PMS stands for Premenstrual Syndrome.

It’s also sometimes known as Premenstrual Tension (PMT), the monthly blues, or The Bit Before Your Period Starts When You Feel Like You Want to Hide Under Your Duvet with Three Packets of Oreos and Shout at Everyone. But that’s less catchy.

Give it to me straight

People experience PMS in different ways, and 25% of women don’t experience PMS at all. With any luck you’ll be one of those people – but if you’re not, here is the rollcall of things that you might find you experience for a day or two before your period.

Physically, PMS might make you feel a little bloated, tired or achey. Some people have headaches or backache, some get a few cramps before their period actually arrives. Others notice they’re more clumsy (mind that lamp!). You might find your skin gets a little spotty, or your fringe does that annoying flicky thing you hate.

TLDR? Here’s the important stuff:
  • PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome, and it generally affects three in four women. That’s lots of us. Hiya.
  • Emotionally, it might make you more irritable, anxious or weepy. Physically, PMS might cause bloating, acne, headaches, backache or sore breasts – but hopefully not all at once.
  • Exercise and a healthy diet can both help decrease PMS symptoms. But if you’re really struggling, a chat to your GP might give you more options.

Emotionally, you might find yourself feeling a little… fragile. This could mean that you’re more irritable, anxious, weepy and/or prone to slamming doors. One minute you might be on top of the world, the next you could feel like the world is getting on top of you. Or it might just be a general feeling that everything is a little… blarrgh.

A bit… arrghh.

Basically, all the fun stuff. But you probably won’t have all these symptoms; most people just experience a few.

Who can I blame?

Don’t shout, but nobody knows exactly what causes PMS. It’s thought to be something to do with the changing levels of hormones in your menstrual cycle, which can throw everything… off. A little.  

The most important thing to know is that you’re not just being a drama queen – PMS is very real, and you’re definitely not alone.

PMS Treatment: How do I make it go away?

While there’s not much you can do to prevent PMS, there are lots of ways you can help yourself feel better.

Eating a balanced, varied diet with lots of fresh fruit and veg could help ease those symptoms. PMS might make you feel like face-planting a bucket of KFC, but too much salt or fatty, processed foods can actually make things worse (don’t get us started on the unfairness).

And while it might be the last thing you feel like doing, regular exercise can also help keep PMS in check, as well as generally making you feel more like a queen. That could be a run, a fierce game of hockey, a nice long walk with a favourite playlist or just punching a pillow quite hard.   

As time goes on you’ll find your own, personal ways to beat the premenstrual blues – but some of our favourites are: weeping along to a sad film, having a one-woman dance party, learning to cartwheel, giving yourself a craft project or watching videos of unlikely animal friendships. For more inspiration, visit Weepy Girls’ Corner.

NOTHING. IS. WORKING.

Be kind to yourself, and remember that some people suffer more than others – and it won’t last forever. But if PMS is still having a big impact on your life, it might be a good idea to head to your GP for about what will work best for you.

There’s only so much those poor pillows can take.

Image: Hailey Hamilton

Anxiety. We’ve all had it at some point. It could be pre-exam nerves, those jitters you get when your phone lights up with a text from your crush, or building the nerve to ask your parents if you can go to a party at that girl’s house you know they don’t approve of. It’s totally normal, and often harmless—even helpful, when it comes to pushing you to do that exam prep. But for some of us, those bouts of worry aren’t so occasional.

It’s a strange beast. It can creep up on you without you even realising it, or when you least expect it. And all personality types can experience it. As someone who’s spent half their life simultaneously being a self-confessed party girl, and occasionally feeling like I want to hide in my room for the rest of time, I am a living example of how you can be the most extrovert person in the world, and still suffer from social anxiety and poor mental health. And I’m not the only one.

