Parents are unruly creatures. When I was a teenager, I could never figure out how mine were going to feel about things. I could disappear into town all day with a fiver in my pocket from the age of 12, and they wouldn’t bat an eyelid. I could rent movies with an 18 certificate and they would gladly watch them with me. But then they could draw the line in what felt like utterly random places: I had to be home by midnight, and not a minute before. I wasn’t allowed go to music festivals. I couldn’t sleep over in a boy’s house, even if he was just a friend. The list goes on. Even today, I still struggle to understand why my parents let me do some things, but not others.

However, I have realised one pattern: most of the things my parents wouldn’t let me do, turned out to be pretty crappy anyway. Look, I’ll prove it. And if you assume I’m lying just to make you feel better, well… I’m not. Shh. 

Festivals

I wasn’t allowed to go to festivals until I was 18, and you better believe that I went mere days after turning the illustrious one-eight. My friends had already been going for years – some since they were 15 – and I was fed up of feeling left out of their stories. I was ready to tick everything off of my festival bucket list in three days: I was going to share a water with a minor celebrity. I was going to meet a mystery boy at a silent disco. I was going to have that kind of complicated festival hair that is woven with flowers and glitter. I was going to be IT. 

The reality? By day two I wished that my parents had extended the ban until 21, or possibly 30. I was too poor to buy the incredibly expensive (not to mention unhealthy) food at the festival, and was instead slowly giving myself scurvy by subsisting on Nutrigrain bars and lipgloss. Everything I owned was damp, especially my socks, which seemed incapable of drying and very capable of giving me trench foot. You can imagine my delight when, on the Sunday morning, my friend got an asthma attack and we all had to leave early. 

Staying out past midnight

Look, I’m an adult who can go to bed whenever she wants and doesn’t have to answer to anyone, and I still leave the party at midnight. Believe me, nothing good is going to happen after the witching hour.

Travelling

Another thing that you should wait until you have actual money to do. At 19, I backpacked through Spain, France, Amsterdam and Germany, where my budget was £38 a day, exactly. That’s including accommodation. Needless to say, I spent a fair amount of nights “sleeping under the stars” – which, believe me, is nowhere near as poetic and romantic as it sounds. 

Dating

Your parents think you’re too young to go on dates? I’ll let you in on a secret: dating is not good when you’re young. It’s not good when you’re old, it’s basically good never. Sure, going out to a restaurant or to the cinema or to a gallery with someone you really like is great fun, but ‘dating’ – as in, turning up at a place and eating food with a near stranger – can be absolute hell. You never know who is supposed to pay and you always forget the point of your story halfway through. Avoid this one for your entire teens, or your entire life if you can manage it. 

Going on holidays with your friend’s family

This is something that, when I was around 13, everyone started doing. Suddenly, families everywhere seemed to be extending free holidays – FREE! – to feckless pre-teens who did nothing to deserve it other than befriending their wretched spawn. I was incredibly jealous of all this free holiday action, especially because everyone who went on holidays together seemed to return with a stronger, more sisterly bond. 

My parents were cynical about the prospect of letting me go on holidays with other people’s families, partly because they were afraid of having to return the favour, and they were not the kind of people to give some rando teen a free holiday. 

However, time taught me that going away with your friend’s family is not all its cracked up to be. You’re basically expected to be a guest, 24/7. That means no arguing, doing exactly what your friend’s parents tell you to do, and going along with their weird family traditions and crap car games. Who wants that? You’re supposed to be on holiday. 

@Czaroline

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Everyone else seems to really enjoy socialising, don’t they? They talk about how they’re going to arrange HUGE parties. Get BIG groups of friends together. And play lots of LOUD music!

To many of you that must sound like a lot of fun. But to others, it sounds scary.

That’s because we’re all unique. Some of us (known as extroverts) feel energetic when we’re around others. Talking to new people, socialising with friends and dancing around fuels our personalities and makes us shine. But others (the introverts) are the opposite. Being around people can feel a bit overwhelming and you might find you feel more ‘yourself’ when you’re on your own.

