There’s a strange, unofficial law of puberty that says all the big, life-changing, gross-out experiences have to happen to you on holiday.

Sometimes on Guides camp, during sports day or at the incredibly posh wedding of a distant relative – but mainly, usually, on holiday. Because hey, even the sneaky gremlins of adolescence love a day at the beach! It’s just a shame they have to gatecrash your jolly hols rather than packing off on their own.

Picture the scene: I am 12, and on holiday with my family. In Belgium. Normally this would be enough trauma to be going on with, but because the universe is sometimes the actual worst, I also had my period.

Not my first period – that had arrived in a dramatic mudslide of brown goo one day at school, followed by a sticky five hours walking around concerned I had pooed myself without realising – but an early one Before they had settled into a reliable routine; when my period was still turning up unannounced, like a neighbour who won’t take the hint and then stays and eats all your best biscuits.

Up till now I had been welcoming. I had rolled out sanitary pads like a red carpet each time my uterus lining decided to drop by. But now – now, I was on holiday and I didn’t want a period, thanks. I wanted to go swimming. And I couldn’t do it with a big white lilo in my pants.

So there were two options: either give up and mooch about by the pool all week like a sad, bleeding fun sponge – or find another type of sanitary soaker-upper. As MC Hammer might have said while breakdancing on my achey uterus, STOP! Tampon time.

My mum was a long-time tampon fan, and only too happy to hand over a box for me to have a go. They were non-applicator, because that was the type she’d always used, and so it was that I found myself, quite literally, in at the deep end. Squatting, as per the box instructions, in the holiday chalet bathroom, boldly going to parts of my body that no finger had ever gone before.

First I unwrapped a tampon, gave the string a cautious yank. It looked like a make-up applicator, or a tiny friendly mouse puppet. I took a deep breath, did my very best full plié (if all those years of ballet classes hadn’t turned me into a modern day Anna Pavlova, they could at least give me the thigh strength to ram a tampon in successfully), and prodded it in the vague direction of the blood. In went the tip. Easy! Like plugging a leak. Or that song, about the guy with the hole in his bucket.  

I stood up, triumphant. I was a tampon-wearer! I was a vaginal victor! I was… nope, I was in pain.

Ow. I moved around, testing things out. OW. Owwowwoww. I sat down. OWW. Was this… right? Surely not. How was I meant to swim if I could barely walk? The leaflet said I shouldn’t feel it at all. My mum never said it would hurt. All those carefree ladies on the adverts leaping through meadows and riding horses while wearing white trousers didn’t look like they were wincing every time they took a step. Were they grinning through gritted teeth? Were ALL women? WOULD I BE FOREVER CONFINED TO A LIFE OF FANNY PAIN?

No, my mum confirmed when she found me whimpering in my swimsuit, drowning my sorrows in a packet of Belgium’s finest paprika snack nuts. It was not supposed to hurt.

It was, though, supposed to be inside my vagina – properly inside, rather than the place I had lodged it, hanging halfway out as though my labia was smoking a little white cigar. For that tampon to do its best tamponing, she explained cheerfully through the bathroom door, it needed to be completely hidden where the sun didn’t shine.  

I had to boldly go further. I yanked it out by the string, unwrapped a fresh one and took another deep breath.

With two more attempts and a lot of what can only be described as ‘tampon yoga’, I discovered with wonder what so many girls had discovered before me: that your vagina, like the TARDIS, is far bigger on the inside than it appears. It goes all the way back! And up! My first tampon had been sat in the doorway when there was a whole… corridor to conquer!

Finally, it was in. Actually in. And once that third-attempt tampon settled into its proper home, I realised that it wasn’t a lie – I couldn’t feel it. At all. Nothing to see here, folks, just a girl totally in control of her menstrual fluids!

Not even going headfirst down the flume with a swimsuit wedgie could diminish my aura of physical achievement. It might not have made the photo album or the ‘What I did on my holiday’ essay, but it was a golden memory nonetheless. I was a tampon-wearer! A vaginal victor! Yes.

Image: Hailey Hamilton

I am about to break a silence that has lasted some eighteen years. I am about to tell you something I have never told my best friends. I have never told my mother. I have never told a doctor.

Are we all ready?

When I was a teenager, for a while I had a bad thing happening in my nipular area. I don’t know how long it lasted, all I remember is that it felt like years.

Here are the basic details:

I have had eczema all my life. When I was a kid, it only ever showed up in my elbows and behind my knees and the doctor told me I’d probably grow out of it. Oh, doctor. You sweet, naive fool, if only you had been right. I think of that alternate-universe Janina, from time to time. The Janina who can buy moisturiser freely and without fear, experimenting with joy instead of sticking with that one brand that seems to work consistently most of the time (Aveeno, by the way). She must be so happy.

While the rashy patches on my legs and arms did fade, they were replaced by weirder, more painful, less predictable rashes literally everywhere else. When the weather is hot, for example, I get pompholyx on my hands and the soles of my feet. This particular brand of eczema consists of tiny, itchy blisters that recently saw me tear my shoes off mid-exercise and clutch my feet in agony. My shoulders, neck and back are popular sites also, which can make wearing a bra downright painful.

But nothing has ever been so bad as the Year of the Nip.

It started slowly. A weeping crack here, a weeping crack there. First the left nipple, then the right. Eventually, the peaks atop my boobs were more weeping crack than nipple. Literally a pair of open sores on my chest.

It was unpleasant.

They would dry onto the fabric of my clothes and I’d rip them open every time I got changed. So I put plasters on them, obviously. But friends, my nipples were too much for your common-or-garden plaster. I had to find an upgrade.

