, too). Maybe you’ve got tonnes in common, they make you laugh, or you admire their gaming skills. Whatever it is, things will probs be funner for longer because your feelings are more than just butterflies in your pants. Ruth, a magazine designer, has been with her boyf for four years, but they were friends for a year and a half first. “We had a mutual love of design and I found I could bounce ideas off him and really admired his way of thinking. His creative side was a big part of why I fell for him, and it feels nice to have some substance beneath the fancying. After all, looks fade eventually!”

And who’da thunk it, that whole admiration thing works both ways. So yep, if you’re dating your friend, they probably actually like you, too. The real you.

“We all have a ‘false me’ and a ‘real me’,” says Emma Gleadhill, a speaker and coach who helps young people manage their relationships. “In some social situations we choose to keep the ‘real me’ more hidden. But you shouldn’t have to do that with your partner. It takes so much emotional energy to keep being ‘the girlfriend’ instead of just being yourself. You should be able to tell your partner that you’d rather stay in and be ‘boring’ tonight, or you should feel comfortable even when you’re not looking your best. There should be an inner confidence that they accept the real you.”

There’s also the big T. And no we’re not talking about the fact you both love tacos. Or T-Swift. (Although surely they’ve got to be two of the best Ts, right?). “I guess the biggest thing was the trust between us,” says Ruth. “At the time, we were both involved with other people and so we really were just friends. But it was nice to have somebody to confide in who was outside of things. We’d meet for coffees, and over time we came to really trust each other. That meant that when we were single and got together, things seemed natural because we already had that foundation.”

As well as being a generally awesome ingredient in a relationship, trust is also super handy when it comes to funtimes of the sexy persuasion. “It’s easy to get swept along with things you’re not comfortable with because you want to keep the other person happy,” says Emma. “But it’s so important not to do that – to remember that you have power and control over your own body. Hopefully, if you’ve built up trust as friends, it’ll be easy to be honest with each other about what you do and don’t want.”

And when real life makes you want to kill each other / cry on each other / run away… fear not! Turns out there are skills you’ve already practised as friends that help you boss it as a couple, too. “Things like negotiation, discussion, collaboration and being supportive,” says Emma. “If you get those things right, you should end up with a relationship where you understand and complement each other, rather than where one person always leads and the other follows.”

We also reckon you’re more likely to try fun new things with friends-turned-heart-flutterers. No one wants to royally SUCK at rock climbing with some hottie they’ve only just met and haven’t sussed out yet. But the person who’s already seen you fall on your face ice skating, or forget your lines in the school play? That feels weirdly fine. Especially since they lay on the ice with you while you both died laughing.

But best of all, they can help you push yourself to new heights of awesomeness. “When we were friends,” says Ruth, “my other half would show me his design work and I’d say, ‘why don’t you try this instead?’ He’d do the same for me. It wasn’t about impressing each other. It was about challenging each other to think differently, and pushing each other’s limits. If I’d just started dating someone I think I’d have felt put out to be questioned like that. But with a friend, it was ok. We made each other want to be the best we could be. And we still do.”

#Relationshipgoals, right? So, if you’ve been having ‘Feelings with a capital F’ for a mate, but think you should be wait for some fateful earthquake with a gorgeous stranger, stop waiting. That cosy pyjama love could be one of the best of your life.

@LucindaEverett

Emma Gleadhill runs workshops in schools helping young people to handle their relationships.

Image: Getty

Ahh jealousy: the green-eyed monster – the “ulcer of the soul” according to Socrates, a philosopher, poet and all-round ancient wise guy.

The fact that Socrates was born in circa 470 BC in Athens gives you some idea of just how old and stubborn this monster is. It is universal. And when our old pal William Shakespeare first coined the phrase ‘the green-eyed monster’ in Othello, he added “it mocks the meat it feeds on” – that is: you. Ouch.

Basically, there are no winners in jealousy; nothing to be gained. The object of your envy continues to ace life/love/work/the whole shebang, while you just flail around and feel bad about yourself. 

So is there way to prevent it? Or, when that queasy green feeling hits the pit of your stomach, make it disappear? Well, one thing that’s really important to remember when it comes to envy is that you are not alone: we’ve all felt it, and lots of us have even lost friends over it. But, from the best of my experience and those whose brains I have picked, here’s my best advice for keeping the monster at bay.

