Collage by Emma D.

Collage by Emma D.

Beth, 18, ADORES (and is therefore a little mean to) Alana, 19. They are from Manchester, England, and have been friends since they were four years old, which should really warrant a certificate of some kind. These two have each other’s backs to the utmost, and OH MY GOD they are fun. You’ll see.

TO: [email protected]
FROM: Beth
SUBJECT: Friend Crush

I first met Alana in primary school, when I was four years old. We used to eat lunch together every day, which always included an Innocent Smoothie and a Happy Hippo. We’d always share and make “schools” with them (hard to explain, but it involves the excess nut/chocolate bits from the hippos being grouped in the smoothies). During high school we drifted into different friendship groups but maintained a thread of contact. We regrouped again in sixth form WITH A VENGEANCE. Re-contact was made because of our daily hour-long drama class, which was sometimes absolutely torturous, and which we’d lament over together. Further bonds were made over (500) Days of Summer, leopard-print vinyl skirts, and a love of everyday red lipstick.

She is a funky offish icon with a love for faux fur (always faux) and turtlenecks. She is literally the best dresser I’ve ever met, and if I’ve got an important event to go to (actually scratch that, just dressing for everyday life) I ALWAYS think, “What would Alana wear?” She’s the friend who you’re mean to and who’s mean to you—I don’t know why, but it always makes me laugh. I suppose not a lot of people think insults are funny, but we do, which is one of the reasons why we’re friends! She always convinces me to go out and do things that I am afraid of (which is quite a lot, I’m quite hesitant about taking risks), and I’m so glad that she does because she’s always right.

We used to see each other seven hours a day, then go home and FaceTime for two hours. Now I’m in London for university and she’s in our hometown applying to drama schools and getting ready to take over the world with her acting skillzzzz. I think we are mint (that is slang in Manchester for “insanely cool”). This gal is so the best. Honestly.

Lots and lots of love,

ROOKIE: Hi, Beth! How are you?

BETH: Hi! I’m fine.

Where are you right now?

I’m in London. I’m studying English at Queen Mary’s University, which is basically the one thing I have going for me at the moment [Laughs].

Ha! I loved your email about Alana. I’m curious about the game with the Innocent Smoothies and the Happy Hippos?

Alana and I would always have Innocent Smoothies in our lunch bags. They’re the kind of smoothies with a straw and really bad jokes on the back. Smoothie would drip out of the straws, and the drops became our “school.” We’d bring Happy Hippos every day, but if one of us forgot, we’d share. We’d make “students” with the crumbs of the Happy Hippos, and put them in the smoothies and move them from “classroom” to “classroom.” Really, it was just a messy eating situation. But a lot of nuts were educated as a result of our little school.

Beth, in the foreground, and Alana, to her left, in the Happy Hippo days.

Beth, in the foreground, and Alana, to her left, in the Happy Hippo days.

Tell me about the part of Manchester that you and Alana come from.

We’re from Greater Manchester, technically. On the outskirts. It’s the suburbs forever. It’s small, and I want to say it’s kinda small-minded? So if you do something out of the norm, in any way, it’s a shock to the system for a lot of people. That’s why it’s so incredible that Alana wears the incredible outfits that she does. It’s a form of rebellion. It’s not average wear. You can get funny looks like, “How fancy d’you think you are?” kind of thing.

How come you two weren’t such close friends in high school?

Mainly because we were in different forms [classes], and our forms were never grouped together for activities. We never had any lessons together, until English class. Then we’d sit with each other and gossip. That was when we started becoming friends again, but apart from that class, we still didn’t see each other much until sixth form. Our school was so cliquey that if you changed friendship groups…it was like everything would fall apart!

Once you got to sixth form you were in drama class together. Did you ever do scenes with each other?

Our drama teacher knew we were friends, so she’d always pair us up with other people. But in the plays, we were often principal characters. We did Othello, and I played Emilia, and Alana was playing Desdemona. There’s this line where Emilia’s dying, and she asks to be put by Desdemona’s dead body. In rehearsal, the guys would carry me over to Alana, and I’d lay there and stroke her face, and look at her adoringly, when I was meant to be dead. And there was this boy in our drama class who I liken to Pete Campbell, from Mad Men. Do you know Mad Men?

Yes. Pete is UGH.

Yes, well, we’ll call this guy in my drama class Pete Campbell. Pete thought he was the dog’s bollocks at acting, when in reality, not so much. He was very obnoxious. There was this other boy who was sweet, and a better actor than Pete, but Pete Campbell would always snidely put him down. That did not hold well with me and Alana. I held myself at a distance from him, and at lunch Alana and I would be like “Ugh, this is what he did today.” There was something every day with him, he just could never take a day off from being a Pete Campbell. I need to get her to watch Mad Men so that she’ll understand this comparison!

