Warning: reading this will cause itching.

Every summer, my friends and I would become inseparable. We would have marathon sleepovers, bouncing from house to house. We would monopolise each living room with a tangle of pillows and mattresses before falling asleep curled around each other like a whole drawer of spoons.

We shared meals and clothes and sun cream, which was nice. We shared hairbrushes and pillows and towels, which was not.

One summer, we noticed that our heads were itchy. Not in an absent, scratch-and-it’s-over way. But more like, I-want-to-dig-my-nails-into-my-scalp-and-gouge-out-entire-chunks-of-flesh sort of way.

In a hugely unsurprising turn of events, we all had head lice.

It was impossible to identify who patient zero was. Not only did we all have lice, but all of our siblings had lice too. As did an unsuspecting and completely horrified parent or two.

Looking back, I realise this is the closest I have ever come to being part of an epidemic. Lice were everywhere. All across our neighbourhood, towels, duvets, pillow cases, bed sheets, dresses and t-shirts were washed twice and hung to dry in the harsh Australian sun. Finally, the hole in the ozone layer could do something useful for us.

Hairbrushes and combs were left to soak for hours in the sink. Ha! Take that lice.

Cowboy hats (they were in that year, don’t judge me) and miscellaneous sporting caps were thrown out in a bug-induced panic.

Next we assembled, like some sort of Ghostbusters team, in my next door neighbours’ garden. We came armed with nit combs, loo roll and a bottle of conditioner each.

We sat in our bikinis, one behind the other, like a weird mix of a beauty pageant and a conga line. The process began. Apply entire bottle of conditioner to the person in front’s head. Comb a section of hair. Wipe comb on loo roll. Say ‘ew.’ Comb a section of hair. Wipe comb on loo roll. Say ‘ew.’ Comb a section of hair. Wipe comb on loo roll. Say ‘ew.’

We were like a colony of less sophisticated monkeys, simultaneously thrilled and disgusted by the entire ecosystem going on in our lemon-bleached locks. We dispelled hundreds, if not thousands of lice from our heads along with alarmingly thick chunks of hair.

The idea was floated that we should just shave our heads and be done with it. We all murmured assent. But we knew none of us was ever going to part with our hair, even if it was so infested with lice that we could have named one after each member of the Kardashian/Hadid/Jenner clan going back five generations and still have plenty of lice left over.

Instead, we carried on with our grooming in companionable silence that was occasionally interrupted with a ‘Woah! Look how big this one is!’ and we would pass the impressively large lice around like some sort of repulsive trophy.

It wasn’t a particularly glamorous experience and if I could have avoided it, I probably would have. But I’ve done some reading on ‘grooming behaviour‘ and Wikipedia (don’t judge my sources either) tells me that an animal helping another animal clean itself is a form of social bonding that helps build trust. And I kind of know what they mean.

It’s that same feeling as when your mum paints the fingernails on your right hand, or your friend braids your hair. That feeling of someone else loving you enough to want to take care of you. And on the flip side, you trusting them enough to not screw it up.

The lice went away eventually, as lice generally do. But the friends? Well, they’re stuck with me forever.

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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

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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.

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Moving from primary school to secondary school can bring up loads of different feelings. Excitement, fear, sadness, happiness: the first few weeks, or even months, of secondary school can make everyone feel a bit wobbly. After all, you’re in a new place, among mostly new people, doing new kinds of tasks and classes. But you’re not alone.

If you move to secondary school with some friends, this can feel really comforting. You have someone (or loads of people) to lean back on, meet at lunchtime and walk home with. However if you move on your own, it can be scary. Either way, sometimes the process of moving to a new school can change your friendships.

This could be that you drift apart from a friend because they’ve made new friends in their form or at a club. Or it could be that one of your friends wants to stay in touch and you don’t. Or the other way round: you want to stay friends and your friend from primary school doesn’t. It can be tricky to get through it but we’re here for you, and here’s how to deal…

Try talking to your friend if you’re feeling hurt and confused

When someone isn’t talking to us as much as they usually do, it can feel confusing. Before thinking that your friend doesn’t want to be your friend anymore, talk to them. This doesn’t have to be scary or confrontational.

You could say: “I feel sad because we don’t spend as much time together anymore.” Then suggest something you could both do together, like catch up at lunchtime or on a weekend instead. If they don’t want to, it’ll be tough. But at least you’ll know where you stand rather than assuming what’s going on. Be brave and start a conversation.