Say your congrats immediately 

Celebrate with them, whatever it is you’re obsessing over. As with any task in life, the longer you leave it the harder it is. You’ll start to look bitter, then you’ll feel more bitter, fearing that people might think that you’re bitter – and so on and so on into a green hole of ill feeling and pain.

Go the extra mile

If you can bear to meet the new boyfriend/girlfriend you’re so jealous of, then do it – they might make a great mate. They might have great mates. Likewise, if a celebration’s in order, be the one to send a card, or organise a surprise party. You’ll feel good about yourself, and they’ll love you for it. You know that saying, fake it ’til you make it? It’s the same with emotions. Act like you’re thrilled for them and have no jealousy whatsoever and pretty soon you’ll start to feel that way, too.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em… 

One of the bestselling self-help books of all time is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It does exactly what it says on the cover, looking at everything from time management to ambition to healthy eating habits, and gives advice on how we can do them ourselves. Look beyond the success of the person you envy to the habits they have instead – and steal those habits. Maybe they’re early risers. Maybe they keep a to-do list. Look, listen and copy. Success rarely happens by chance. 

…or don’t join em. At all. 

Climb your own mountain! Whatever the object of your envy is doing – be it a sport, an instrument or an essay title – do something else. If it’s their wardrobe you’re loving so much, find your own style instead; open your eyes to other potential crushes; play a new tune. You won’t have time to worry about their victories if you’re working towards your ones, and your friendship will be stronger for it. Not everyone can be Serena and Venus Williams, so quit trying. 

Count your achievements

Actually don’t just count them – write them down, and reflect on each one. Yep, this is a bit immodest, but hey – no one’s looking, and the main source of jealousy is insecurity about your own worth. As any genuine interview with any celebrity will ever tell you, we all feel insecure now and again. If quietly listing your own successes is a way to fight that, then go for it: it’s only arrogance if you go trumpeting that list in people’s faces. Look at the list every morning until the envy is gone – and if you need to, listen to I Am What I Am while you do it and channel the fierceness of a five drag queens.

There you go. Better now?

@finney_clare 

Do you remember in Mean Girls when Cady wins Prom Queen and rather than just accepting the award she takes the tiara off her head, snaps it into little pieces and throws it to people in the crowd? You know, this bit:

Well, that happened IRL at the Grammy’s last night. And it was spectacular.

After winning the Grammy for Album of the Year, Adele came to the stage to collect her award. But in a curve ball literally NO ONE saw coming, she told the audience, “I can’t possibly accept this award… I’m very humbled and I’m very grateful, but Beyonce is the artist of my life”.

No, YOU’RE CRYING.

But how did Bey react to this moving tribute? Like a damn Queen, obviously.

(FYI this is exactly how Beyoncé looks at me in my dreams when I offer to do a duet with her.)

Not just content to dedicate the award to Queen Bey, Adele took it one step further and broke the award in half. And look at how excited she was by her own bad-assery. Just look.

Seriously, could there be a better start to Galentine’s Day?

So this week, bugger Valentine’s, let’s all be more like Adele – let’s take a moment to appreciate the fellow Queens in our life. We might not be able to share a Grammy with them, but we could probably split a brownie.

Here’s the video of the full acceptance speech and just a heads up, you should probably keep some tissues nearby. Just sayin’.

Image: Getty

Friendships are complex, eternally changing and can be as full of feelings and drama as a romantic relationship. But there are also certain types of friends who can be just plain bad for you.

If any names come to mind when reading the below, that might just be a toxic friend worth binning…

The Drainer

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The Drainer is the friend who pops up in your messages and you think, “Ugh, what now?” They’re always full of drama and LOVE dumping it all on you, without ever asking YOU how YOU are. They chat, chat, chat, chat, and, despite barely giving you a chance to reply, manage to exhaust you within half an hour of being together.

The Ignorer

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The Ignorer stresses every cell in your body without ever doing anything… because they hardly ever do anything. The complete opposite of The Drainer, they’re nowhere to be seen in your messages because they NEVER REPLY, and will happily leave the read receipt on. Satanists. They’re also likely to be flaky and drop out of plans last minute without much care, leaving you frustrated and feeling like you put way too much effort in.

The Jiber

Brooklyn 99 Gina

The Jiber thinks they’re really funny. Too funny. They take great pleasure in poking fun at you, which in your books goes a bit beyond banter. They’re kind of mean and especially like to poke fun at your appearance, hobbies, and likes. They’re likely a very insecure person, evidenced by them FREAKING OUT if you dare poke fun at them, but it’s no excuse to be a dick.