The more I’ve opened up and talked about it, the more I hear a similar story. That seriously funny girl in my class? Yep, she cried the whole way in because she feels like she can’t cope with school at the moment. The girl that seems so cool and confident, who’s everybody’s friend? She has depression, and sometimes spends the whole weekend in her room because she can’t face the crowds. It made me realise: I’m not alone. And while I’d never wish it on anybody, when you’re going through a hard time, having someone you can relate to can be a huge comfort. Which is why I cannot stress enough how important it is to talk to people when you’re struggling and be open about what you’re feeling. With that in mind, here are five things I want to share about being an extrovert living with anxiety.

It’s totally possible to really want to do something, but feel sick with anxiety when it comes to actually doing it

Yep, this one’s a real bastard. You booked the tickets because you want to go. All your friends are going and you know it’s going to be so much fun. So why are you struggling to eat your dinner, because your stomach’s full of butterflies? Anxiety, my friend. Take some deep breaths, call your mate and tell them how you’re feeling—or better, plan to get ready together next time. You’ll be calm and collected again in no time.

It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve done something, or how ordinary it is, you still get worried about doing it every. single. time

It could be doing the high jump at school (wtf is a fisby flop, anyway, and why do I need to know how to do it?! I can launch myself onto the sofa just fine, thank you very much), calling the dentist to make an appointment, or just knocking on your neighbour’s door because you forgot your key. It’ll be fine, you’re sure—besides if it’s not, what’s the worst that could happen? But sometimes it doesn’t matter what your brain says, your emotions don’t seem to get the message.

That feeling of wanting to do absolutely nothing and hide from the world, but actually feeling far worse when you do

I am SO BAD FOR THIS. When you get that ‘I-can’t-face-the-world-today’ feeling, while it can seem like locking yourself in your room and re-watching Gossip Girl for the 76th time is the balm to heal all wounds, if you’re anything like me, you’ll feel 10 times worse for it. Use that iron willpower and get yourself up and out the house, or even just have a cup of tea and chat with your mum in the garden to put things in perspective.

Getting overly upset when you’ve planned to do something and it goes ‘wrong’, even if you’re enjoying yourself

For my 18th birthday, I planned a huge night out. After all—it is THE biggest birthday ever. All my friends came—I was over the moon. My then boyfriend spent the night rounding everyone up and making sure we all stayed together, so that I was sure to have fun with all my mates. Naturally, I bawled my eyes out. Why? Because it’s not how the night was supposed to go! They should just know where we’re going. It should all just naturally run smoothly. The irony being, it was actually a good night till then. Learning to let go of expectations and go with the flow is easier said than done, when your mind’s constantly working over time.

Being really loud and dominating a conversation on a night out, then getting embarrassed about it the next day

I’ll be honest, sometimes this is legit—well, if I don’t laugh at me who will?! But in all seriousness, there are times where I feel like I’m having the best time, everyone’s laughing with me, joining in. But then when I get home, I start to think: were they laughing with me, or at me? I need to wind my neck in, I talk about myself far too much! Well, keeping your ego in check is one thing, but it’s important to remember, no one’s judging you. And if they are, well then you really shouldn’t be mates with them, anyway.

@EllieCostigan

Today is International Friendship Day.

It’s the perfect time to celebrate awesome friends, whether they’re on the other side of the world, a few doors down the street or half-watching Pretty Little Liars in bed next to you.

I made, kept and lost a lot of friends when I was growing up, as my family moved around exactly eight times before I turned 16. It’s tough, and my poor mum endured a lot of tears and tantrums that I dedicated to her.

We first moved to another country while I was at primary school. I felt like a pea being ripped out of its pod and thrown into a mountainous salad of the unfamiliar. The kids in my new school wanted to know more about me and I just wanted to go back to my ‘real’ home.

But the tears of sadness and anxiety soon dried. I found the joy of writing letters to my pen-pals in England and started to open up to the new crowd and give them a chance. I made friends and soon felt like the most popular kid in school, just because everyone wanted to be pals with the new English girl.

After a couple of years, my family returned to England and I faced the sadness and frustration all over again. I cried my eyes out when my new best friend gave me a brown faux-leather coat as a leaving present – I’d eyed it up in the local department store for weeks.

