Sooner or later it happens to everyone. And then it happens again and again. One moment you’re sitting there just living life, you think you’re safe, and then someone asks it. Whoomp. The question bomb.

“WHO DO YOU FANCY?”

It’s an awkward question, and not one you always want to answer honestly.

Maybe you fancy the same person as your friend, and you don’t want them to know. Maybe the people asking can’t be trusted with the information. Maybe you don’t fancy anyone in the world right now, but you feel like you’re supposed to because everyone else does so you can’t admit it.

Whatever your reasons for hiding the truth, I am here to help. Here are some lies you can tell to wiggle out of the interrogation.

1. You’re already in a relationship… with someone who goes to a different school

It’s a classic for a reason. You can’t prove it’s true, and no one can prove it isn’t. It’s such an old lie that no one would ever use it in real life – and therein lies its genius. If it’s obviously the kind of lie no one would ever tell, no one will believe you’re really telling it. Boom.

2. Pick a name, any name

Close your eyes and point, and whoever you’re pointing at: that’s your crush. At least, as far as anyone else is concerned. Congrats, randomer over there! The new object of your fake affection. The more unlikely the person, the better – and if anyone comments, you get to take the moral high ground of knowing it doesn’t matter, because none of it is true.

3. It’s top secret classified information

You want to tell them, you really do, but you can’t because the person concerned is secretly a spy. Or you’re a spy. Or you’re both spies on opposite sides, and if anyone knew of your love, it would cause a War of the Spies. You are willing to pine in secret to avoid this, because you are so noble.

4. You have some pretty specific requirements for a potential crush, and you’re not sure anyone you know can fill them

They’ll need to be able to dance. And play the drums. And cook really good lasagne. And surf and do kung fu, and fly a small plane, and shoot lasers from the palms of their hands, and teleport. Why should you settle?

5. You’re saving yourself for Batman

Not Ben Affleck. Not Christian Bale. Not George Clooney or Val Kilmer or Michael Keaton or Adam West. Not Bruce Wayne. Batman. With the flash car, and the concerned and annoyed butler, with the cape, and the mask and the grappling hook. Only Batman will do.

Or Catwoman, obviously, if she’s more your bag.

@j9andlf

Plaid has never been our colour, pattern or style. Yet, there we are, Monday to Friday, dressed like a little Scotsman in an oversized kilt. With a blazer, some ‘smart’ shoes (which frankly, are just plain ugly unless your mum is cooler than mine) and a just-about-acceptable school bag. Not in summer though. Finally, we’re freeeeeeee! Here’s why not wearing school uniform is one of the best things about the summer holidays…

You can express yo’self…

Whether you’re more My Chemical Romance or Malibu Barbie, you can wear your style with pride, without getting told off by your grumpy headteacher.

…And not look like every other person in the room

This is not Despicable Me. We are not in Gru’s lab, and we are not Minions. (Even though they are freaking cute).

You can even experiment with your look

Want to dye your hair peachy blonde or try a fierce plum pout? The holidays are the best time to play around with your style because you can actually see what works in the safe haven of your bedroom. Grab the Colour Switch lippie from this month’s bettybox and try all the shades under the sun before you step out to reveal your brand new vibe.

You’ll actually have clothes to wear in the morning

We’ve all experienced the wait by the tumble dryer in the morning, in hope of a nice, crease free white shirt. Your wardrobe is full of possibilities when uniform isn’t a thing!

You can rock the cutest accessories

Since when is a tie a must-have accessory? FYI teachers, it isn’t. We’ll be flashing about the Stylondon henna tattoo from this month’s bettybox instead, thanks.

Your legs can actually breathe…

The combo of an oversized skirt and knee-high socks mean our legs never actually see the light of day during term time.

…And your arms can wave wild and free too

No constricting blazer holding you back from dancing to the summer bangers. Result!

Stylondon henna tattoo and Saturated Colour, Colour Switch lipstick are available in August’s bettybox. If you haven’t subscribed already, don’t worry! You can sign up for a bettybox here.

 

Sure, some people LOVE exercising at school. Whether it’s team games, athletics, gymnastics, absolutely bossing the bleep test – a little sporting activity during the school day can be a lot of fun.

But, whether it’s because you don’t get on with other people in your class (but now have to shower with them, hello), you’re made to do really long cross country runs in the dead of winter like something out of an Enid Blyton book, or you get all hot and sweaty before maths class when you have that crush sat right behind you… sometimes PE can suck.

Really suck.

The thing is, moving about is (breaking news!) really good for you. Working out gets your heart pumping, can improve your skin and does wonders for your mood. This means it’s important for your health – inside and out – to exercise, but not that it has to be boring or happen in school hours to make a difference.

Here are seven ways to work out that are about eleventy times more fun than anything that happens in PE lessons.