It is at this point that a doctor might have been able to help me. Doctors are good at helping with this kind of thing. But I was young and embarrassed and I couldn’t figure out how I would tell anyone what was happening in the secret confines of my underwire.

So I MacGyvered a solution. I chopped a sanitary pad in half, and put a half in each cup. I slathered them in emollient cream and prayed for salvation. It wasn’t perfect. They would slide around sometimes. I would find one making an escape towards my cleavage, and be flooded with fear that someone had seen it poking out from my t-shirt.

The thing here is, that it was happening elsewhere as well. Specifically, to my lips. I’d had to take a full two weeks off school, because my face had basically exploded – I had conjunctivitis, a cold sore that made my jaw swell to three times its size, and lip-eczema that had left my lips so raw they had – brace yourselves – scabbed themselves shut.

You would think that, given all the highly visible grossness that was happening one floor up, it wouldn’t have been too difficult to say, ‘oh, hey, also my boobs are revolting right now!’ But sometimes it’s difficult to talk about boobs, in that kind of way.

We can talk about cleavage and cup size, of course, we can talk about plunge and balcony and lace and underwire, and how few people wear the right size bra. We can talk about how to feel for lumps – in theory, at least. But talking about things being really wrong in that area is scary. Or if it’s not scary it’s shameful.

There is one thing every teenage girl knows to be true: boobs are important. Apparently. They mean you’re growing up, they are the most obvious thing that might make you desirable – if something goes wrong with them, does that mean you no longer are?

Added to that is the fact that we only hear about things going wrong with boobs if it’s really serious, so when you think about boob health, the first, terrifying, thing you think of is cancer. But little things can go wrong too. No one talks about the infected ingrown hair they once had on their left breast, or all the other small problems that might seem huge at the time.

The happy ending here is that, eventually, my disgusting nipples healed. I am still scared they’ll come back, of course, but if they do I think I might just be brave enough to go to the doctor about it.

And for a silver lining, after all that, periodically plucking out long black nipple hairs doesn’t seem like that big a deal at all.

@j9andlf

It all started with a cake. More specifically, a period cake. When we first saw BuzzFeed’s story about about the treat that 12-year-old Brooke Lee received to mark her first period, there were, er, mixed reactions.

“Brilliant,” piped Lauren. “Eurgggggh,” cringed Lily. And so the battle lines were drawn. With Lauren standing firmly in the ‘this is lovely camp’ and Lily committed to the idea that the whole thing is just plain weird.

Here are our best arguments for and against period cake. Let the best woman win.

Lauren says… period positivity? It’s a piece of cake! 

I’ll be honest – when I saw Brooke Lee’s viral period cake, my first thought was “mm, cake.”

I love cake. I do not love periods, but there’s very little you could ice in sugar on a nice hunk of carbs that wouldn’t have me reaching for knife and a napkin. So I am ultimately pro-cake, for almost any occasion, including the very first time your uterine lining decides to make a grand entrance.

yes-cake

But once you scratch the buttercreamy surface and look at the idea beneath Brooke’s mom’s menses party buffet, I kind of love it even more. Sure, a period cake is a squirmingly public gesture that not everybody would be comfortable with – but isn’t that just because society still tells us periods are something to be whispered about behind closed bathroom doors rather than talked about at family parties? You have to wonder: if period cakes and period parties became a regular, run-of-the-mill thing, how long would it be before that stigma disappeared and we also felt more confident talking about our cycles, carrying tampons to the bathroom instead of stuffing them up our sleeves, and looking after ourselves when PMS hits instead of forcing ourselves to carry on as normal and then ending up a tired, mopey heap?

And it’s not just girls’ confidence levels. I also love, LOVE, the idea that period cakes and parties might encourage boys and men to get comfy talking about menstruation too, right from the off. We could even withhold their piece of the red velvet until they’re able to discuss the topic without cringing or wincing. “No fatherly advice, no slice!” – that could be the motto.

Some might think that the ‘hoorah!’ element of the period party is weird. You could argue that for something that affects 50% of the population, something that millions of women are just casually getting on with at any given time, making a big song and dance about it is patronising, or missing the whole point – it’s natural, not novel. And I get that, I do. But even if the balloons-out approach isn’t right for every girl or every family, we can’t deny it’s refreshingly positive. At betty, we’re all about find ways to make your period nicer. It’s our whole thing. So why not make a first period a lovely, exciting moment rather than a death sentence for your days of clean pants and stress-free swimming sessions? Wouldn’t we all feel a little less anxious about puberty if our parents’ reaction was celebration, not commiseration?

Besides, maybe if we embraced period parties for a few years, we might get to a point where everyone was so positive about periods that we didn’t feel we needed them anymore. It’s a personal choice – but a little fun and joy can’t hurt, right? Because when it comes to feeling confident about our bodies, we should be able to have our cake and eat it too.

Lily says… it’s not a party, it’s just a part of life 

On the surface, I should LOVE this idea. I love cake; I love chocolate cake and carrot cake and if it’s all that’s going, I’ll even take a bite of a fruit cake. And I love celebrations; I can get excited for almost any occasion, cat birthdays, regular human birthdays, 4- month anniversaries, you name it, I’m there in a party hat.

But I draw my line at a period cake. Not a cake made of actual period blood (though let’s be real, it’s probably a matter of time until that happens), but a cake designed exclusively to celebrate a girl’s first period. This is partly because of intelligent, well-reasoned arguments, and partly based on my own personal taste.

no-cake

Periods are a totally natural part of life. Like cutting your toenails or getting a pimple. These aren’t things that I love, but nor are they things I feel embarrassed to talk about – which, in my opinion, is all that periods need to be.