But my emotions were mixed once more, as I was excited to be reunited with my old buddies, telling them all about my time away and showing off my pierced ears and bobbed hair. I would reach peak popularity, again!

I never saw the girl who gifted me with the coat after I left, but I’ll always be thankful to her
for being my pal and giving me something that made me feel like I was a total rock star. And I’m forever grateful to the friendly classmates who welcomed me into their school and invited me to their birthday parties like I was royalty.

Looking back, these experiences helped me to mature into a teenager, then adult who can cope with change. I learnt to be brave and open minded about meeting new people, which can often feel like walking into a room of Death Eaters.

I inherited and continued the habit of moving around well after finishing school and leaving the nest. I even somehow ended up in Paris for six months! It put me in good stead for continuing to make new friends. I learn something from every person I meet; about the world, about them and about myself.

I went on to live with an Irish girl and a Spanish girl when I moved to Edinburgh. We’d never met before moving in together but I soon considered them two of my best friends. Last year we reunited at my Spanish friend’s family home in Madrid and it felt like nothing had changed, except her gorgeous apartment wasn’t infested with mice and mould like our old digs. We’re meeting up again this year, in Morocco, using our friendship as a perfect excuse to explore the world together.

There are also the times when other people are the ones to leave a friend-shaped hole in my life.

My best friend moved to Canada with a boy. She was so excited, I thought I’d never see or hear from her again. But thanks to Skype, we ended up speaking more regularly than we had done in a long time. In fact, I definitely did the old ‘oh the Wifi is breaking up’ trick a few times when Made in Chelsea was about to start during one of our Monday night catch ups. But even though she was approximately a million miles away, I knew she’d be there for me no matter what.

Friendships don’t need constant attention, just a little watering now and again to keep things in bloom. And in a world of social media and instant communication, saying goodbye in person doesn’t mean that the friendship must end.

I have recently reconnected with old friends in London through Facebook, I natter with my Yorkshire based buds on WhatsApp throughout the week, and I receive much needed grownup advice and guidance from my talented writer friend in China (along with British reality TV lolz and bantz that she admirably keeps us with over there).

Even if all you can do to today is send a good thought to someone, do it for the friends – old and new, near and far – who have helped shape you into the person that you are.

Me? I want to thank all my friends, wherever you are, for constantly making me feel as special as I did the first time I put on that coat and strutted into the classroom.

@hlouiser89

Image: Kate Borrill

I remember vividly the quivering sense of excitement I felt when my parents told me I was going to have a brother or sister. A playmate, I cried! After six long years of solitude, I was finally being rewarded with a partner in crime; a bad guy to my good guy; a fellow cast member with which to share the makeshift stage. For nine months I dreamed of all that we’d do together. His Action Man could save my Barbie — or, if he was a girl, her Barbie and mine could fight for Ken’s affections!

Looking back, my doll games were fairly limited in their plot lines, and in their depressingly conformist gender roles. More ambitious plans included reaching the top of the apple tree (I’d stand on their shoulders), forming a secret club of secrets (I’d be Club Captain), and reenacting the Little Mermaid in the paddling pool.

His arrival did not disappoint me. Sure he was small, but that was surely a temporary impediment. Patiently I pushed toy cars at him, placed Action Man in his tiny hands, and dressed him up in dresses, tiaras or dog masks according to the stage production or my mood.

Often I lost patience: WHEN would he just grow up! I’d shout, as he poked his tongue through the holes of the tennis racket I’d given him, picked up the ball and chewed it obliviously — and really, by the time he really was of Action Man playing age, I’d almost lost interest. I was 13 and had more important things to think about than dolls with contourless plastic for genitals — until an idle moment, rain and a sudden urge for silliness showed me the error of my ways.

You’ll be hilarious (simply because you’re older)

Whatever you do or say will be automatically far funnier than anything their minds can even conceive of (caveat: this only works up to a certain age — then they’re funnier than you).

There is no pressure

You don’t have to do or be anything other than their older sister. You can have a face like a slapped arse and be wearing your gran’s body warmer and they’ll still think you are the coolest thing in the world.