(NB: must also pay attention in maths)

Rihanna work work gif

1. Walk, walk, walk, walk, walk

We know, it sounds obvious. It sounds boring. It sounds like something you do every day anyway, doesn’t it? But adding just a few more steps here and there can actually make you feel a lot better – and there’s nothing nicer than getting fresh air after double physics. Luckily what last year we called ‘walking’, this year we call ‘playing Pokemon Go’. Have you caught them all yet?

Liz Lemon dancing gif

2. Dancing queeeeen

Whether you’re at a party with a big group of friends or just rocking out in front of your mirror, dancing is scientifically-proven to be the most fun form of exercise, ever. (Well, if science is based on us asking all of our friends and them agreeing with us.) The best thing about dancing is: the more you do it and the more of your body you move, the better it is for you.

3. Walk, sprint, jog (then do it all over again)

Walking can be boring. Sprinting can be tiring. What’s the answer? Do a bit of everything! Mixing some walking with a bit of sprinting, then switching back to walking again, then finishing off with jogging gets your body really moving. It adds variety to your workout and it’s a tried-and-tested way to keep very fit. You can make it even more fun by taking a friend with you – or get good pet karma and take your dog.

Foxes on trampoline

4. Trampolining, bouncy castle-ing and general jumping

Trampolining is so much fun, because it makes you feel like a little kid again. Bounce around, do some tricks and make sure you do lots of laughing when anyone falls over – it’s kinda the rules. NB: this tip also works just as well on a bouncy castle.

Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse ice skating

5. It’s time to get your skates on

Roller skating is a great way to have fun with your friends, move about a lot and keep your body working – it actually takes a lot of muscle strength to keep your body balanced. Feeling frosty? Try ice skating instead.

Swimming baby underwater

6. Splash around

If you love to swim and doing length after length doesn’t bore you, go for it you athlete! But for most of us, it’s much more fun to dunk each other’s heads in the water and see if we can totally nail a handstand on the bottom of the pool. If you’re feeling ambitious, get your mates together and dream up your very own synchronised swimming routine. With a little bit of practice you’ll have everyone around you super impressed by your seamless moves – or it’ll just be a great thing to have a giggle about on the way home.

Dog on a bike

7. Get on your bike

That’s right, it’s time to dig your old bike out from your shed and take it for a spin. As long as you have a helmet you can explore your local area on two wheels rather than just two feet. It might be easier than walking (and it’s definitely easier than running), but it gives your legs a good workout.

Or if you’re feeling really adventurous, try a unicycle. You’ll find growing numbers of acrobatic skills classes in most areas – so if the thought of double hockey in the rain really gets too much, you can always run off and join the circus.

@BeccaCaddy

Image: Hailey Hamilton

You haven’t really lived until you’ve found yourself standing, baffled, in the middle of an inexplicable war between two close friends.

Each of them has a case, and each of them puts that case to you, over and over again, and you listen and nod and sympathise. You can’t help being confused, though. You can’t help thinking that they’re really fighting over nothing, and should get over it, so you can all go to next week’s party together and have a nice time.

So what do you do, when you’re caught between two beefing friends? Is it possible to soothe everyone’s feelings without anyone getting more upset than they already are?

The good news is, yes! It totally is. But once emotions are in turmoil it’s easy for them to spiral, so here are some tips for keeping the road smooth.

1. Listen

Amy Schumer listening

The first one seems easy. A lot of things seem easy, really, but very few things actually are, and listening is not one of them. It’s easy to listen when your goal is simply finding the next point in the conversation when you can talk. It’s easy to listen when someone is telling an interesting story, and all you have to do is react. But listening intently, and considering someone else’s feelings and point of view is harder than you think.

No matter how baffling the conflict in question is, and no matter who you think is more wrong or right in the situation, if you don’t start out by listening properly, you won’t get anywhere. You can’t help anyone if you don’t understand where they’re coming from.

2. Feel

New Girl hug gif

While the first step on the road to reconciling your battling friends takes only concentration, step two requires a little more. Namely: tact and empathy.

You will need both to figure out when each friend is talking about important things, like their feelings and when they’re basically just venting. Everyone needs a safe space to vent, on the understanding that the venting goes no further. Vent sessions are Vegas, and what happens there stays there – your role is just to accept the flow of rage and help release it into the ether. Feelings, however, need to be worked through and understood. People have been hurt, and hurt needs to be respected.

3. Mediate

Be quiet

This is the point when a really delicate touch is necessary. Here, you are trying to get two people, separated by presumably many angry words, and behind-the-back slaggings off, and horrible things that were never actually done or said but which each has imagined the other one doing or saying, back together. It is part of the human condition that, while we know that most of our own actions are haphazard, spontaneous and totally unconsidered, we still tend to assume that other people plan every move and every syllable – so if they hurt us, they must have meant to do it. But actually they are bumbling through as much as we are.

You, as the person who has heard both sides of the story, can reassure everyone how much stuff was said in the heat of the moment, how much regret each person is feeling, and (carefully) what they might have done that needs apologising for.