My period utopia world would simply be a place where women don’t slip tampons up their sleeves or men don’t clam up or say ‘that’s gross’ when someone mentions the word period. I want a world where tampons aren’t taxed as a luxury good and everyone has access to sanitary products. Where my brother is just as comfortable as I am buying tampons at the supermarket and my dad doesn’t use the phrase ‘women’s problems’. Periods are a totally natural and normal part of being a woman, so I think they should be treated with the same sort of semi-fascinated interest with which we treat our first pimple. This isn’t a party, it’s just a part of life. And I don’t think that requires cake.

Those are my sensible reasons. But, just a heads up, my argument is about to veer into “just because” territory. The first thing I thought when I saw the cake was: “If my mother invited my friends around for a party and had a cake made with ‘Congrats on your period’ written on it in red icing (!) I would have disowned her.”

I get that it’s thoughtful and sweet but your first period is a personal thing. I liked telling my friends when I was ready. I liked being able to get used to the concept that I now bled once a month in my own time, without everyone already knowing about it. I liked that my mum didn’t make a big deal of it, but rather handed me a tampon and reassured me that it was nothing to be afraid of.

By turning your first period to a party, I think you’re setting young women up to think that this is going to be a fun experience. But it’s not. In reality periods are a 2-9 day event where you often ruin a pair of your pants and you want to eat your body weight in chocolate. And that’s fine. That’s natural. And isn’t that what this whole thing is about?

What do YOU think? Period cakes, yay or noooo? Tweet us at @bettycollective, tell us on Facebook or comment on Instagram!  

Image: Twitter:@autumn1shea

“To err is human,” wrote Alexander Pope in his poem An Essay On Criticism. He was talking about the flawed frailty of the mortal condition, but let’s be honest – he may as well have been about getting your WhatsApp groups muddled. Or DM-ing something bitchy to the person it’s about. Or accidentally liking your crush’s Instagram from 78 weeks ago.

We can’t have been the only ones who got VERY excited at the recent news that we might soon be able to edit and delete WhatsApp messages after they’ve been sent (thank you, merciful social media gods!), or who’ve watched a whole friendship go up in flames because someone hit the ‘live’ button when they really, really shouldn’t have. But hey, let’s comfort ourselves with the knowledge that we’ve all done it (without Ed Balls tweeting his own name that one time in 2011, we wouldn’t have Ed Balls Day, your favourite national holiday after Christmas).

And once the initial burning humiliation fades, what you’re left with is a really, really good anecdote… Here are our faves.

“I tried to stalk someone I thought had deleted me on Facebook, but instead of searching their name I accidentally posted their name as my status. It was there for two whole days before I noticed.”

“Accidentally sent a picture reading ‘I LOVE YOU’ on FB messenger to someone I didn’t know very well.”

“In my first “proper” job I accidentally live tweeted my entire holiday to Japan from my work (GOVERNMENT!) Twitter account.”

“I received an unexpected Snapchat from my ex and in my mild (such an understatement) excitement I pulled a horrifying face that no one should really have to see, to send to my best friend proclaiming that he’d messaged. I sent it to him instead.”

“A friend was showing me an old FB message (from someone inappropriate who had been trying to pick her up), but sent them a massive thumbs-up emoji by accident.”

“Casual Sunday night stalking session on Instagram. I was new to iPhone and not used to the fact that iPhones don’t have the double tap to zoom on everything function… so I ended up liking a picture of the slightly less-than-sane girlfriend of someone I kind of know. Obvs I quickly unliked it, and she quickly made her profile private.”

“My BFF and I spent half an hour writing the perfect message to the guy she liked. After multiple drafts, we composed the *perfect* message; funny and flirty and totally easy breezy. In our excitement, we accidentally sent him one of the drafts and the final version. Easy breezy my arse.”

“Pulling a stupid face that really didn’t capture my best angles, which I meant to send to my bff but instead accidentally ended up adding to my Snapchat story.”

“A very nice boyfriend of mine who I was getting bored of sent me a v. long message lamenting that I’d been off with him for a while. I screenshotted the message and sent it to a friend saying “Oh no, he knows I want to dump him. What should I do?!”. But I sent it to the boyfriend by accident. Problem solved.”

“I once typed a long-winded excuse to cancel plans with someone later that day, but sent it instead of saving it – making my totally made-up excuse entirely implausible.”

“A boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend was stalking my Facebook and accidentally sent me a friend request. I asked him who she was, he asked her and THAT’S how she found out that she had sent the request. I assume she is dead from embarrassment now. Or living in a cave in the desert away from the internet forever.”

“In an exchange with a friend on Twitter I made a casual, bitchy reference to someone we went to school with years and years ago. Had no idea at all that she followed us both… until she replied to us both within five minutes. Ack.”

“I asked someone I really fancied about their recent trip to Wales. The only place they had mentioned the trip was in a long Twitter conversation with someone who I did not know at all. They looked confused, and I said ‘Oh, I think I’ve got you mixed up with someone else! Hahahahaha!’ BUT WE BOTH KNEW.”

“My boyfriend’s ex once followed me on Twitter – for three seconds. Sucks to be her.” 

“Messaged a friend saying ‘You can’t tell ANYONE… but Suzanne thinks she’s pregnant’. Then sent it (you guessed it) to Suzanne.”

 

 

Despite using calendars and tracking apps, I’m not always absolutely sure when my menses is on the way. Sometimes it takes me by surprise. I’ll be out minding my own business and suddenly be aware of a… dampening.