They’ll laugh you out of your moods

Either because they’ll do, or say something stupid, or because it’s actually impossible to run around the garden ‘riding’ a cane with your dad’s sock stuffed full of plastic bags tied to the end, with a horse’s face drawn on, and not crack a smile.

They will love you for it

In world in which people are increasingly hard to please, the simple offering of half an hour of your time will earn you no end of devotion from them, and your parents praise.

You don’t have to be cool

In fact, the more silly you are, the better. Hoover their foot. Shoot them with a banana. Steal their hat and run off with it. Make farting noises or, better still, actually fart at them — then run out and shut the door.

You can abuse them

See above. Obviously don’t punch them or anything. At least, not hard. Or too near their eye area. But by and large, when it comes to siblings, you can metaphorically speaking go for broke.

You’ll be good with kids

Being able to entertain the younger members of your family is the best possible preparation for being an adult who can speak to children without sounding like a simpering idiot — and ultimately, for having a good relationship with your own kids.

You’ll help your parents

Spare a thought for the ‘rents. They’ve only just got you to the feeding, speaking and walking stage, now they’ve got to go and do it all again in what must seem like a never-ending carousel of childcare. Take them off their hands for ten minutes or so and you’ll earn some serious brownie points — not to mention bargaining power when it comes to your next big night out.

You’ll be friends forever

Yeah, it’s taken some time — but 20 years later that that tiny, wailing, flopping thing was worth the investment. My brother has picked me up when I’m down, shot me down when I’m up myself, ferried me from parties, airports and train stations and built various bits of furniture. They may be as irritating as eczema, sunburn and hives all rolled into one, but trust me: in every sibling there lies a potential best friend.

Image: Hailey Hamilton

Whether you’ve already started your period or you’re waiting to come on for the first time, it’s a different experience for everyone – and one we love talking about. Here, YouTube star Just Jodes tells us *all* about her first ever period.

Image: Katie Edmunds

Sexual harassment can mean a lot of things, which makes it very confusing when you experience something horrible. Was THAT harassment? Was it assault? Is there even a difference?

Most importantly: What should I do now?

To help break things down, we’ve created a guide on what counts as sexual harassment, what to do if you experience or witness it, and the importance of reporting these crimes.

What counts as sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment (or sexual assault) is any unwanted, uncomfortable sexual behaviour towards you.

This can include:

· Groping (your bum or boobs, most commonly)
· Standing unnecessarily and intimidatingly way too close to you
· Rubbing up against you
· Making sexual comments towards you
· Leering (staring at you persistently with a creepy smile – you know the kind)
· Taking photos of you (sometimes up your skirt/dress, known as ‘upskirting’)

All of this behaviour is incredibly gross and incredibly wrong, but happens on a daily basis. Sometimes it can happen at school, on the streets, or on trains and buses.

This guide is directed more towards sexual harassment/assault on public transport, but the information and support can be useful for any situation. Sexual harassment doesn’t follow any rules. If the behaviour is making you uncomfortable, wherever you are and however small it might seem, you have every right to do something about it.

If someone is sexually harassing me, what do I do?!

Your fight or flight response is likely to kick in as soon as you realise something is wrong. This means that you might instantly run away, try to fight back, or freeze on the spot.

Don’t be ashamed of any of these reactions. They’re completely natural. But, BTP (The British Transport Police) has some advice if you can take just a few seconds to think about what’s happening and what to do:

· Try and move away, if you can, to another part of the bus or train, etc
· If it’s a busy bus or train and you can’t move away, try to shift your body to displace their movements, or get out of their eyeline
· Text BTP on 61016 telling them where you are and what’s happening
· If you’re below ground on the tube, write any of this information down on your phone
· Try to catch someone’s eye, they might see what’s happening and can support you

It might be your natural instinct to engage with this person but sometimes it’s not safe to do so. It’s best to judge the situation first, if you can take a moment to breathe.