Btw, it is important here to note that none of the venting needs to be communicated. Venting is sacred, what you say when you vent is rarely what you actually feel, it is nothing more than the popping of the boil of emotion. And unless you are willing to carry around the fluid from that boil and bring it out at dinner parties, you should not be repeating vent talk.

4. Buffering

Chocolate

Now things can get a little more fun. Once the dust has settled, once some of the wounds have healed a bit, you can gently start pushing your two friends back into the shallow waters of generally hanging out. You don’t want to do anything too dramatic to start with, not a lavish party or a weekend in Majorca. A girls’ night in is a good idea, with hot chocolates and movies and enough snacks to feed Hagrid.

The film selection is key – you want something good enough that any awkward silences can be easily pushed past, and unimportant enough that no one will mind if you end up talking all the way through it.

5. Just keep swimming

High five

A strange truth is that the best way to get yourself out of an awkward social situation is to pretend it is not awkward, until it simply stops being so. It is time for jokes. Gentle teasings that show how affectionate you all are for each other, stories about what’s been going on in everyone’s lives that gently gloss over the old rift. Before you know it, all will be forgotten and, if you’re lucky, you’ll all be better friends than you were before.

Friends fight for all sorts of reasons, and it’s always the worst – whether you’re one of the battlers, or whether you’re stuck in the no man’s land in between. But nothing lasts forever, and working through a fight is almost always worth it.

@J9andlf

Taylor Swift was just 16 when she brought out her first album, Taylor Swift, at which point she’d been writing songs for four years #teengoals.

Before she was singing about moving to New York and possibly going out with Harry Styles, Swift bottled up the ultimate teenage experience and poured it all out while strumming on a guitar. Her earlier albums contain a lot of solace for anybody trying to work out dilemmas at school, with friends and, yes, with boys.

So, to celebrate one of our fave singers (and perhaps hopefully a new album this year), here are the best lyrics to live your teenage life by – and the songs they come from.

1. Life is bigger than kissing the person you fancy

A valid lesson for life, not just adolescence, and yet one that can always fade peskily into the background when hormones are really doing their thing.

Swift, who has built a career on singing about kissing the person you fancy, included this nugget of wisdom in Fifteen, a cautionary ballad from her second album, Fearless. In it she captures everything from the first day of school to first dates, kisses, and heartbreaks and includes the sage advice: “But in your life you’ll do things greater than dating the boy on the football team”. And you will.

2. Whatever you’ve done, you can pick yourself up and start again

Bizarrely, Swift’s introspective Speak Now album track Innocent is said to be written about Kanye West, who famously interrupted her while she was collecting a gong at the 2009 MTV VMA ceremony. In it, she tells him that it’s ok, we’ve all done bad things, it’s never too late to start again. Swift called the song an “open letter” to “someone I forgive for what he said in front of the whole world”.

Granted, not many of us have been publicly shamed by famous rappers on a world stage, but the essence of Innocent works both ways: firstly, be the bigger person and forgive that fool who’s hurt you. Secondly, you can always overcome your demons. As Swift sings in the song: “You’ll have new Septembers, every one of us has messed up too.”

3. Accept your fears, but be brave and do it anyway

Fearless is the most Swiftian of Taylor Swift love songs. There are the essential bingo cards of wet pavements, best dresses and late night drives, but really the imagery of this swooning country number pales in comparison to its message: we’re all scared of stuff, but doing things regardless can be wonderful.

Swift was 16 when she wrote Fearless, and hadn’t really even been on a proper first date. But that didn’t stop her from thinking about what love might look like.

She also explained the true message of Fearless, which is something people of any age can understand: “Fearless doesn’t mean you’re completely unafraid and it doesn’t mean that you’re bulletproof. It means that you have a lot of fears, but you jump anyway.”

4. Know when to stand up for yourself

Listen, this is where artistic license comes in: I’m not suggesting you hire a crack squad of assassins to go and lick your ex-boyfriend’s forks. Obviously. But there is something to be said for Swift’s furious country rock song Picture to Burn, which hints at the possibilities of her vengeance when she’s been wronged.

Sometimes people will do bad things to hurt you, and there’s nothing wrong in asserting yourself – even if that’s in the form of a quiet chat, rather than a pyrotechnic music video. As Swift frequently explained this song on stage: “I really do try to be a nice person… but if you break my heart, hurt my feelings, or are really mean to me, I’m going to write a song about you.” 

5. Everybody feels like an outsider sometimes

The Outside is not one of Swift’s best songs, or her most fun. But it is the first she ever wrote, at 12, about the fear and loneliness she felt going to school – which she claims was far greater than anything she’s felt since.

The good news is that, had she not felt that way, she wouldn’t have written songs, channelled her energy into music and given We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together to the world. But it just goes to show that even international pop stars can feel sad and small at 12, just like the rest of us mere mortals. And maybe your school days aren’t the best of your life?