You know, the curious, sticky sensation that makes you worry that not only has your period turned up by surprise, but it’s also making the sort of entrance that RuPaul might deem too flamboyant for Drag Race.

When that happens, here’s what’s going through my mind. And your mind. Probably.

1. Gosh, my bum feels sweaty! Maybe it’s these tights…

2. Or…

3. Oh no, oh no, oh no!

4. There must be PINTS of blood down there already. Enough to fill a milk bottle! Or a Coke bottle! How can I sneak out and deal with this?

5. Just going to check on the App store to see if there’s anything in teleportation.

6. They have an app that tells you, TO THE SECOND, when it’s going to stop raining, but not one that will magic me from my chair to the toilet. MODERN TECHNOLOGY IS POINTLESS.

7. When I get up, the force of the blood is going to lift me straight to the ceiling. Like I’m sitting on a bust fire hydrant. As if I’m starring in a remake of Do The Right Thing meets Carrie.

8. I’m wearing white pants. Why would I ever wear white pants? Why do I even own white pants?

9. I bet it’s all over my jeans.

10. I bet it’s over the chair.

11. How can I get period blood off a chair without anyone noticing? Will I have to break into the building at night with a tub of Vanish, and tights over my head?

12. I wonder if I can slide my hand under my bum and check how bad the damage is.

13. It’s got through! It’s happened! It’s… oh, it’s a bit of pink felt tip.

14. Maybe I could drop to my knees and silently roll across the floor, like an unseen ninja, and the force of my propelling body would stop the blood from gushing everywhere.

15. Or I’ll get stuck with my rear end in the air and give everyone a prolonged view of my blood-soaked crotch.

16. Can I slowly, slowly edge to the side of the room, and then scuttle out sideways like a crab? I think I can.

17. I don’t have any tampons on me. Or change for the machine. I could message someone when I’m there… but my phone has 8 per cent battery.

18. I guess I’ll just have to live in the toilet.

19. Right, up and clench, and clench. Channel the crab, the menstrual icon of the sea. You’re on a mission to the other side of the seabed, defending your pearls…. ah, no, that might be oysters.

20. This must be good for my bum, all the clenching. Maybe I’ll patent this technique as an exercise movement. I could be Instagram famous! The Period Power Workout!

21. Phew. Safe in the toilet. Now to face the mess, clean up, and… oh.

Just a sweaty bum after all, then.

Kermit the Frog screaming gif

@NotRollergirl

Image: Kate Forster

Oh life, you fickle creature. One minute, you’re feeling on top of the world, the next you’ve fallen arse over tit at the Oscars while the whole world is watching on TV – or at least later on YouTube (sorry to bring that up again J. Law, it’s just such a great example). 

In the interests of unpicking perfection, we asked everyone at betty to give share their biggest life fails… and oh boy, they didn’t disappoint. So anytime you feel like you’ve screwed up at life, remember: we’ve probably done worse.

In fact, we definitely have.

I was doing a big race in the summer, running downhill and fell over a big rock. I went flying and landed with a thud and multiple injuries, one of which was a massive cut on my bum. I then had to wait for the medics, who made me lie on the floor while the guy stuck my bum back together, shouting to passers-by, ‘don’t worry, she’s just broken her bum’, while my friend took pictures.

“Having desperately wanted to play the Angel Gabriel in the my whole childhood (I went to a progressive primary school where all the boys had to be angels and the girls had to be shepherds, which I now appreciate was pretty cool but at the time I was mainly, shamefully, concerned with the amount of glitter on my costume), my dream eventually came true when I got to be Gabriel in a nativity play at high school. Aged 16. I wore a rather slinky cream satin bridesmaid’s dress with feathered wings, a majestic halo and a tonne of pearly highlighter. I felt amazing. But when the time came to make my entrance and tell Mary her big news, I managed to step on the trailing hem of my dress as I mounted the podium. I plunged headfirst through the curtain, managing to simultaneously yank down the top of my dress and reveal an eyeful of my celestial bodies to the assembled audience. The silence was only broken by the headteacher calling out “oh look, a fallen angel!” – to my knowledge the only joke she’d ever made. Really glad I handed her that special moment.”

The first time I dyed my hair red I was about 12 and had not factored in how thick my hair was when we bought only one box of dye. By the time she’d done my roots there was barely anything left for the rest of my hair. We hoped for the best, but I ended up with bright red roots, two inches of red, and pale brown hair until the ends. And I had to go to school for a day until we could re-dye it the next night. Everyone called me ‘period head’, because it looked like someone had had their period on my head (we had a bad grasp of biology back then).

“One summer Saturday when I was about 13, my friend and I decided that the only way to deal with the heat was to go to the local pool – and it turned out that my crush and his friend had the same idea. I was desperate to impress him, so I decided to jump off the highest diving platform to get his attention, even though I’m horrendously scared of heights. After crying and hyperventilating my way up the ladder, I summoned the courage to jump and immediately regretted it. The force of the passing air pushed my bikini top up around my chin, and as soon as I hit the water my bikini bottoms made a dash for my ankles. I ended up frantically trying to reclaim my wayward bikini while still underwater, and by the time I surfaced with everything back where it should be, I’d been under for so long that the lifeguard was about to jump in and rescue me. I hoped that my crush had missed the whole thing, but wasn’t that lucky – he spent the next umpteen years calling me “Jumping Boobs”. We never got together.”