There are stories of women grabbing the perpetrator’s hand and holding it aloft asking, “WHOSE DIRTY HAND IS THIS?!” to shame them, or bluntly turning around and politely asking them to “stop taking photos up my dress, please” or telling them to “get your hand off my bum, now”, but these are very brave reactions – and sometimes unsafe reactions.

The horrible creep has gone… now what?

If you’ve managed to get away, or they’ve upped and left, you now have a few options about what you can do.

The most important thing is to look after yourself. Make sure you’re ok. Have a sit down somewhere, go for a walk, or text a friend. You’ve been through something pretty shitty, so look after yourself.

It’s a good idea to report these incidents as soon as they happen, but it’s totally up to you. We’d encourage you to text BTP on 61016 or call them on 0800 40 50 40, or call 101 if it happened away from public transport. Always call 999 in an emergency.

If you’re nervous about getting in contact with the police, that’s ok. Talk to a friend, family member, teacher, or staff member if it happened on public transport. They can support you both emotionally and practically.

If you don’t feel comfortable reporting what happened at all, that’s ok too. And if you feel in six months’ time that you DO want to report it, you can. It’s never too late.

But what’s even the point in reporting it?

It’s a fair question. Sexual harassment happens all the time (getting beeped at by men in vans, having boring, horrible comments thrown at you by construction workers, boys in school making sexual jokes to impress their mates…) so what’s the point in reporting it? It’s just life?

Nope! No, it’s not. No thank you. Not ‘just life’. No. #no.

Firstly, this behaviour is wrong and your body is yours alone. Nobody should ever make you feel uncomfortable, intimidated, or unsafe with their behaviour. It’s not fair and it’s not right, and contributes to an unequal society.

Secondly, this behaviour could easily lead to something even worse. Reporting what happened to you could help save a lot of harm for others, and bring justice for yourself.

The police will take you seriously. There are many campaigns out there to encourage victims to come forward, like #ReportItToStopIt and Project Guardian.

You can help the police build a picture of this person. Your story, CCTV, and plain-clothed police officers patrolling the areas where these crimes have been reported will all help to find and arrest them.

What if I see it happening to someone else?

You can definitely support a victim of sexual harassment without confronting the perpetrator.

If you’re on public transport, you can:

· Put yourself between the perpetrator and victim
· Make eye contact with the victim so they know they’re supported
· Ask the victim if they’re ok, both during and after the incident
· Ask them if they’d like any help reporting what happened. You can’t force them, but they might be more inclined to report it if there’s someone with them who knows what to do… like you!
· Record any details of the perpetrator – what they’re wearing, what they look like, what they sound like, and what they’re doing, as well as times and dates, and details of the bus/train you’re on
· You can try to take a photo or video of what’s happening but only if it’s safe to do so. Make sure you hand this over to the police, even though it may be tempting to put it on social media

If you’re in public and the victim is on their own then you can stand with them and ask if they’re ok. Again, take any note of who the perpetrator is just in case the victim does want to report it.

Is there anyone else apart from the police who I can speak to?

Yep, there are many organisations (as well family, friends, teachers, and GPs!) who can practically and emotionally support you:

· Rape Crisis can support victims of sexual harassment whoever you are, whatever happened, and however long ago the incident was.

· SurvivorsUK can offer support to male victims of sexual harassment via webchat or text chat.

· Victim Support can give you both practical and emotional support if you’ve been affected by any crime, including sexual harassment.

· The Mix is a charity supporting all under 25s in the UK with any issue. You can speak to their trained team via their helpline, forums, email, or one-to-one chats.

· Childline can support you if you’re under 19. Their support is also available via phone, email, and one-to-one chats.

Experiencing sexual harassment or assault, no matter who it’s from and in what situation, is awful and a complete violation of your body and consent. But there are so many people out there who will believe that it happened to you and will want to support you.

You’re brave, you’re strong, and you deserve only the very best treatment, ya hear?