As Swift said in an interview: “[I was] a complete outcast at school. Some days I woke up not knowing if anyone was going to talk to me that day. People always ask, How did you have the courage to walk up to record labels when you were 12 or 13? It’s because I could never feel the kind of rejection in the music industry that I felt in middle school.”

6. It’s okay if your mum is your best friend

We know, she’s annoying. But your mum’s also been through a lot of this stuff before and knows you probably better than your mates do. Swift had a really good relationship with her mum, especially when she felt lonely at school, so she surprised her for Christmas in 2011 with The Best Day, and a montage of home video clips (sob).

As she explained a few months later, she wrote the song while “remembering all the times that we had when she was my only friend when I was 13 and I couldn’t understand why my friends were being so mean to me. She would just take me on these adventures and we would drive around and go to towns we’d never seen before.”

7. Appreciate you have a lot to learn, and it’s going to be fun to find it all out

Ok so 22 may seem like a long way off at the moment – and that’s because it is – but Swift’s infectious song about a transformative year of her life was written as a celebration of accepting the journey you have ahead of you.

As she told Billboard: “I like all the possibilities of how you’re still learning, but you know enough. You still know nothing, but you know that you know nothing. You’re old enough to start planning your life, but you’re young enough to know there are so many unanswered questions. That brings about a carefree feeling that is sort of based on indecision and fear and at the same time letting loose.”

While right now your options of having “breakfast at midnight” might be more sleepover-based than frolicking around New York, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take joy in all of the exciting things ahead. As Swift sings: “We’re happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time. It’s miserable and magical.”

8. Don’t forget it’s ok to be a kid sometimes

We know it’s tough right now. Adulthood: either it feels like you’re getting there too quickly, or not quite quickly enough. Swift was barely an adult when she wrote Never Grow Up, but she did so for the younger girls in the crowd at her shows while exploring her own confusing feelings about growing up.

The song is fairly self-explanatory in that way, but her simple advice tugs on the heartstrings at any age. While you’re busy trying to do all that stuff actual adults get to do, don’t forget that there’s a lot of really wonderful things about being younger too: “Take pictures in your mind of your childhood room, memorise what it sounded like when your dad gets home”.

9. Those school bullies will never be as cool as you

It is a truth universally known to those who survive and leave school that the class bullies wind up kind of loser-y, while the nice, smart, kind people get to go and do cool things. Swift realised that, whatever she did, there would be people talking trash about her. Then she wrote a heel-kicking country kiss-off about how little she cared.

Learn the words to Mean. Sing them loudly, because victory shall be yours – one day, at least: “Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me / And all you’re ever gonna be is mean.”

10. Just keep doing your own thing

Shake It Off signalled Swift’s official move from country to pop music in 2014, and while the video met with controversy, it quickly became a giant dancefloor (and YouTube lipsync) hit. In it, she tackles all the accusations thrown at her by critics and the media – going on too many dates, having nothing in her brain, etc – and tells them that she couldn’t care less, and will continue to bang her own drum regardless.

If you can manage to do the same thing during your teens, you’ll be absolutely fine.

@alice_emily

Image: Getty/Katie Edmunds

Like the fleeting crush on *that boy* in year 10, the summer holidays are whizzing past quicker than a cheetah driving a speedboat. September’s box will ease you into the 9-3 lifestyle though, even on those days when cramps are brewing up a storm in our stomachs and we have to play an hour of hockey. Introducing the only back-to-school prep you’ll need (apart from maybe some cute news shoes and a matching school bag)…

Stabilo Boss Original Pastel Highlighter

No new school year can begin without a pristine set of stationery, and pens don’t come prettier than this pastel highlighter. Stabilo have got this beauty so right and, as exams are unfortunately still a thing (urgh), at least this year you can revise in style.

Minifelts Iron On Patch

Patches are about making a statement, so spread good karma without saying a word, thanks to Minifelts. We all need some positive vibes when we’re stuck in homework hell, amiright? We have a slight feeling your head of year won’t like your blazer jazzed up though, so grab your backpack or favourite jeans and get ready for non-school uniform day.

Bubble T Lip Balm

We love Bubble T’s quirky products and their lip balm is no exception. With added jojoba oil to moisturise your lips, you’ll have soft, smooth smackers in no time… if you can resist licking off the balm, that is. The flavour is so sweet, you’ll want to eat it up, but don’t. It’s probably definitely not very nutritious…

If you haven’t subscribed already, don’t worry! You can sign up for a bettybox here.

The first time I ever fancied someone I was four years old.

Let’s be honest, that’s premature. And a bit weird. So you can imagine my surprise – and disappointment – when, first secondary school disco in full swing, I found myself in the girl’s toilets, totally consumed with fear at the thought of the night ending in my being someone’s girlfriend.

It wasn’t like Scar from The Lion King was even there (plot twist: I no longer fancy cartoon lions, but still love a black hair/ green eye combo). Or that anyone was showing the slightest whiff of interest in the glitter hair mascara fringe I was debuting that evening.