The Negative Nancy

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The Negative Nancy never has anything positive to say. They’ll go against any thought or opinion you have, just to be different or put you down, and put barriers up at any opportunity. They always have excuses to not do something, will find niggles in every choice you make and every opinion you have, and will make life feel utterly miserable.

The Manipulator

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The Manipulator is difficult to spot. You’ll need David Attenborough to come along to dig out their whereabouts and narrate their behaviours. They’re often passive aggressive and will never be obviously confrontational, but they’ll put doubts in your mind so you’ll side with them over anything. You’ll be pressured into doing things without even realising, and feel really confused about your thoughts and emotions as they play around with them. They are, we would argue, one of the most unhealthy species of toxic friend out there.

The Too-Attached

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The Too-Attached is a hard one to deal with, because you don’t want to BE the dick. They really like you. Like, REALLY like you and want to hang out or talk ALL THE TIME. They’d sit by your feet as you did a poo if they could. They’re nice enough but a bit much, and may well guilt trip you when you say you can’t hang out. They make you feel responsible for their happiness and, the worst, send multiple texts instead of one long one. SO ANNOYING.

The Bragger

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The Bragger can usually be seen on Facebook or Instagram. They only use it to shout about their newest purchases, most recent holiday, or amazing things that have happened, because their life is so perfect. When you meet up, they just repeat what they’ve said. They’re not bothered in asking how you are, and think they’re God’s gift. Getting them a gift card for their birthday is risky.

The Gossip

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The Gossip goes beyond the standard little gossip you have when you get to school. They live for it. They want to know the gossip before it’s even happened, and hate people knowing gossip before them. They don’t care who it’s about or what it’s about. Anyone is fair game. This means they can’t be trusted and, in all likelihood, would happily create and spread the gossip about you.

If you think you may have some toxic friends, don’t panic! Weigh up the situation, maybe talk to a family member or friend (who’s not part of the group) for advice, and have a read of our article on how to unfriend someone IRL. It might help. And if you don’t think you have any toxic friends… maybe YOU ARE THE TOXIC FRIEND. No, just kidding. You’re lovely.

@louisejonesetc

For anyone who doesn’t know, Galentine’s Day was originally invented by Leslie Knope – mega babe Amy Poehler’s alter ego in Parks and Recreation – and now everyone’s celebrating it. Taking place on 13th Feb, the day before Valentine’s Day, Galentine’s is all about celebrating female friendships. We’re in, and we’re getting our gift on. 

Galentine's Day

Let’s be honest, V Day presents aren’t all they’re cracked up to be – who wants to chance biting into the dark chocolate and nut one in a naff selection box anyway? Plus, soz red roses, we don’t even own a vase. So instead, here are the gifts to give your mates that’ll beat any Valentine’s gift this year, each for under £20. Happy Galentine’s!

Card-carrying BFFs

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Love Ya card, $3 (£2.40), Nina Cosford

Nina Cosford’s illustrations focus on some our favourite female role models; Eleven from Stranger Things, Frida Kahlo, Jane Austen, Grace Jones. This cute little Love Ya card from the feminist artist is the best we’ve ever seen – plus your friend can turn it into a print and frame it after they’ve read your message. Two for the price of one.

Put a ring on it

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4-pack rings, £3.99, H&M

Super affordable and totally cool friendship rings available in silver, gold and rose gold. Want to treat yourself? Why not, your friendship with yourself is something that should be celebrated too! We think they’d look great linked together round a necklace chain.

Flowers to keep forever

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Peony iron-on patch, $10 (£8), Stay Home Club

Want to give your friend some flowers that’ll last longer than a couple days? These iron-on patches are perfect – they’re so easy to attach to your favourite pair of jeans, or any clothes you like really. We think they’d look the business on a bomber jacket.

Pencil in a date

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Killin It pencil case, £10, Skinny Dip

A homework pep talk in the form of a pencil case, for when your bestie is stressing over an essay and needs reminding that they’re totally smashing it.

Keep it golden

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Limited edition metal lip hair clip, £6, ASOS

For your friend who’s growing out their fringe for the summer. That awkward in between stage is going to be so worth it thanks to this lip clip.

There aren’t enough words

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Besties by Leah Reena Goren, £12.08, Amazon

Besties is a book celebrating the power of female friendships, complete with some seriously cool illustrations by author Leah Reena Goren. A really sweet gift. Shakespeare who?