And of course there’s a whole grey area in between. People who don’t like being around big groups, but feel really at home with a few close friends. And others who worry about parties and yet feel great about being around new people once they’re settled in. Hey, awkward people of all flavours – you’re not alone (even when you’re quite literally alone)!

Here are the stages everyone in the awkward gang has experienced…

Stage one: the invite

miss-piggy
You’ve received an invite to something! Amazing! You’re loved! People want to hang out with you! That’s awesome, right? RIGHT? Wait, why are you looking so scared?!

Getting invited to something can feel weird. You’re happy you have friends. But you’re also scared of what’s going to happen. Immediately your mind will be filled with all kinds of thoughts. Including, but not limited to, what will you wear? What if you fall over? What if no one wants to talk to you? And repeat.

The key to getting through this stage? You can’t predict the future. Honestly, you can’t. Maybe one day, but until then it’s best to label all your thinking as ‘worrying’ and therefore not real. It sounds simple, but over time you can say “hey, that’s a worry” instead of “I’m scared.”

Stage two: Getting ready

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This is when all of your worries from stage one kick in. You try on 354846 outfits. You analyse what people will think of everything. And you’ll consider not going. A lot.

Stage three: Definitely, absolutely not wanting to go

dr-who
Stage two often leads to stage three: not wanting to go out. Sometimes a totally legitimate plan of action is to follow that little voice and just not go – because you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, ok?

BUT, and this is a huge BUT, proving to yourself that you can go to something and feel ok about it and maybe, just a little bit, even, kinda have fun, will be really beneficial in the long run. Even if you don’t go out the next few times.

It’s all about weighing up the pros and cons. If you feel like you can see some positives, always take that leap. But never feel bad if you opt for a quiet night in instead.

Stage four: Getting there

mean-girls
You’ve worried about what to wear, you’ve convinced yourself you’re going and now it’s usually around the time you’ll worry about how to get there. The bus? Your dad who might say something embarrassing?

If you’re nervous about going somewhere, it always makes sense to have a solid plan about how you’ll arrive. Get a friend’s mum to give you a lift, or see if your parents are available to take you and your BFF so you don’t arrive on your own.

Stage five: Feeling awkward

tina-fey
You get there and get all shy. Especially if you don’t recognise people, there are new people or people you don’t really get on with. You feel like the earth might swallow you up. That’s if you don’t feel like you might spill food everywhere first.

The best tip for getting through this stage. Stop. Breathe. Listen to people. Don’t feel pressured to be the bright, shining light of the party.

Stage six: Speaking and socialising

ay
You might worry about what you’re saying. Or feel like your arms are waving around really weirdly and maybe your top will fall down a bit. How could you possibly talk to people? How could this not be a disaster and the cause of your untimely death?

A really useful piece of advice is to play the part of someone who is confident. What would that person speak like? How would they stand? We’re not telling you to get all Shakespearean, just think about what it might be like if you were a confident person. You might just start to be that person without even acting.

Stage seven: Maybe feeling a bit more awkward again

nervous
You were just starting to feel good and now you’re worrying again. You saw someone wearing the same top and someone else didn’t want to talk to you about homework.

But feeling shy isn’t all or nothing. You don’t get shy and then feel amazing. It comes in waves. So feel proud of getting there, but if you have a blip and feel a bit funny, that’s fine too.

Stage eight: Having fun? Maybe? Possibly?

tswift

If you don’t feel like you can really have fun or chat to people, that’s fine. But often there’s a stage when you’ll feel like you’ve come out of your shell a bit, you’ve walked up to new people and scared yourself silly, you’ve found someone you know and feel a lot better… and maybe you’ve even plucked up the courage to have a dance. A DANCE.

Stage nine: Feeling exhausted and maybe a bit proud too 

naps

Whether you made 20 new friends or just spoke to two people you’re not that keen on, you went. You did it. Feel proud. And now it’s time to get home and get a good night’s sleep.

Or, ok, obsess for two hours over everything you did and said. Then sleep.