But, despite the sassy four-year-old inside me who was so desperate to be wifeyed back in 1994, the mere thought of anyone trying to snog, dance or really do anything beyond offering me their seat so I could rest my inexperienced platform-heeled feet was enough to make me fake illness and call my Dad to come take me home. Ah, home. I could eat Indian takeaway and watch Friends there, I could have a bubble bath, I could listen to The Killers and imagine what it would be like to be in a relationship without the scary reality of actually having to go through with it.

Needless to say, after that first school disco, it was obvious: casual intimacy intimidated me. And I ended up spending my entire teenage years single.

It wasn’t because I’d suddenly stopped fancying anyone – quite the contrary. I fancied everyone. At least it felt that way; but as I quickly learnt, my feelings were fickle. The second anyone paid any interested in me I was onto the next one, before they had a chance to fish out the alleged eyelash from my heavily kohl-lined socket.

On several occasions I was accused of being a tease or a flirt, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I was interested in being in the relationships I formed in my mind – it’s just the reality brought so much pressure, and I was yet to meet anyone with the maturity and patience to match my timid curiosity. I wanted fun from a relationship and, from the looks of things, the real-life kind involved heartbreak, school gossip and the risk of everyone knowing the private things I only wanted special people to know.

It took me longer than I wish it had to realise that I wasn’t a tease, and I wasn’t frigid. I just didn’t want to be in a relationship with anyone who didn’t love me. It was as simple as that.

Of course I felt embarrassed about being what from the outside probably looked like a ‘late bloomer’. When you aren’t in love it always feels like everyone else is – but, honestly, this is just imagination talking. I have friends who lost their virginity aged 14 and friends who had their first kiss aged 22, there is no finish line when it comes to intimacy. There just isn’t. Adult life doesn’t begin with your first kiss. If you’re interested in that stuff then life will be littered with it, and you’ll have times when it’s happening a lot and times when it isn’t happening at all.

I’m a bit older now, and I’ve had a serious relationship. We made it work for three years, which doesn’t sound like long but considering the fact that we were broke, lazy students who wore the same Dominoes-stained joggers every day (him) and believed that jarred pesto counted as one of your 5 a day (me), it was a triumph against bad odds. That relationship had everything I’d thought up in my Killers bubble baths. He was loving and hilarious with a gorgeous face, and the first time we kissed I remember being surprised because I wasn’t thinking about when it would be over like all the regretful snogs before him.

It’s important to say here that I think prolific ‘relationship people’ – the types that seem to have loved a hundred times before they’re even legally allowed to drink – are sensational. In my experience they tend to be super open, to both rejection and love, because they come as a pair. Emotional gamblers, pursuing subtle flirtation with the conviction of some sort of intimacy gladiator. But, unless that comes naturally to you, you can’t force it.  As with everything in life, but especially your emotions, you’ve got to consider what you’re comfortable with.

A few days ago a friend asked when I was going to get round to dating someone seriously again and I felt that familiar pang of embarrassment – like FOMO with a sprinkling of shame. The truth is, I just really like being single. Not because I’m frigid, or want a different person every night, or have low self-esteem, or think I’m too good for that bloke who asked me out. I simply love being single because there is so much to love about it.

I don’t have to share anything; my money, my time, my bed, my pizza. I’ve got to know myself in incredible depth, because I’ve had to. I plan my weekends depending on what I want to do, I go to places I want to visit on holiday, I cook what I love for dinner every night. I know exactly what I’m lacking, and what a potential partner could give to make me a better person, but I also know that I’m enough. It’s a strong and sentimental statement, but it’s true. And I like to think this relationship with myself started during those relationship-less teenage years. I’m not scared of being single.

Ultimately relationships can be crazy, fun, sad, beautiful life experiences. But they’ve got to happen on your own terms. My advice would be: take the time to understand exactly what you feel comfortable with.

Because in the end, the only person you have to live with forever is yourself.

 Image: Getty

When I was 14, someone who was theoretically my friend passed a piece of paper around the class. It had the words “Petition to make Alice shut up” written across the top and an increasingly long list of signatures underneath.

It was the world’s worst register, wholly dedicated to me.

Every now and then I tell this story over dinner with friends and people laugh, because the idea of such petty classroom slacktivism is genuinely quite hilarious and teenagers do cruel, stupid things that prove to be funny in later life. I laugh too. Fortunately my life has improved in the years since then. If someone tried to make a petition about me now, I’d probably feel vaguely honoured and sign it myself under a few different comedy names.

That petition existed because the person who made it didn’t like me very much (shocker!) but, more, as the title would suggest, because I was loud, nerdy and said apparently lame, geeky things that, in adulthood, would probably be seen as assertive and interesting.

The petition failed. I didn’t shut up, and I still haven’t. My mouth still gets me in trouble, but it’s also got me my career and enough money to go and pay for those dinners with friends.