Cap it off

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GRL PWR cap, £8, Monki

Galentine’s Day means 13th Feb, which means it’ll soon be spring. Finally. Get your girl gang prepped for sunshine with this GRL PWR cap from Monki – and yes, you need a group photo of everyone in theirs.

I love your mug

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Coffee lover mug, £12, Urban Outfitters

Tricky to sip out of, yes, but so worth the t-shirt stains. You could even use it as a mini vase and gift with some daffodils – so much prettier (and cheaper, coincidentally) than boring red roses.  

Pretty as a picture

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Beth Hoeckel mini print, $20 (£16), Society 6

Dinner date, schminner date, if we had the choice between going somewhere fancy for awkward small talk or living it up at home in our PJs munching our beans on toast with cheese, we know what we’d choose. Especially if we had this wicked dinner time mini print to gaze at.

Balmy about you

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Emoji balm,  £2.99, Superdrug

Yes, thanks to Superdrug there are now emoji lip balms. You’ve got 8 options here, including the unicorn and heart eyes, and they’re all flavoured – the princess balm tastes like ice cream. Atta girl.

Illustration: Katie Edmunds

I’ll be the first to admit that every now and again, when the scrolling of my *enter any social media platform here* feed becomes aimless and automatic, rather than actually interesting, I’ll have a clear-out.

Much like the annual clear-out of my underwear drawer, sometimes an online clear-out is just necessary. As the years go on you realise that you’re not actually bothered about what the girl-who-you-sat-next-to-in-Maths-in-Year-7-then-never-spoke-to-you-again is getting up to now, and you can’t actually deal with any more tweets about football from the boy-you-met-at-a-friend’s-party-once-and-followed-because-he-was-a-bit-fit anymore. So you unfriend/unfollow them. Done. Sorted. Easy.

But, what happens when you want to unfriend someone in real life? Like, an actual friend you speak to and hang out with? There’s no button for that. No easy way out. But it can be done…

Is it ok to unfriend someone, or am I instantly a bad person?

No, you’re not instantly a bad person. Sometimes friendships just fizzle out, and people change or want different things. Suddenly they’re into house music and you’re still pining for a Girls Aloud reunion, or they deleted their Pokémon Go app and you are 100% not ready to stop catching ‘em all. And that’s ok. In that case, you’ll probably both drift away from each other naturally with no hard feelings.

But sometimes the feeling isn’t mutual. I spoke to Irene S. Levine, a psychologist and writer on friendships, and she said to remember that, “Friendships are voluntary relationships and should be mutually satisfying.” Irene is so right. You shouldn’t have to force yourself through a friendship if you’re not feeling it. That’s not fair on either of you.

How do I unfriend someone who’s horrible to me, and I’m a bit scared of them?

If someone is intentionally nasty to you, either publicly or privately, then you are totally justified to unfriend them. 

Irene suggests that taking control and being direct with this person about your feelings and wishes may be best, but if you’re worried about being physically or verbally threatened then speak to a trusted adult about the situation first. If you definitely don’t want to be direct with this friend, then you can try to quietly distance yourself from them by hanging out with others. Irene emphasises that “you don’t owe that person a lengthy explanation” – and you really don’t. It’s ok to put your safety and feelings first.

How do I unfriend someone if there’s nothing wrong with them, but I just don’t really want to hang around with them anymore?

Have you started putting your bag next to you on the bench when you see them walking over? Or hear yourself wince when their name appears on your phone? Yeah, it might be a sign that this friendship isn’t all rainbows and smiles, and it’s best to nip it in the bud before you start being out-and-out horrible to them or act like you’re swatting away a fly.

Irene says, “Sometimes it’s best to gradually spend less time with the other person or see them for briefer periods or see them as part of a group. It’s also perfectly fine to tell a friend that you want to expand your circle of friends.”

You could get all hippy and ‘I want to find myself’ on them before running off to Thailand*, or continue to politely decline their invitations of hanging out until they get bored of asking (or you run out of excuses). Whether you’re direct or not, there isn’t really a nice way around it. Just remember that it’s healthy in the long run.

You might even find that by spending a little less time with them, you’re happy and don’t need to cut ties. Sometimes we all need a break from people. We have those friends we could be with 24/7, and other friends who are maybe a bit full on and your head can only deal with a few hours. And that’s fine!

*ok, the other side of the school

Are you sure I won’t hurt their feelings?