I went to a fancypants dance school growing up and we used to compete in festivals a lot. I was quite self-conscious about how I looked compared to the others (I was tall and not as ‘delicate’, puberty hit me early) so never pushed myself for fear of looking silly, but decided to ‘screw it’ and really ‘go for it’ with a lift at the end of one dance. ‘Going for it’ ended up meaning ‘going flying for it’ as I slipped and crashed down on some others, bashing my knee black and blue in the process. I was so embarrassed, cried, and was glared at, but we still came first, so. No one saw anything, right?

“At my high school prom I wore a white dress with a lacy top and a pencil skirt sort of bottom. I looked nicceeeeee. I got talking to a gentleman who turned out to be a semi-professional ballroom dancer – and obviously, when he suggested he showed me some of his moves, I happily agreed. He wanted to do a flip, which basically required me to run at this relative stranger and dive headfirst towards the floor, trusting he would catch and flip me. Because I’m an idiot, I took off my heels and gamely ran at him, launching myself into the air, my arms above my head in dive position. He caught me (thank God) and we pulled the flip off with amazing precision. However, I hadn’t taken into account that my dress was actually quite tight and mid flip I heard a ”RIIIIIIIIIIIIP” (is a rip onomatopoeia? We’ll pretend it is). I  ripped my dress from the bottom all the way up to my bra strap. Somebody sourced some safety pins to pin it back together and I walked around for the rest of the night with half my bum hanging out.”

When I was in secondary school there was this bizarre trend for getting tiny little diamantes stuck on to your front teeth. (Yeah, don’t ask.) Anyway, me and my friends thought it was a great idea for doing it ourselves, rather than going to the so-called beauty experts who were doing it for a fiver in nail salons. So we bought the gems and some nail glue, carefully sticking them in place. Turns out we must have used too much glue or the wrong glue, because we were left with sparkly incisors for long after the look went out of fashion again. Safe to say neither our mums or our dentists were very happy with the new look.

Back when I was 18, I went on a snorkelling trip in Thailand despite being terrified of deep water. We spent a day island-hopping with 30 strangers – it was all going swimmingly (sorry, couldn’t resist) until I looked out at this great expanse of hazy, blue water and had a mini freakout. My imagination went into overdrive, horror scenes from Jaws flashed through my head and I panicked and frantically splashed back towards the boat. What I didn’t realise was that my baggy bikini bottoms had slipped down to my ankles at the exact moment I swam past all those people wearing snorkelling masks. So, to summarise: I made it back to the boat bare bottomed, everyone else got an eyeful and I had to spend the rest of the day surrounded by strangers who had just seen EVERYTHING.”

When I was 14, I wet myself from laughing so much while at the park with my friend and her dad that her dad had to carry my trousers home ON A STICK down the main road while I had a zipped-up hoodie wrapped round my waist like a skirt.

The first time I went to the hairdressers and asked for a real hairstyle – as opposed to a simple trim – I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted sassy, grown up layers, I wanted hair that casually flicked around my face, that made me look at once meticulously put together and casual and fun. As a family, we did not have the money for hairdressers who are capable of this kind of nuance, so I took my example picture and my dreams to a place called Just Snips, that would cut your hair for three or four pounds. The hairdresser gave me layers. The hairdresser gave me exactly two layers. The bottom layer came down to just above my shoulders, it flicked out slightly at the bottom. The top layer was in line with my ear lobes. I have a lot of hair. A lot. The short, top layer doubled the size of my head. I looked like a mushroom cloud. Everyone needs to have a haircut that drives them to tears at least once in their life, and this was mine. I went back and got them to ‘fix it’ – but I ended up with hair flicking out every which way from my ears to my shoulders. High school got really fun for a while there.”

I fainted on the train in evening rush hour, knocking two other people to the ground, vomited on my own coat, a woman’s shoes and guys suitcase on wheels. Had to be carried off the train, (followed by most of the passengers from the carriage covering their noses) rolled in a blanket on the platform on Paddington station, and made to wait there for doctor to come. I still worry when I get back on that line how many people recognise me from that day and don’t say anything, but keep their distance…

It was back in the day when dark big and bushy brows (I am naturally born with these) were not yet in fashion. Overwhelmed and self-conscious, I decided to tame my brows a few days before starting university. My mum suggested a trip to the eyebrow threading lady followed by a swift home-bleaching session to “lighten” them up a little. This is something women from the Middle East commonly do – usually your hairdresser would dye your hair and eyebrows together. But we were going to do it at home and neither of us was sure how long bleach would need to take effect on eyebrows. It turned out 10 minutes was too long. When I wiped it off, I found yellow eyebrows. I had to colour my eyebrows in for weeks and made a unique impression at fresher’s week. I haven’t messed with my eyebrows or listened to my mum since.”

I fell down the gap on the tube the other week! I went straight down and had to be helped out by bemused strangers who kept telling me to “get out!” but I was dazed, and my leg got attached to the undercarriage of the train. I just kept saying, calmly, “I’m very tired, so sorry,” as they panicked that the train was going to pull off. One shoe fell off – one felt worse than two, somehow – and a kind (brave) stranger balanced on the edge of the platform to fish it out with a very long umbrella.

“Aged 18, and still riding an A* GCSE wave, I was so, so confident that I’d not only passed my English Literature exam but absolutely smashed it. And I mean confident – I mic dropped my biro. All summer I gloated, telling anyone who’d listen that I guess when I got that school poetry prize aged eight I should have known I had rhyming couplets running through my veins. When summer was over and results day rolled in, I sauntered up to the table to collect my grades – probably (I mean, I was) wearing a charity shop trilby and ripped jeans for the ‘starving artist’ vibe, Pulitzer Prize speech saved in the notes section on my phone. You’ve probably guessed by now that it did not go well. I got a U. Indignant, I paid to get the paper remarked. It was bumped up to an E. I ended up using my free periods to sit in on lessons with students in the year below me for a whole year and, thankfully, eventually passed with a boring old C. But the silver lining is: despite a lot of shattered pride and frustration, I grew a thick skin, which is how I was eventually able to become a paid writer. Stick that in your Tiger Tiger Burning Bright and smoke it, William Blake.”