It can really hurt when friendships end or drift apart

The first thing we recommend is being okay with how you feel. Moving schools, meeting new people and friendships drifting apart is bound to feel a bit weird and even sad. This is a totally normal thing to feel. It’d actually be surprising if you didn’t feel sad! The best thing you can do is remember it’s okay, however you feel.

Sometimes it can make you angry

When we go through a difficult time, we all tend to act differently. Some people feel sad, some people get on with things as if nothing has changed, some people get angry. Just like it’s normal to feel sad, it’s normal to feel angry too.

Chances are you felt quite comfortable at primary school, you knew everyone and how everything works. Now that you’re at secondary school and everything is changing it’s normal to feel angry – especially at friends you feel aren’t there for you like they used to be.

There’s always a silver lining to a friendship ending or drifting apart

But there’s good news here, promise! Once you’ve let yourself feel your feelings, you need to remember that you can get through this. There’s always a good side to everything, like your gran says “every cloud has a silver lining.”

And you need to look out for the good bits of a friend drifting away. Sometimes friends that drift away actually come back as better friends later on – this happened to me loads in secondary school!

It can be a great opportunity to meet new people in your form or at clubs

One of the good things about a friend drifting away is the spare time you have. This is a really good chance for you to meet new people, whether that’s joining a new club or talking to people you wouldn’t normally talk to.

… And it can be a good opportunity to make new friends in different groups

Who knows, some of these new people you talk to might become really, really good friends with you. I remember when I moved from primary to secondary school I wasn’t in the same class as two of my close friends.

I felt really sad for weeks, but soon I began to make different friends and I realised that I actually had more in common with my new friends – we all really liked drama and performing arts. I still said “hi” to my old friends from primary school, but felt really glad to have been strong and started talking to new people.

@BeccaCaddy

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Image: Hailey Hamilton

We’re calling it: while having a super tight, exclusive group of friends means your social life is sorted, branching out and finding buddies that you have one to one connections with can serve you well when it comes to becoming more confident, learning about yourself, and discovering skills that will come in handy for future adult friendships.

Your gang of besties will share the same in joke over and over again, until it’s as familiar and comforting as your favourite cosy hoodie. But new friends will share different stories and ideas, broadening your horizons and showing you the world in a different way. Here’s what new friends can do for you – and what you can do for your friends!

Sporty friends

You might already be part of the sporty crowd, but if you’re a sweat dodger, you might think that you will never have anything in common with anyone who plays hockey at lunch for fun. Think again! People who are enthusiastic about a sport tend to be passionate about life in general, and more often than not, they’re desperate to show people why PE is so brilliant. They won’t mind if you’re lacking in coordination, and have a tendency to run away when you see a ball coming towards you. They will be able to show you a life-enhancing, energy-boosting side to sport that will inspire you, and you’ll be able to allow them to share their big love, which is even more fun than triple Games.

Geeky friends

It seems like 100 years and 100 high school movies since geeks were considered uncool. The geeks have inherited the earth, and smart people appreciate smart people. Nerdiness and a love of learning is what makes the world progress.

However, if you’re not a self-describing geek, you might find geeks slightly intimidating and scarily clever. But geeky friends are great friends because they are some of the wisest, most interesting people on the planet – and importantly, while they might get seemingly endless A-grades, they’re usually more interested in the process than the result. Befriend a geek, become a geek, and realise that the smartest people in the room are the ones who are excited about what they don’t know, and prepared to ask lots of questions to find out.

The ‘quiet’ one

This comes with the caveat that you can’t make anyone be friends with you, and if someone is genuinely so shy that they’d rather eat lunch in the loo than sit with you, it’s not fair to force them out of their shell and comfort zone. But: quiet people are the ones most likely to get overlooked, when they could secretly be the funniest person you’ve ever met, or have a really fascinating hobby, or a super exciting musical talent. If you find yourself drawn to the noisiest people, see if you can get that quiet person talking, and learn how to shut up and listen.

The popular pal

According to ancient pop culture rules, being popular makes you really mean; the sort of person who likes to steal boyfriends and ruin proms. The law of averages says that in the history of time, there must be one or two popular prom-wreckers – but consider this. People are popular because they are liked, and they’re liked because they’re usually really nice. If you’ve decided to avoid the most popular girl at school because you’ve seen Mean Girls many times and you know what Regina George is capable of, it might be time to open up and be friendly. Hopefully, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

That super cool sixth former

Don’t be frightened! You might think your style/life crush is far too busy with A levels / UCAS applications / the general excitement of being 18 to appreciate an approach from a fan who wants to become a friend. However, they will be flattered if you say hello, and if you follow it up with a question about a shared passion – you’ve heard they’re taking Economics and you’re curious about it, or you’d love to know where they got their bag from – you have an ice breaker that might get a friendship started. Sometimes you have to find your own mentors. Approaching someone older and wiser is initially scary, but the benefits are massive.