There’s no guarantee it’ll be plain sailing, but hopefully they’ll understand that friendships change and you’re not to blame. Then they’ll use a photo of your face as a dartboard.

JOKING.

Hopefully…

If they do take it really badly, then maybe it’s a sign that this was the right thing to do. But it’ll likely be fine and any awkwardness will settle. You’ll both hang out with other friends and, who knows, you might even be on the same path in a few years and be best buddies again.

Hold on, I’VE been unfriended. Why?! What did I do?!

“If you know you said or did something wrong, apologise as soon as possible,” Irene says. “Or, perhaps, it was something you didn’t do or say that you should have!” Basically, the best thing is to just ask. It might be easier said than done, but if you’re hurt and confused then you have a right to ask what’s going on. Hopefully you can have a good conversation about it, but if not then it may be best to just let it lie, at least for the time being.

And remember, people change. Try not to not jump to the easy conclusion of: OMG WHAT DID I DO, WHAT DID I SAY, AM I AWFUL?! Reflecting on Irene’s advice is great if you’re on either side of this often uncomfortable and awkward situation.

(I’m still holding out for that Girls Aloud reunion…)

You can find Irene on Twitter, @irenelevine, and at www.TheFriendshipBlog.com.

@louisejonesetc

Image: Manjit Thapp

It’s almost impossible to be funny and to be cool at the same time. Achieving either can take a bit of effort, but only one is genuinely life-enhancing. Cool can come and go in a moment, but funniness only gets funnier, as well as giving you the skills and resilience required to style out any situation.

I didn’t know this when I was at school, and I longed to be friends with the girls who laughed at me and my ridiculous mates. But we were learning to laugh at ourselves, and now I realise that we were having a much better time.

This is why it’s great to surround yourself with hilarious ‘weirdos’.

1. The school disco is a thousand times more fun

Sarah Baxter, since we turned 13 I must have been to a hundred weddings, gigs and parties, but I’ve never seen moves that were anywhere near as memorable as the crab dance you busted out at the Year 8 Christmas dance with the boys’ school. At first, I felt silly and self-conscious in my jeans and t-shirt, aware of the class monitor smouldering in the shadows, looking amazing in the Topshop velvet mini that my Mum had forbidden me from buying. But the second Sarah got on the floor, knees bent, hands out, and danced to the Spice Girls like she was under the sea, I was over my skirt envy and clutching my sides while making an odd honking sound.

The rest of us had a great time when we joined in with the crab dance, even though we weren’t dancing, just rolling on the floor laughing. It was the first genuine ROFL I’d ever experienced.

2. Your most embarrassing moments become your best material

It’s easy to treat school as a dangerous, potentially humiliating battle ground where you risk looking foolish every day. It’s harder – but definitely happier and better – to think “I am definitely going to do something stupid, shameful and embarrassing. Cringing never killed anyone, so I just need to think of it all as comic material.”

Like the time I turned up to Chemistry and realised that the lab coat I’d picked up from Lost Property was, in fact, a tablecloth. I thought about hiding in the toilets until the next lesson bell went, but instead I flung it around my shoulders like a cloak. My mates were mildly hysterical – and I had the first and last laugh.

3. Instead of flicking your hair in front of boys, you can get them to fall about laughing

For a long time, I thought that if you fancied someone, the best way to get their attention involved having big boobs, wearing lots of make up, and ignoring them, occasionally sneering and saying something sarcastic. That was until my friend Millie had a birthday party that was packed with boys, and they all seemed to be in love with her. How did she do it? How did she find the boys? Fit Josh explained while the class monitor stared at him with her mouth open. “Millie is the funniest person I have ever met! And she’s always talking about how hilarious her mates are! There’s no way I could miss this!”

4. You never need to worry about being caught out

As a grown up, I’ve met girls who were “cool” at school. Even though I envied them at the time, they’ve said that it was once of the most stressful experiences of their lives, much harder than sitting exams, going to university and enduring job interviews.

One anonymous friend told me “We all had to have the same haircuts – short and blonde on the top, long and dark on the bottom. I genuinely thought that if any of my friends caught me with a ladder in my tights, my life would be over. I don’t remember ever relaxing. I was secretly jealous of the girls who just seemed to mess about, the ones who didn’t care about being perfect.” Whereas I was so relaxed in my LOLlish nerdiness that I once kicked a pair of knickers out of my jeans on non-uniform day and said, without missing a beat, “they’re for when I wet myself laughing”. Boom.