Last year, I found myself starting a big new amazing job just a week after moving into my new flat. It was a pretty stressful time but I seemed to be holding it all together remarkably well. At least that’s what I thought… until the morning I sat on my peanut butter and strawberry jam bagel. I’d got into the habit of eating my breakfast in my bedroom while getting ready however, on this fateful morning I placed my breakfast on my bed… and then proceeded to sit on it. As the jam penetrated my PJ bottoms, I felt all of my calm and togetherness melt away, and realised that I was actually INCREDIBLY tired. Still, I did what any normal person would do under the circumstances, and took a picture of my jammy bum before whipping off my PJ bottoms, picking my bagel off the floor, and eating it. Yum.

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See. Told you we’d done worse.

We love hearing first period stories. When we went to the Edinburgh Fringe we asked Vivienne Acheampong, Ayesha Hazarika and Pernilla Holland for the lowdown on their first period, and they were only too happy to give us the bloody details.

We also asked them how they knew their periods were coming and what they craved on their period. Watch ’til the very end for Vivienne’s amazing story about what happened when a tampon got stuck inside her at a party…

 

We’ve all had moments in life when we’ve had to take ourselves aside for a quiet word, like an umpire at a rowdy netball match, and tell ourselves to get it together. You find a reflective surface, look yourself dead in the eye and say ‘it’s fine, don’t worry… BUT that life fail you just did probably could have been avoided, so it’s time to rewind and take a little look at where it all started to go wrong.’

For me, one of those reflective moments began at a buffet table in Slough.

I am not proud of this. A few years ago I was at a friend’s birthday party with the most glorious, beige buffet spread imaginable. I’m talking 12 crisp flavours and sticks with cubes of cheddar, not even bothering with the pineapple – these hosts knew what we all wanted. Needless to say, I had my fair share of white dip that evening. After the night died down, a few of us moved on to a party at another house down the road.

For an hour or so we danced, made friends with the adorable house dog and annoyed the neighbours by discovering the trampoline in the back garden. Then a couple of us wanted to call it a night, so the host (read: kid whose parents’ house we were staying at) said we could stay in her baby brother’s bedroom. Snuggled into the tiny human-sized Spongebob duvet, I’d just began to drift off when I realised I needed the loo.

That’s when it happened. Angry at how I’d just treated it, my body completely betrayed me and, locked in the family bathroom, I produced the biggest poo of my life.

My life, people. It was so big it didn’t even splash, because there was no water left in the loo – it had sort of plugged the hole at the bottom. Like a rock.

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First, I tried like a fool to flush, but obviously that just made water sit on top of The Rock and almost flood the bathroom.

Panicked, with members of the growing bathroom queue now banging on the door, I began my search for tools; shampoo, nail varnish remover, cotton wool… My hand even hovered over the collection of family toothbrushes (could I use them as tiny spades?!) until guilt got the better of me.

Then I spotted them: baby wipes. Diving across to the windowsill, sweating face glowing orange in the cul-de-sac street light, I created a glove out of the wipes, smothering my hand with them, holding the ends in place between my fingers.

After double checking for leakage holes, I plunged my hand into the loo and retrieved my poo. But this nightmare was far from over – how was I going to smuggle it out past the waiting crowd?

Obviously, I had to wrap it. With one baby wipe gloved hand cradling Rocky and the other wedged inside a roll of toilet paper, I whipped my hand round in circles until it was mummified. Then stuffed it inside my rucksack and fled the bathroom.

I darted into the Spongebob bedroom, shut the door and lent against it for a while to catch my breath. Was I done? Could I go back to my old life now? I thought I could. In the ultimate ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ moment, I put the rucksack containing my poo corpse in the corner of the room, slid back into bed and tried to nod off.

Obviously, it was no use. No one can sleep soundly with a giant poo in the room, it’s haunting. I opened my eyes a crack and the rucksack was staring right at me.

Fast forward 10 minutes and my best mate caught me trying to dig it a grave in the front garden. She then pointed to the wheelie bin right next to me, where we threw it in and pinky-promised to never speak of it again. She laughed, I died a little, and we retell the story every Christmas.

Mince pies are on the menu, the Mariah Carey album is on standby and if you’re anything like me, you’re probably planning this year’s great attempt to sneakily open your advent calendar windows ahead of time without your parents finding out.

That’s right you guys, Christmas is a-coming!

And although we know deep down that there’s way more to the magic of Christmas than that new pair of shoes you’ve got your eye on, presents are absolutely on the brain.

The thing is though, whether you’re one of those people who emails itemised gift lists to friends and family complete with web links, clothing sizes and colour preferences (no seriously, it happens), or someone who just quietly hopes that Father Christmas has been paying close attention to your Pinterest boards, there are certain gifts that you’re guaranteed to open each and every year. Whether you ask for them or not.

For some unknown reason, Christmas comes with the unspoken understanding that it’s totally ok to give presents you wouldn’t dream of giving at any other time. For example:

Socks

Either a pack of 5 plain /black/blue/grey ones, or a singular pair of ‘funny’ ones that swiftly lose their lol appeal after the first wear.