The sweet but terrifyingly enthusiastic first year

You don’t remember being so confident when you were their age. Or so loud. Or… brazen. The younger person who wants to be your buddy might not seem like your cup of tea, but it’s definitely worth giving them a chance. Marissa Mayer of Yahoo recommends surrounding yourself with friends of all ages, because younger people can teach you as much as older people. This person is reaching out because they want to learn from you. Why not see what you can learn from them too? If nothing else, what they know about Snapchat hacks will make your head spin.

@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: St Trinian’s 

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

ess

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

mindy-project

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

april

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

alisn

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

annand-leslie

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

schmidt

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

serena

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

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Let’s just say the ‘D’ word that no one wants to talk about. No, not discharge, or diarrhoea, or double denim.

It’s death. Not a fun subject, but a significant one that no doubt a handful of pupils at your school – and maybe even you, lovely reader – have been affected by.

I was nine when my Mum died (breast cancer, in case you want to know – which of course you do, we all always want to know) and being the bereaved kid in school was really hard. Actually, it wasn’t hard. Hard was the death part. It was just super, super annoying.

I remember feeling like a celebrity whose nude photos had been leaked; a mix of embarrassment and strange popularity, the day I went back to school. Everyone stared and whispered. Teachers kept squeezing my shoulder, the kids in my class – including one who’d previously founded the Helena Hater Club (an annoyingly fabulous use of alliteration) – suddenly wanted to be on my team in rounders. A friend’s mother pulled me to one side to tell me that apparently my Mum was dancing in a meadow – a meadow – with my dead grandparents now.

But there was something that helped, and it wasn’t strangers telling me I was ‘brave’ or ‘strong’ because something happened to me that I had absolutely no control over – I was just getting up every day and putting one foot in front of the other, despite the fact that it felt like I was walking through sticky black treacle. That thing was my mates.

Here are the sad statistics; according to children’s charity Winston’s Wish, over 41,000 children in the UK are bereaved of a parent each year. That’s 100 every day. So, if that’s you, know this: you are not alone.

Death is the worst kind of goodbye, but it is inevitable, and if my experience taught me anything, it’s that there are some really great ways that friends can help. Grief feels like you’re stuck in one of those goody grabber claw machines, but instead of goodies you’re buried deep in the dark beneath bad thoughts and someone is playing a sad song on repeat. Friends are the claw that help get you the hell out – it might take a couple of goes, but eventually you will end up escaping.

How? For starters, friends can listen. Chances are, if someone is bereaved of a family member, they’ll be bearing the weight of enormous emotional support back at home. Friends can help relieve it – everyone needs to have a go at being the crying one. It’s healthy.

Patience is important too. The fact of the matter is death changes you. It just does. It might be a temporary change – your bereaved friend may not care about school for a while, or previously chilled friends might become anxious. They might even want to shut you out and be inside their own head for some time. Be patient while your friend works through that and let them know you’re ready to help if and when they want to ask for it.

Sensitivity – have it. Not too much, don’t treat your bereaved friend like a baby chick with a broken wing. Small things can sting though. I remember, a couple years later in secondary school, faking illness because we were learning family vocab in french and I just couldn’t deal with Madame Bernard asking us to repeat after her the french for “I live with my Mum”. Try to find out the date of their parent’s birthday, and remember the date that they died; it’s likely your friend will be having a bad time when it comes around each year.

Finally, bereavement will make a person crave normality like a packet of chocolate Hob Nobs on a bad period day. Make them laugh, distract them, remind them of the person that they were before this happened.

I won’t tell you that losing someone you love gets easier. Time can’t heal that, but you will get used to it. You’ll replace tears at the thought of them to laughter and a sense of comfort when retelling memories. It’s been 17 years since my Mum died and, cards on the table, I miss her just as much as I did when I was nine. But the shock has gone, which helps prevent the sense of loneliness, which helps you realise that you are not in this alone.

The dead parent club has many members. It’s a subscription none of us asked for, but we’ve got the badge and we wear it anyway. We’re puffy-eyed, determined and worth every second our mates spend standing at that claw machine.

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. 

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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.

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Image: Hailey Hamilton

It’s 9.30am, Saturday morning, and I am standing bare-legged in a muddy field: hard, cold rain pelting my t-shirted shoulders, icy wind blowing a gale up my skirt.