5. Every day feels like you’re starring in a sitcom

Most of the great comedy writers work in teams, and say that nothing makes you more creative than collaboration. Well, when you’ve got pals who are always prepared to see the funny side, and you’re always one-upping each other’s one liners, you reach a point where you all feel funnier than the imaginary love child of Tina Fey and Amy Schumer. School isn’t always fun, but when seeing your mates brings you more laughs than a Simpsons triple bill, you almost look forward to your first Monday morning maths lesson.

So, if your chums make you chortle so hard that you’re in frequent need of resuscitation, it sounds like your billion dollar sitcom deal is right around the corner. But even if your funniness goes no further than the school gates, having friends who embrace silliness and joy is more valuable than having an ASOS code that gets you 90 per cent off. They say that laughter is the best medicine, and it always makes you feel better. No-one ever cured anything with cool. 

@NotRollergirl

Image: Getty

Often, childhood friendships disintegrate into nothingness. It’s no one’s fault, there’s no huge fight or grand betrayal – but the friendships that once were the most comfortable things in the world start to feel too tight, like the favourite shoes you bought years ago and now are two sizes too small.

‘It’s natural,’ your mum tells you. ‘People outgrow each other,’ your dad says. And they’re right, of course. Some friendships don’t last.

But some do.

These friendships, the ones that started in sandpits when some kid looked at you and didn’t immediately smash your sandcastle with their foot? They’re pretty damn special. So while it might be hard to keep up childhood friendships once you stop seeing each other every day at school or when you actually have to arrange to get together rather than being able to rely on your mums to sort it out, there are a lot of reasons you should hang in there and go the distance with a longterm friendship. For example…

1. They can always help unpack the dishwasher in your house, because they know where everything goes better than you do.

2. You have permanent and inalienable rights to their wardrobe.

3. And they won’t get too cross if you spill on their best top, because, let’s be honest, they’ve done the exact same thing to you.

4. You don’t have to explain your weird Uncle Frederick to them because they know your weird Uncle Frederick. In fact, they sat next to him last year at your birthday dinner and had a nice chat about the Romans.

5. They will be honest and tell you that no, you won’t suit a fringe.

6. And they’ll be sympathetic when you ignore them and get the fringe anyway, and end up completely hating it.

7. You can call them to ask them the name of your primary school librarian.

8. And if they don’t know the answer, at least they’ll be able to share in your frustration.

9. Let’s be honest, who remembers their sixth birthday? You never know, your long-term BFF might.

10. You can sit with them in silence for ages without ever being uncomfortable.

11. And you can be as weird as you like, without worrying that they’re going to stop being your friend.

12. Because these are people who’ve probably seen you pee your pants. At least once.

13. They never forget your birthday because it’s seared into their memory as deeply as their own.

14. You have childhood photos of each other that you can make into pretty collages. 

15. Or use for blackmail.

16. They know the name of your childhood toy.

17. And that you still like to cuddle it when you’re ill or sad.

18. They won’t judge you for what subjects you choose in school, what career you aspire to or what grades you get – they knew you long before any of these things even mattered.

19. And maybe most importantly? Because they’ve loved you at every stage of your life; when you were missing your two front teeth or you couldn’t tie your shoes. They’ve loved you when you couldn’t even spell your own name, let alone write it down. They’ve loved you when you called them crying at 2am or when you’ve given them a hideous cold by sneezing in their face accidentally.

Long-term friendships don’t always work out, but when they do they’re amazing. If you’re lucky enough to get the chance, maybe you should give them a try.

Image: Hailey Hamilton

Growing up, I was always a teensy bit jealous of the way my male friends handled their disagreements. They’d have an argument, sometimes a shouting match, sometimes even a bit of a scrap, and then that would be that. They’d move on; friends again, as if nothing had happened.

Now I’m not saying I wanted to go around putting my friends in headlocks (well… maybe it seemed tempting sometimes) but the boys’ method looked so simple compared to the way I tried to handle things. Brought up to always be ‘nice’, and scared my friends might ditch me if we argued, I avoided telling people that I disagreed with them, or that the face they had pulled at my new (totally awesome by the way) school bag had upset me.

Instead, I’d sit there feeling cross and upset until eventually the feelings faded away. But, looking back, I was probably pretty sulky and snappy in the meantime. No fun for anyone. And lot of girls I’ve spoken to have told me they feel the same.   