In your email, you mentioned that you sometimes ask yourself “What would Alana wear?” when you’re getting dressed. Does the way she dresses give you confidence to dress how you want to?

Two hundred percent, she gives me extra confidence. I love it. Now, I like when somebody looks at me strangely, and then says “That’s a really nice skirt, where did you get it?” It feels like I’ve won! I thrive off it. I never felt like Alana and I were dressing for our area. We weren’t dressing for the girls that we were, or the girls that people from our area expected us to become. We were dressing for who we wanted to be. Which, I know, it sounds small and so shallow, but it wasn’t. It was our small, small form of rebellion. Alana puts things together so well! On New Year’s Eve she wore this orange crop top, kind of like a ribbed texture, that had a V-neck and was slightly off the shoulder. She paired it with a vinyl, leopard-print, just-above-knee-length pencil skirt, and I can’t remember what shoes she was wearing, but it was New Year’s so probably heels. She looked like the shit. It was great.

It sounds like you have really similar taste in clothes?

We have a joke that we’re basically the same person! Maybe we’d be the perfect body shape if we merged our bodies. She has a really nice bum, and I have boobs. It’s true that we have similar taste. I went shopping the other day and bought this black skirt. Later, I texted Alana about it, and she texted back: “I have the exact same skirt.” In sixth form, we had to text each other in the morning to see what the other person was wearing. Too many times, we’d get to school and be wearing the same thing. [Laughs]

What did you do if that happened?

One day it happened, and I remember she just looked at me, sighed, and said, “Why didn’t you text me?” I think she started keeping clothes in her locker so that she could change her top if she needed to.

What other similarities do you share that make your friendship easier?

We come from quite similar families. Alana was raised just by her mum. My parents divorced when I was 11, and so even though I talk to my dad a lot, I’m very close to my mum. We’re both very close to our mums, and if I call Alana and say I miss my mum, she gets it. We both have step-siblings who are 10 or more years older than us, so she understands how those relationships can be difficult, too.

Are there things you talk to Alana about that you don’t talk to other people about?

Yes, everything! [Laughs] The disgusting stuff, and private stuff about sex and toilet humor. If I said some of the things I said to Alana to anybody else, they’d look at me as if I had three heads. Not a lot of people are on board with that, but Lan definitely is. I tell her about all my family things, and I don’t tell many people about my family issues. She tells me about all of hers. We also FaceTime on the toilet. Once we were FaceTiming—she’s gonna kill me for telling you this!—and someone knocked on my door. It was my friend, he came in, and I obviously introduced them. When he left she was so angry, like, “Why did you introduce me to him when I’m on the toilet!?” It was so funny. He probably didn’t even notice, though!

Maybe he just thought she was in the kitchen or something!

[Laughs] Maybe! Honestly, I don’t think he noticed, but she was angry with me!

I love that you two make fun of each other, and have, like, a “mean” friendship.

Oh, it’s such a relief! It’s like, we can just be harsh to each other. We’ll tell each other to shut up. Sometimes if I text her and she doesn’t text back, I’ll bombard her with texts. And then, instead of just replying to my message, she’ll write me a text that just says “Are you finished?” It’s very funny. We also discuss our petty hatreds.

Do you guys have a lot of common enemies?

[Laughs] OH! YES. Absolutely. Just so many. A lot of the time, it’s just people who’ve done petty things to us. You know when you have a dislike for somebody, and you can’t put your finger on why, you just know that you do, and the reason you don’t like them usually presents itself in time? Well, if one of us has an inkling like that, even if the other is on the fence about it, we’ll both dislike the person because the reason will show itself eventually.

That’s amazing that you trust each other’s instincts about people.

Definitely. They always come up to be correct.

Do you have nicknames for each other?

Not really. I just call her “Larn.” Also, my name is Beth, and my last name starts with a J, so there’s “BJ,” of course. It’s a horrible legacy my parents left me. She had a friend in high school who I didn’t really like, I thought she was a bad egg, and she used to call Alana “Banana,” and Alana would call her “Olive.” So part of me really doesn’t want to do that because I don’t want to associate our friendship with their friendship.

[Gets a text from Alana, laughs, and starts again with—]

OK. Alana just texted me saying that she’s gonna try and work at the Hooters in Nottingham. Like, that’s it. No other context. [Laughs]

Ha! Do you share clothes?

Not really, because we’re really different sizes. But you know sometimes they sell bikinis, the top and the bottom together, as a size 8 or size 10. And it’s like, well you’re not the same size top and bottom. So if there’s a bikini that we both particularly like, we’ll buy the 10 and the 14, and I’ll have the size 14 top, and the size 10 bottoms, and she’ll have the size 10 top and size 14 bottoms. And it works out great for everyone.

That’s exactly the kind of functionality friendship should provide.

That’s the definition in my dictionary.