Impractical novelty games

In what reality are you ever going to use Sudoku toilet paper?

An itchy jumper

From the distant aunt who insists you put it on straight away so she can see that it fits, even though it looks and feels sandpaper and will clearly remove half your skin from your body if you actually dare wear it.

Guinness Book of World Records

In the entire history of the 90 and 00s, not one human ever received a Guinness Book of World Records as a present on any other day than 25th December. Fact. Probably.

A gift voucher from a store you never visit

Given by the uncle who should really know you better, but insists on giving all of you a nameless envelope containing an un-exchangeable gift card loaded with £20 of store credit. For Halfords. Or Gardening World.

A Cadbury’s Christmas selection box

For no other reason than it’s slim, rectangular and easy for your parents to wrap. They totally could’ve just picked you up a Curly Wurly and a Crunchie from the corner shop, though.

But alongside these yuletide treasures, I receive a bonus gift. A gift equally as predictable as the others, and just as odd to receive…

Pants.

Yep, pants. Each year my nan will give me a multipack of very sensible underwear. Which, let’s be honest, doesn’t appear at the top of anyone’s Christmas list.

It’s the type of gift that only your grandma could get away with giving, isn’t it? I’m sure you’ll appreciate the horror of reaching your teens and still having to endure unwrapping three pairs of hot pink knickers with jolly gingerbread men dancing across the bum, in front of the whole family.

But as unexciting as they seemed in comparison to glittery lipsticks, brand new ballet shoes and favourite television boxsets, I could always kind of appreciate them as a practical gift. Especially when I look back to the primary school years, when we grew out of clothes in a heartbeat, and it didn’t matter what you actually received as long as your present tally was equal to or higher than your brother or sister’s.

And as I got older and passed the stage of having to find tactical ways of getting changing into my PE kit without flashing a pair of panda pants, I learned to love receiving my weird and wondering Christmas knickers. Sure, they weren’t the coolest present under the tree – but I’ve come to realise that granny pants are actually an important part of your knicker drawer. Honest.

I really love underwear. I have a bit of a thing. You’ll find every shape, fit and material possible in my bedroom and there’s rarely a day when I have to scramble for clean ones because I definitely have far too many. But there are some days when the absolute last thing you want to do is shimmy into a pair of very pretty, highly impractical, exceedingly uncomfortable knickers. Especially when you’re on your period. Nooo, thank you.

That’s where the efficiently bum-covering gingerbread man briefs come in. Laugh as you may, but if you surrender to them, there’s nothing quite as safe, secure and comfortable as a solid pair of granny pants. And that’s coming from a self-confessed knicker snob.

So this Christmas I’m kind of looking forward to receiving my obligatory parcel of pants. Safe to say that knowing what I’m going to get does wonders for the whole gift-anxiety thing. And let’s face it – who, other than your nan, will take it upon themselves to make sure you never, ever run out of comfy undies?

@JazKopotsha

Image: Katie Edmunds

Say goodbye to period stains

Your period is over for another month! Arrivederci. Au Revoir. Adios. Auf Wiedersehen. Hwyl fawr, baby. *waving emoji*

Except, you might find you’re left with a few…  um, souvenirs of those magical days. In your knickers, on your sheets, inside your pyjamas, maybe even an unlucky sofa cushion – we’ve all been there. Honestly, we have.

But fear not, these aren’t the kind of weird souvenirs that your aunt brings you back from Torremolinos and asks to see every time she comes around. No, these souvenirs are ones you are fully allowed to ditch.

First up…

Don’t panic. We know this feels easier said than done, especially as you shove your pants into your sleeping bag in horror and race to your friend’s bathroom for an emergency laundry session. But this happens to everyone, we promise. There is barely a woman in the UK right now that doesn’t have a slightly stained pair of ‘period pants’ somewhere in her underwear drawer.

TL;DR? Here's the important stuff:
  • Do not panic. This happens to basically everyone.
  • Try holding the stained area taut under cold running water for a few minutes. If it refuses to budge, try rubbing in soap or bodywash and rinsing again.
  • If that doesn’t work, give salt, contact lens solution, baking soda or lemon juice a go. Or just ’fess up and ask a laundry whizz for some help – you’ll survive, we promise.

Bottom line: you should never have to be embarrassed about nature doing its thing. No one should ever make you feel bad about leaks and stains, no matter how expensive the bedding. If anyone does, the shame is aaall on them.

But because you can’t keep buying new underwear and life is too short to walk around with a bottle of Vanish in your bag, here are some DIY methods that might help in a sticky situation…

Keeping it old school

To remove blood stains from lightweight fabric such as knickers or sheets (i.e the main culprits), try holding the stained area taut under cold running water for a few minutes. If the stain is refusing to budge, add whatever soap or bodywash you can find nearby and massage it into the stain, then try again.

Sometimes the best solution really is the simplest. Or the simplest really is the best. We can’t remember which way that saying goes.

Everything but the kitchen sink

No joy? Don’t worry, there are a lot of other options.

Have any salt handy? Sprinkle some (okay, a lot) over the stain and give it a good, hard scrub. Rinse it off and wash the fabric as normal.

Or if you’re out of salt and happen to have some contact lens solution (saline) handy, you can use that instead. Mind blown.

For a darker fabric, have a rummage around your kitchen cupboard for some baking soda. Mix it with water to form a paste and then spread it on the fabric. You should probably allow it to sit for at least half an hour, so you have plenty of time to watch another episode of PLL, but you can leave it overnight if you prefer and then wash the item as usual.