Emma Gleadhill is a speaker and coach who helps young people to manage their relationships. She says it’s not surprising that girls can struggle with conflict, especially given how we’re often raised and what we deal with in society.  

“Everyone is different, of course, but research shows that parents are more likely to stop girls who are getting a bit rough with each other than boys. So girls grow up less practised at dealing with conflict. Also, if you look for female role models in the media who are assertive and powerful but also kind, there aren’t very many. The media often portrays strong women as nasty – like with Hilary Clinton in the US election. Girls feel like they’re walking a really fine line: trying to speak up about their feelings and get what they need, but not come across as aggressive.”  

Emma also says that fear of friends ditching you is also very normal among girls. “When they’re going through puberty, girls tend to seek out very close best friendships, and those friendships are so important to them that they don’t want to rock the boat. So tensions underneath the surface bubble away and what started off as an honest friendship can become quite a fake one, where both people are actually pretty unhappy.” 

As I’ve grown up, I’ve gradually become more comfortable with conflict. Now I see it as something healthy and empowering. I stand up for myself and what I believe in. I even tell my friends if they’ve upset me. And guess what? Nobody’s ditched me yet. In fact, my strongest friendships are with the people I feel I can be totally honest with.  

But getting to this stage has taken a fair bit of practice. And man, do I wish I’d started earlier. It would have saved me a whole lot of upset (not to mention all the hours I wasted secretly fuming). 

So, just in case you fancy getting a bit better at it, too, Emma has shared her top tips for dealing with conflict in a healthy way. Go on, give it a go. You deserve to be heard. 

1. Practise being assertive

The skills we use in healthy conflict, like quick thinking, responding thoughtfully and speaking up, can be built up with practice. It’s a bit like exercising a muscle. Set yourself little targets that will develop your skills and confidence. You can start really small, like putting your hand up in class to answer a question.

2. Learn from the best

Conflict doesn’t always have to involve difficult conversations or emotions. Some people debate with others just for fun. Find those people and watch how they go about things. It could be your relatives having a passionate discussion about the best way to make the Christmas gravy, or the members of your school debate team arguing about a hot topic in the news. Take note. 

3. Stand up for yourself in the moment

If someone says or does something you don’t like, try saying ‘Ouch!’ or ‘Ooh – can I have that in writing?!’ It’s a small comment, so it probably won’t cause a huge fight, but it immediately shows the other person that you didn’t like their behaviour. This is a great way to start setting boundaries with your friends without being too heavy about it.

4. Don’t let things brew

Unless you can genuinely forgive and forget the comment, it’s best to talk to the other person about it sooner rather than later. Take some time to process how you’re feeling but don’t leave things for weeks on end. The longer you bottle up your emotions, the more likely you are to lash out at the other person, and the worse they’ll feel when you reveal how long you’ve been upset for. 

5. Have a plan

If you’re nervous about the conversation, it can help to really think through what you want out of it and how you’re going to make your points. If you have a good relationship with a parent or somebody older, share your plan and ask for their thoughts or advice.

6. Choose the perfect place

Try to talk to the other person face-to-face and somewhere relatively private. There’s no risk of either of you losing face in front of your classmates, which means you should have a more honest conversation, and you’re more likely to find a solution together if you’re just concentrating on each other.  

7. Be flexible

Once you get into the conversation, you probably won’t be able to stick exactly to your plan, and that’s ok. Healthy conflict is as much about listening to the other person as it is about getting your own points across. They might have a good explanation for their behaviour (maybe their family is going through a tough time) but you won’t get to hear it if you’re ranting at them. Try to think of the conversation as an opportunity to work the problem out together. *Try*.   

8. Be real

If you’re confronting a friend who you want to stay on good terms with, tell them you value their friendship and that you want to sort things out so you can stay friends. But don’t be afraid to let them know the consequences if they don’t change their ways. You could say something like: “I need you to understand how I feel because the future for our friendship isn’t looking great if this sort of stuff keeps happening.”

9. Stick to the facts

Focus on things that the other person can’t argue with, like an example of what they did and how it made you feel: “When you said my hair looked stupid this morning it made me feel self-conscious.” Try to avoid insults (“You were such a cow this morning”) and generalisations (“You’re always making fun of me”), as they’ll only get the other person fired up. Plus, they’re easier to deny than actual facts.