In one hand, I carry a long stick with a net on the end, while the other is in the grim clasp of the opponent I’ve been instructed to shake hands with. “Hi! I’m Clare,” I introduce myself, brightly. “I’m pretty rubbish at this; in fact, the chances are strongly in your favour.” She looks at me warily, like this is some kind of distraction technique – but by the end of the game, I’ll have managed to convince her. Though I loved playing, turned up to practice religiously and enter into every game with gusto, I was – and still am, I suspect – genuinely bad at lacrosse.

I can’t run very fast – being by nature more of a long distance girl – and the art of running, holding a ball in my stick and cradling it (a strange motion in which you wiggle the stick from side to side) at the same time eluded me. I could almost catch the ball – but when it comes to ball games, almost-catching doesn’t get many goals.

Fortunately for the school, I was in the B team – which in some schools would be an esteemed position but at St Helen’s meant losing most games and winning, by total fluke, just a handful. On one memorable occasion we lost three games at a tournament just because we forgot which pitch we were on.

We were, in short, a shambles – but man, did we have fun with it. Pressure off (if we turned up, we’d exceeded the school’s expectations) we were free to enjoy the game for what it was: a means of meeting mates, getting some fresh air and exercising with a common goal loosely in mind. If the goal was reached, it was a bonus: if not, we’d still worked out, mucked in and had a laugh in the process.

Free of the pre-match nerves, we enjoyed both the coach journey there, with its banter and colourful energy bars; and the ride back, where our ‘post match analysis’ consisted of raucous re-enactments punctuated with laughter. We enjoyed ourselves: a feeling which those who are good at team sports can often miss out on because the pressure’s on and if they mess up, their team mates point the finger, shout angrily, or talk about them behind their back.

Taylor ball

These are the joys to be found in a team sport when you stop worrying about how well you’re playing, and start asking why you’re playing. Yes, you’re playing to win – but unless there are lives or great prizes at stake, aren’t you playing for something more?

Of course, it is not just ‘the taking part that counts’, as with all things you get out what you put in, and there’s honour as well as more exercise in trying hard. But stop (not on the pitch, obvs) and look at the game as a whole and you will reap rewards so much more more satisfying than cups, trophy shields and goals.

You’ll be stronger: not just physically (though being able to stand up to your brother’s pretty great) but mentally too. Exercise and fresh air works wonders for the brain as much as for the bod, releasing chemicals which make you feel good (endorphins) and improving memory and performance. Besides, it is character building, persisting in something you find challenging – even if (in fact, especially if) you are used to being top of the class in everything else.

Most people give up activities they aren’t very good at. But the funny thing is, it’s often in doing the stuff you’re not good at that you find other strengths. One B-team mate’s insistence on hitting the ball round the field rather than carrying it in the stick brought her to hockey; my flat inability to reach any speed higher than steady jog is what lead me to cross-country running; and of course, there is always the possibility that you might get better at the sport itself. Many of our B team ended up in the As.

I didn’t. Even now ball games elude me. But the memories of our floundering on the pitch, and the fits of giggles afterwards – they’re still strong. Honed by hilarious defeats, our team’s sense of humour equipped us with one of the most invaluable life skills: the ability to laugh at ourselves.

@finney_clare

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: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

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.

Image: Hailey Hamilton

Supported by Girlguiding

1. You somehow manage to eat your own body weight in sweets, chips, ice cream and any other unhealthy food you can get your muddy hands on. Junk food doesn’t count on the weekend, right?

2. You choose the exact same meal as your bff just to avoid the pain of having to queue in different lines.

3. When you and your bestie see your fave performing acts, you have a minute of major fangirling and end up looking like a tomato because you’re so embarrassed.

4. By the end of night one, your camera roll is spammed with photos and videos of cute boy bands and accidental double chin selfies.

5. You sprinkle glitter around your eyes and then suddenly ALL of your belongings are smothered in sparkle dust – even your ‘just in case’ pair of clean socks which your mum packed for you.

6. You and your bff end up with tonnes of inside jokes that last a lifetime
and if they’re ever mentioned again, you can’t but help laugh so much you cry out your nose. Yep, that’s a thing.

7. You “accidentally forget” to brush your teeth after breakfast and no one even mentions having a shower…

8. You and your bff try to dress like twins every day, at least once involving matching hair braids and UV rave paint.

9. By the end of the weekend, the bond between you and your “tentmates” is unbreakable – so much so, you don’t even care who sees your dirty clothes anymore.

10. On the dreaded journey home, you and your bestie fall asleep on each other’s shoulders. Cue synchronised snoring and shoulder dribbling, but who cares? That’s what festival besties are for…

Words by Anya Heappey

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.

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.