Because, at 14, my career experience was limited to babysitting and a simplistic personality test that suggested I should work in advertising, I didn’t realise that all of the nerdy traits I tried – and evidently failed – to hide on a daily basis would be the ones respected by grown-ups who have the ability to pay you money to do stuff you like doing.

Sometimes girls are told to shrink, although never that explicitly. It comes under the guise of being told to admire the skinny girls, to make less noise, to put up with boys when they’re being boorish and rude, to wear smaller clothes, be more mysterious, to take up less space.

Here are just some of the things about me that I felt ashamed of when I was at school: joining the debating club, using “big words”, doing revision, getting my homework done on time, doing part-time work, making sure there was a plan for the weekend, being keen to sort things out, finding out if people were coming to my birthday party, being organised, being on time, being too loud. Pretty much the standard ingredients of a nerd-flavoured cocktail.

Sometimes I’m still ashamed of those things – but all of them have stood me in really good stead as a grown-up. Here’s how:

Joining the debating club: knowing how to stand my corner, keep my cool and calmly explain why yes, I am right – whether that discussion is with a drunk man heckling me or a colleague.

Using “big words”: hello there, I’m a journalist now. I get paid for deploying these things.

Doing revision: I know how to prepare for everything from a job interview to a presentation at the last minute. Plus it meant I could pass university exams on three hours’ sleep and a hangover.

Getting my homework done: hi again, I’m a journalist. I get paid for writing things very quickly.

Doing part-time work: helped massively with the dawning realisation that sometimes we have to do things we hate in order to afford to eat.

Making sure there was a plan for the weekend: although the organisers of the fun will never be perceived to be as “cool” or “laidback” as those spontaneous types, everybody is grateful to have them around. Plus they organise the fun.

Being keen to sort things out: life is a lot more enjoyable if you can spend as little time as possible on stuff like bills, finding somewhere to live, yadda yadda yawn.

Finding out if people were coming to my birthday party: still a chore as an adult, but people are generally far more polite and excited about it.

Being organised: this is a gift many people struggle to attain.

Being on time: boring, yes, and you’ll spend a lot of time waiting for other people, but you will never* arrive somewhere sweaty and stressed.

Being too loud: literally the only people who think you’re too loud are you, and people who don’t like you enough.

I don’t know who your inner nerd is, but I can guarantee that she’s awesome. Maybe your inner nerd can understand maths like she’s breathing, or is fascinated by how stuff works. Perhaps your inner nerd is incredible at sorting things into rainbow order, or packing loads of stuff into her schoolbag. She might even know all the words to songs nobody else thinks are cool, or has a magical ability to get everyone together in the same place at the same time.

All of these things are as wonderful as the sound you make when you can’t stop laughing, or how you act when you’re with your best friend – even if you don’t think they’re cool. But one day, I promise, they will be, as will your inner nerd. I’d hedge a bet that you’ll be grateful that she’s there.

*I frequently arrive places sweaty and stressed. I wish I was more like 12-year-old me in this respect.

@alice_emily

Image: Manjit Thapp

Your first love is super exciting, guys. The butterflies when they text back, the electric shock when they hold your hand, the first kiss, the lets-get-married-and-have-babies feeling you can’t suppress. It’s slushy and exciting and all-consuming. You want to spend time with your shiny new boyfriend 24/7, right? But if there’s one rule I can teach you early on in the game of love, it’s not to sideline your bff.

Sure, they can’t gaze into your eyes over a chocolate sundae and make you melt inside and out, but they were there at the beginning of this wild romance, and they’ll be there at the end. Unless the married-and-have-babies thang comes true, in which case they’ll be right by your side at the wedding anyways, because CHIEF BRIDESMAID.

The first rule: it doesn’t have to be bff vs boyfriend. You might not be able to recreate Monica and Chandler’s super-cute r’ship with their pals in Friends (unless you’ve all been besties at school since day one) but there’s no harm in merging groups. Why can’t your girls and his guys come together in a big ball of joy and love? The answer is: they can. Just don’t be too PDA in public. There’s absolutely no fun to be had watching two people play tonsil tennis in the corner of Maccy D’s for three straight hours. Trust me, I’ve been there. Also, I’m pretty sure tongue exhaustion is a legit condition.

Next, mate dates. Make time to hang with your best friend and do not, I repeat, do not invite your new boyfriend along. Those few hours hanging out in your bedroom together trying out the latest braids or strolling round the shopping centre catching up on school goss are precious. Treat them with respect. Your boyfriend has no place here so tell him you’re a sassy, independent woman that needs some girl time.

Another rule to revise and memorise forever: if you’re on a mate date, PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN. I’m just gonna say it – it’s not nice if you’re ‘there’ but not really there. It can make your friend feel unimportant and second best if your hang-out consists of her sitting in silence while you send 196 WhatsApp messages to your boyf. Turn your phone on silent, pop it in your bag and gaze into her eyes over a chocolate sundae.