10. Stop things escalating

If you feel like a situation is about to get out of hand, take five deep, slow breaths. This will help to slow your heart rate down, meaning you’re less likely to lash out. Next, try to look at the situation from a different angle. Is it really about you? What’s going on with the other person? If you’re too overwhelmed by your emotions to act calmly, make your excuses and get out of there.

11. Stick to your guns

The other person might try to brush off the thing that you’re upset about, but it’s important to keep making your point until you feel you’ve been heard. Try something like, “You might have meant it as a joke but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it made me feel upset.”

12. Look to the future

Always try to end conflict with a plan for how you’ll move forward together, listening to each other’s needs and being good friends to each other in the future. Congratulations – you’re now a confrontation pro. 

@LucindaEverett

Emma Gleadhill runs workshops in schools helping young people to handle their relationships.

What could be more fun than giving gifts to your best friends, with an added element of mystery and intrigue? Well, if we’re talking about Secret Santa, there are moments when having a brace fitted, cleaning a toilet or doing maths homework for the whole class might beat the activity in the excitement stakes.

It’s stressful, it’s intense and it can cause enough friendship fury to lay out the whole of Taylor’s squad. Still, it’s also fabulously festive, and we love it as hard as we hate it. We wouldn’t be without it. Here’s the typical timeline of your standard Secret Santa draw…

Draw doom

Depending on how organised you are, you might decide to start Secret Santa proceedings the old fashioned way – by ripping a bit of notebook into pieces, carefully writing down everyone’s name (and someone will hold everything up by insisting that this can only be done with a cinnamon scented gel pen, and they’ve definitely got one in the bottom of their bag, actually why not wait until Monday because they’re going to buy one from WH Smith?) Alternatively, you’ll get an app, and half of you will fail to respond because the confirmation email will get stuck in your junk folder, and one of you will try to sign in through Facebook on someone else’s computer and accidentally join the draw as your Dad.

Guess who?

“So, who have you got for Secret Santa?” is a question that can be asked so innocently and casually that it’s perfectly normal to reply “I’ve got Jennifer, and I’m really annoyed because she’s a pain to buy for and doesn’t seem to like anything and…SECRET! It’s supposed to be a SECRET, how dare you trick me! Anyway, who have you got? Want to swap?”

In the run up to the big present presentation, everyone will buckle under the strain of their own giddy festive excitement, apart from one person who will irritatingly hold out, and say “la la la, I don’t care who has who, I’m not listening!” It’s probably Jennifer. She doesn’t seem to understand that absolutely everyone else has worked out who she is buying for using a very simple process of elimination. And because she was seen buying a personalised notebook and glittery name stickers.

Budget busting

You swear to a pocket money-friendly £10 limit, and spend hours working out exactly how to play the Boots three-for-two system in order to get maximum bang for your buck. Then one of the Santas lets slip that she’s gone “way over” because she found the perfect thing and couldn’t resist. Her Santee freaks out and has to do some emergency chores or dig deep into her piggy bank in order to make sure both gifts are equally extravagant. The day arrives, and it turns out the “perfect” gift is a 450 colour eyeshadow palette made up of different shades of sludgy brown.

Sneaky gifting

You never draw the person you really want to buy for, which is a problem that can be dealt with in two ways. You simply put up with it, and acknowledge that’s all part of the risk of deciding to take part in a Secret Santa exchange in the first place. Or, you buy a special secret gift for your BFF, and you can’t resist spilling the beans about it because you’re hoping they’ll get you something too. Which brings you all straight back to the budget problem, as well as making the other people in the group feel rubbish because they don’t get a ‘special’ present.

You try to rectify this by buying several boxes of stripy candy canes and distributing them around the group. Someone gets one stuck to their coat, someone else requires an emergency dental appointment and no-one can face eating anything minty until the following May.

Santa’s schedule

Getting everyone together to swap gifts is the most exciting part of Secret Santa, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be straightforward. Only you can’t do it on the last day of term, because half of the group are in junior windband and spending the afternoon playing O Holy Night at an old people’s home. You can’t do it the weekend before Christmas, because someone has to go to Scotland to see their Nan. You can’t do it at registration because you’ve all got to go to a special assembly in which the sixth formers will dress in tinsel and do impressions of the Physics teacher. You can’t do it early, because someone got their Mum to order something on Etsy, it’s coming from Canada and delivery takes 2-12 weeks. So you end up swapping gifts on the bus, in the middle of a traffic jam, still swaddled in scarves and gloves.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

@NotRollergirl