Bonus nugget of wisdom: It’s ok to feel funny around people (promise)

Remember: You’re not the only one that feels like this. It may seem like your school is full of party-loving extroverts, but there are plenty of shy types making a mark on the world too!

Sure it may seem like everyone else lives for socialising. But it’s ok to feel a bit awkward and shy around groups. It’s ok to prefer to hang out with just your BFF or even grab a good book and enjoy your own company. Because hey, sometimes a Me Party can be the best party of all.

Me Party

@BeccaCaddy

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First you saw the event – ‘near you’, not ‘invited to’ – on Facebook. Then you overheard those people you thought were your mates, discussing what they were going to wear and who might get with who. You hold out hope for an invite: none comes and then finally, to add insult to the indignity, someone asks you if you’ve been invited to so-and-so’s party.

No, you say, you haven’t. Cue awkward silence.

Maybe it’s a mistake. Maybe they simply forgot to invite you. It’s easy enough to do, particularly on Facebook. But if you want my advice, it would be not to go down this particular route. If it is a mistake, that will probably at some point emerge and either be sorted out, or apologised for. But if it’s not, you’ll only open yourself up to further misery if you force the issue only to find out so-and-so has definitely, actively not invited you.

What do you do then? Well for one thing you should make alternative plans – and no, these should not be ‘lying in bed feeling sorry for yourself’. My dad, bless his heart, has the emotional grasp of a park bench, but when Emily Richards missed me off her invite list, even he sensed the pain I was going through (the closed bedroom door and muffled sobs gave the game away) and knew I needed something to do.

I’ve loved the Nutcracker for as long as I can remember. There was a showing that evening, and a table for two at Italian restaurant ASK. He and I rarely hung out one-on-one – we’re a big family – but that evening, we were a duo. The sheer novelty of that, the anticipation of my beloved penne al pollo della casa, and the spellbinding thrill of the Sugar Plum Fairy blew all thoughts of Emily Richards out of the water. There have been, there will be, many other parties. That evening with my dad was one I’ll never forget. 

So that’s one idea. I don’t necessarily mean the ballet and the penne al pollo della casa (the calzone is also excellent, btw) – I mean the principle of spending time with a relative you don’t often spend time with. It could be your brother, mum, cousin or aunt. It could be a whole gang of you. When was the last time you cooked for your family, or rallied them into some board games? It might not sound as cool and bantz-filled as the Richards’ place, but trust me: investing in family time will yield far greater return than investing in schoolmates who haven’t invited you to their Christmas do.

My third tip – in case the prospect of time with the fam jam fills you with total horror – is to find who else hasn’t been invited and make them your friend for the night. There are three advantages to this strategy: you’ll be socialising, you can commiserate with each other (though make this brief, it does not do to dwell) on the lack of invite, and you may, by the end of the evening, have made a new or a closer friend. I did this only the other week, in fact, with a girl I don’t see that much, and not only did we make ourselves feel better but we even found ourselves laughing at the self-importance of the man – ok, boy – holding this apparently exclusive party just up the road. 

Because that’s the other thing you need to think about when your invite doesn’t arrive: what kind of friend leaves you out of a party without explanation?

There are some excuses – restrictions on space, parental rules, catering – but if one hasn’t been offered, then that person is just not a friend. You don’t need them in your life, making you feel inferior to the rest of the world. And FYI, while it might feel like the rest of the world has been invited, they haven’t. This is just a handful of people who on one evening partied without you. In universal terms, this is space dust. There’ll be many, many more Christmas parties during the course of your lifetime, and the chances are most of them will be infinitely better than Emily Richards’ will be. The Christmas party doesn’t exist: for better or for worse, Christmas comes every year.

So hang on in there. Your lack of invitation doesn’t make you a lesser person: it’s not what happens to us in life, but how we respond it it that defines us. That’s why Emma and I ate a whole Waitress cheesecake, each, that afternoon.

Months later, I found out why I’d not been invited to Emily Richards’ party: she told me she was worried the guy she liked would fancy me instead. False flattery? Probs, but I’ll take it anyway. Often, exclusivity says more about the insecurities of the host than it does about you.

@finney_clare

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