The lesson? You’ll always need your best friend to confide in so don’t cut them out. Whether you need a moan about the new ‘moustache’ your boyfriend’s trying out (bum-fluff is not a good look, guys) or a big, ugly cry at the fact he likes his computer games more than you, your bestie will always be there for you. Because friends are for life, not just for killing time between crushes…

@missblackmore

Image: Clueless

CRAP.

I mean, obviously that’s great. So great. For her. Couldn’t be more chuffed, obviously, because we’re basically the same person. Sisters from another mister. Soul mates. But…

CRAP. This is a disaster. I’m basically never going to see her again.

I’m going to die alone. Alone, old and friendless, after a life of solo Harry Potter marathons with no one even to share a tub of Phish Food with when Sirius dies.

Still, it’s early days. Could all be over by Christmas. After all, she’s never been entirely sold on his eyebrows, and they’re only going to grow closer together as time goes by…

Jeez, what am I saying?! I’m a MONSTER! This. Is. Good. News. In fact, it’s such good news I am going to Whatsapp her right now and INSIST we go to the cinema together, the three of us, so I can get to know him. If you can’t break ‘em, join ‘em, that’s what I say….

Or dinner. Yes maybe dinner is safer. Then I don’t have to listen to them making out halfway through Wonderwoman while I sit there trying to mask the sound of lip-on-lip action with my own aggressive munching on single-portion popcorn crying my own quiet tears…Oh GAD.

Woooahh, hang on. Why am I so stressed? It’s 2017. There is an all-female superhero on our movie screens. I’m not going to let a man, or the absence of a man, stand in the way of my own happiness. I’m an unconquerable warrior. I am Diana, princess of…

I. Am. So. ALOOOOOOONE.

Wait, maybe Bex’s bae has friends! Man friends! He could set me up with one of them, and then we can double date, and all make out in the cinema together!

I mean, not in that way, obvs. Five rows apart at least.

Joint weddings – are they a thing?

I’m going to ask her to ask him, for real. Let’s get this ball rolling. What’s that quote grandma says, about doors closing and windows opening? Just goes to show you.

Might look a bit desperate though, asking out the blue like that. Should probably get to know him before treating him like some kind of man vending machine.

Mmm, man vending machine. Why has nobody invented one of those yet?

They’ve probs got them in Japan, tbf. Maybe I should move there.

Wait, what if he hates me?

What if I hate HIM?

This is the beginning of the end. It starts with plastering couple selfies over Insta, and it ends in me peering through a church window at their nuptials, having been cancelled for revealing my true feelings ten years previously.

Damn! She’s just whatsapped me, demanding to see my face in Starbucks asap. Is it because she can hear my thoughts? Oh. No. She wants some girl time. Some friend time. Some ‘me and her’ time.

I am an idiot. THIS ships’s for life – boy or no boy.

@clare_finney

Image: Mean Girls

The end of school is nigh, and all of a sudden you feel like you’ve got 100 decisions to make. What do I want to do with my life? Do I want to go to college, or uni, or do I want to get stuck straight into work? It’s easy to feel lost when you don’t know what you want to do, or how to get there.

But while you have literally your whole life to make up your mind, a little bit of good advice can go a long way. So with that in mind, in a series of interviews, we’re speaking to women who’ve ‘made it’, and asking their advice on how to follow in their footsteps.

This month, we speak to Regula Ysewijn, a food photographer and writer.

What actually *is* your job?

I am a food writer, photographer and author. I also do a lot of judging, so for the Great Taste Awards, the World Cheese Awards which is great, and also the Belgian version of The Great British Bake Off. So there are different aspects to what I do, but it’s all about food.

How did you get into it?

The cooking came first, because I always wanted to eat lovely things. Then, when I was travelling, I would take pictures of whatever I was eating, and make a note of where you could buy nice food and great places to eat in a blog, but it was only really for myself. Then after a while, people began to read it. I thought, what is this? All of a sudden I had a proper food blog, so I started to put more effort into my writing and my photography, cooking more. So for me it all started with a love of food, and wanting to capture and remember it.

What’s the coolest part of your job?

I enjoy meeting different people and experiencing different cultures. Every single time I do a shoot, I learn so much. Having people open up to me and capturing their lives in a unique way is a privilege.

What are the bad parts?

A lot of people do not want to pay the price. It’s a big problem, not just for photographers and writers but also graphic designers, illustrators and artists. There’s a lot of competition, so sometimes you don’t get the job because somebody is offering to do it cheaper. Sometimes you have a hard time getting paid what you deserve.

The Big Question: uni, or no uni? 

A course or qualification might be handy to learn about things like composition, but the photographers I know are hugely self-taught—I suppose if you can why not, it’s always good to learn, but I would suggest people just get their camera, photograph every day and practise, practise, practise. You do not really need to go to school, it’s more about time and willpower. You have to be passionate about it, that’s the first rule. It’s a good idea to start a blog—it doesn’t have to be writing, it can just be photos. It’s always good to have a portfolio of sorts, and it’s good for that not to be static; for the blog to be alive and updated constantly. It’s a great way to show your work and personality.