Or for light-coloured clothes, you can also try a more tropical vibe. Squirt some lemon juice on the stain and leave it in the sun for a while before washing. But this could cause discolouration on darker items, so test it on a tiny bit of the fabric first.

Still code red?

Sometimes stains can be stubborn, so it might take a few tries before everything’s back to normal. And even if you can’t get all of the stain out, don’t worry too much. Sometimes it’s more of a ‘see you around’ than a proper goodbye.

Let’s think of those stains as ‘period ghosts’. Aw.

Image: Katie Edmunds

There is nothing in the whole world as satisfying as cleaning your ears out with cotton buds.

Yes, I understand that I am not supposed to. I understand that it actually just pushes the earwax further down my ear drum. I understand that cotton buds themselves even urge you not to clean your ears with their product.

I even understand that I might be damaging my ears, one cotton-tipped stick at a time (the NHS website pretty clearly tells me I am).

But.

In my defence, IT FEELS SO GOOD.

When I get out of the shower, I like to have a rummage around my ear. I have a very particular technique. I start with my outer ear (I like to collect whatever tube grime, conditioner and general city muck that might have found its way into the ridges). Obviously, the more gunk I collect, the more satisfied I feel. Like blowing your nose or cutting your nails, quantity is key.

Then, when I’m satisfied, I flip the bud to use the clean end and start in on my inner ear. This is where the real enjoyment lies. This is the nirvana of the ear-cleaning process. Because our ears are full of sensitive nerve endings, it feels like you’ve had an hour long massage in the space of two seconds.

To me, cleaning my ears feels better than coming home, taking my hair out of a particularly tight pony tail, slipping off my shoes and unclipping my bra – which is obviously the holy trifecta of relaxation. Even better than that.

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If you wondering how I enjoy something I know is bad for me, I say to you: have you eaten so much you feel sick? Like, you know you should stop eating because you’re almost definitely going to spend the next hour clutching your tummy and groaning but, well… the food is delicious and surely one (ok, five) more bites won’t make it that much worse, right?

Or, have you ever stayed up too late watching TV or reading a book? (If you’ve ever watched Pretty Little Liars or read The Hunger Games, I know the answer to this is yes). You know you’re going to be tired in the morning. You know that when your alarm goes off you are going to immediately be filled with regret. And yet, you start the next chapter. You click the tempting, ‘play next episode.’

Sometimes humans are short-sighted and decide to do the thing that might make us feel crappy later, but feels oh so good right now.

That is exactly how I feel about cleaning out my ears. Yes, I might get an ear infection. Yes, I know the wax is meant to be there. I know all of these things… but oh, it feels so damn good at the time.

Image: Getty

The course of true love ne’er did run smooth.

-William Shakespeare

Talk about a dramatic understatement, Wills. Any way you slice it, fancying someone who doesn’t even seem to notice you exist is sucky. We’ve all been the girl who tries a little too hard to get their crush’s attention – so if you’re out there listening to music you actually hate, trying to stay awake in a foreign film or hiring an aeroplane to write ‘HEY I LIKE YOUR HAIR’ in the sky in the hopes of impressing someone, you’re not alone.

As proof, we crowdsourced the most ridiculous things the betty team have ever done to get our crushes’ attention. Here are the best/worst. Don’t judge.

Routinely took the train two stops past my house, in case the extra time would induce a boy from the boys’ school to talk to me. I would get off the train when he did, discreetly cross the bridge, and get back on a train in the opposite direction and go home. He never spoke to me.

“Sent messages to a girl about my plans for the weekend by ‘accident’, then sent another message saying, “Sorry, that wasn’t meant for you.”

Woke up an hour early so that I could drive 45 minutes to my crush’s house and pick them up, before driving another hour to get from his house to work, even though it was only 15 minutes away from my house. And the same on the way home.

“Pretended I liked heavy metal because the boy I fancied did. Bought the Slipknot album – terrible. Went to Camden to buy a Metallica T-shirt and wore it on non-school uniform day with a necklace fashioned out of a bike chain. Chic.”

Pretended to like Nick Cave.

“Literally put a boy’s hand up my jumper and onto my boob under the pretence of ‘ooh it’s so cold, we need to huddle together to stay warm’. He moved it away and did not fall in love with me.”

I literally threw my number at a girl on a bus. She never text me, and in fact went out of her way to avoid me after that.

“Walked around sixth form for a day with one of my Dad’s old vinyl records (Led Zeppelin IV, if you’re interested) tucked under my arm.”

Pretended not to like Nick Cave.

“Met a boy at the under-16s disco who was SO handsome I could barely look at him. He kept going on and on about how much he loved skiing, so I did what any normal 14-year-old would do: I told him I was a professional skier. He asked me on a date to the dry ski slope in Edinburgh. I panicked and considered telling him the truth beforehand, but then chickened out thinking ‘sod it, if he likes me he’ll get over it’. Oh god, his face as I snowploughed very, very, very slowly to the bottom. He shouted at me for lying to him and I never saw him again.”

Got my lip pierced, wore really baggy trousers with 5 (no more, no less) studded belts and carried around a skateboard I COULDN’T RIDE.

“Announced that I had a golf handicap of 12, and consequently was entered into a golf tournament. I had to develop a shoulder injury (chronic), meaning I couldn’t turn up. Perhaps my best lie ever.”

“Wandered the fields around the back of my village, alone, in the hope that one of the boys would see me and come and talk to me. They didn’t.”

And you thought the things you’ve done were embarrassing? Although if you were on the verge of hiring a plane for some romantic sky writing, we would suggest cancelling that. Perhaps spell out your declaration in alphabet soup instead? Just an idea.