I studied art in high school and as part of that we did four hours of photography a week, but it was still analogue back then and it was too expensive for my parents to pay for all the things connected to photography. I got a job working as a graphic designer, doing my blog on the side. I think the skills I learned as a graphic designer have definitely come in handy.

So, do you have to be a fancy chef?

You don’t have to be a chef or anything but you do really need to understand food—how to play with the light, for example, and what to take into account. We do not use shoe polish and all kinds of stuff anymore, it is real food, so you need to have everything set up correctly so that you can photograph a dish immediately. Often you see people who don’t have that experience will leave the food on the set too long and by that time, it’s wilted and horrible. Every photographer has their own field, either food or portrait or landscape—it’s not a given that if you can do, one you can do the other.

What’s your fave food to cook (and eat)? 

That’s a really hard question. I enjoy oxtail stew, things that are slow to cook. I also love to make bolognese ragu, because I know I am really good at it! Every time I make and eat it I am a little bit proud. I make such a stunning bolognese! I don’t like complicated cooking: I like good, honest food.

If you were to give one piece of advice to your 14-year-old self, what would it be?

I think I would say, do exactly the same as you are doing! I was lucky enough to figure out what I wanted to do very early in life and I have managed to make the right choices. My one regret is not going abroad to study something or to live and work but then again, if I did that I would never have met my husband. I think I would say to myself, you’re obviously having a hard time because you’re a teenager, but follow your passion and do not compromise on that. Keep on going, always follow your dream, even if you don’t have the money—it’s because of my passion that I am where I am today.

@EllieCostigan

Image: Getty/Katie Edmunds

Don’t tell anyone, but I secretly loved exam season. I mean it, this stays between you and me – no spreading it, because I have a reputation to protect. But it’s true. I loved it. The flashcards, the cram sessions, that weird purple lump you get on your middle finger from writing too hard; I sheepishly, shamefully adored it all.

I pretended to hate it, obviously, to be normal. You’re supposed to hate exams, just like you’re supposed to hate Mondays, and kale. I whinged along with everyone else for three solid months, weeping ostentatiously over revision timetables and yelling “LET IT AAALLL BE OOOOOVER” doomfully into a pillow every time my parents popped their head round the door to bring me some sympathy biscuits – but really I was lapping it all up like a muggle Hermione Granger, giddy on all the knowledge.

Why did I love exam season? It’s hard to explain, really. You can’t choose what your heart falls in love with; every rom-com ever written has taught us that (and by ‘rom-com’ I obviously mean the Jane Austen novels and associated York Notes that I binged on for GCSE English). But I think part of it had to do with the sunshine. Exam season traditionally brings the most beautiful weather of the year, because, to quote Shakespeare, life is a bitch. And traditionally, in turn, this leaves everyone between the age of 15 and 21 waving their fists angrily at the sky because they know the moment they put their pen down on the final paper, it’ll start pissing it down solidly until October. But in my memory, those balmy May days were all dreamy and peaceful, bathed in golden light like an episode of Made in Chelsea.

Revising outside on the field, or in the park, or on the beach (I’m sorry, we had a beach, but if it helps it was only pebbles) made the whole thing feel a bit special. It was exhilarating walking home in the sun afterwards, school jumpers tied round our waists, Twister lolly in our non-cramping hand, feeling a little bit lighter with each subject that was ticked off the list.

I liked the camaraderie of exam season (incidentally I also learned the word ‘camaraderie’ during exam season). It was Blitz spirit (ditto), all of you in it together, slightly stir crazy and doing whatever it took to survive. Need to hang off your friend’s bed upside-down for 45 minutes singing the theme tune to Balamory in French and pretend it’s revision? Naturellement. Need to stop to make a daisy chain headdress once an hour, every hour? You go for it, Lady of Shallott.

There were the invigilators; a rag-tag troupe of cheery strangers, all smiling and talking in soothing voices and reminding you that whatever happened in the next couple of hours, the world would probably keep turning and you probably wouldn’t die.

I loved the finality of it too. Coursework was different – that dragged on for weeks and weeks, taking bits of your soul with it. But with exams it was over in three hours; bish, bash, bosh. What was done was done, and there was no point thinking about it anymore because you couldn’t change it anyway. When that person came out who wanted to pick through every question like a misery vulture, you could shove your fingers in their ears, yell “LALALALA” in their face and run away.

But the bit of exam season I loved most, obviously, was the end of exam season. All the stress was worth it for that feeling, walking out of the final exam hall: as though a huge cloud of balloons were hoisting your spirit up, up and away, the rest of the summer stretching away before you like a sheet of pure, perfect blue sky.

Like I say though, I’m a weirdo. It’s probably just me. Also – and don’t tell anyone this either or I swear I’ll hurt you – I quite like kale.

@laurenbravo