Image: Kick-Ass

You’ve been counting down to your fortnight in Florida for weeks. Your jazziest bikinis are packed and you’ve primed your mum in the art of taking a good Instagram photo. So why, oh why, does your period have to come just as you’re about to jet off?

While you’d rather be surfing any wave other than the crimson one, rest assured it’s happened to us all at some point, and these are all the things you know if you’ve had your period on holiday…

It always arrives unexpectedly

You weren’t supposed to come on for another eight days, but somehow that little sadist decided to arrive early, landing on exactly the morning you’re getting on a flight to paradise. This was not part of the plan.

Your handbag full of tampons being searched is the most cringe thing ever

It’s like airport security want to embarrass you in front of all the fit groups of boys.

Plane paranoia is real

A nine-hour flight = how many tampon changes?! And there’s nothing like the fear of falling asleep only to wake up having bled through your trousers, and onto the seat, then having to work out how to get to the bathroom without everyone seeing the big red stain on your bum. It’s never actually happened to you, but y’know, it could.

White swimwear is a no-go

You bought it to enhance your tan and had visions of yourself running down the beach like a Victoria’s Secret Angel. However, the minute your period arrives, that white bikini is banished to the bottom of your suitcase. Sigh. Maybe next year.

Tampon strings are the enemy

Sure, you’re forever grateful to the inventor of tampons for enabling you to hit the pool on your period, but why do the strings have such a habit of popping out the side of your swimsuit? And then there was that time you decided to trim it with scissors and almost ended up in A&E. Never again.

You’re fearful of diving and cannonballs

Ever since your friend told you about their cousin’s tampon shooting out when they jumped into a swimming pool, you’ve always used the ladder, as boring as that may be.

Cramps are somehow always worse in the heat

“WHO IS USING MY UTERUS AS A STRESS BALL?!”

But holidays do seem to make your period go away faster

Time flies when you’re having fun!

Image: Amber Griffin

Summer is the greatest time of year, but there’s something about the rising temperatures and shedding of layers that can make even the most confident of ladies feel a bit, well, wobbly about their bodies.

If you thought celebs were immune to these feelings, you thought wrong, as nine celeb ladies talk body confidence – how to get it, keep it and what to do when you’re not quite there yet.

“I feel very empowered and confident and comfortable with where I am. And I think it took me a long while to get there because, you know, the past year was so interesting because I’ve never been body-shamed before. I did gain weight, but I don’t care. It wasn’t about how I gained weight, it was about how I embraced it. And that’s just kind of my approach.”

Selena Gomez shuts down her body-shamers and gives everyone a lesson in the art of not caring. Take note.

“This confidence is not something that happens overnight. I have been working on it for a long time. I look in the mirror and do affirmations: ‘You are bold. You are brilliant. You are beautiful.’ If my lower pooch is really popping out that day, I look at it and say, ‘Pooch, you are cute!’”

Model Ashley Graham knows that building your body confidence can take time and that’s OK.

“Sometimes when I’m having bad body image issue days, I remind myself that I’d rather live in freedom from my eating disorder than worry about what people think about my body… I am more than a number and a jean size.”

Demi Lovato faces her eating disorder head-on.

“I represent a body image that wasn’t accepted in high-fashion before… Yes, I have abs, I have a butt, I have thighs, but I’m not asking for special treatment. I’m fitting into my sample sizes. Your mean comments don’t make me want to change my body.”

Gigi Hadid’s open letter to her Instagram trolls is an inspiration to us all.

“We do not value ourselves enough. Especially young people, [who] don’t really appreciate, how brilliant our bodies are. I’ve always been very, very specific, and very choosy – very choosy ­– about what I do with my body, and who I want to share that with.”

Beyoncé knows her worth and isn’t afraid to let everyone else know, too.

“If anybody even tries to whisper the word ‘diet,’ I’m like, ‘You can go f**k yourself.’ “

Jennifer Lawrence won’t be told how to look or eat by anyone, and for that we salute her.

“I know because I’m honest about my insecurities that people think I’m 100% positive about my body all the time, but I’m not. I get really uncomfortable, too. But I just remind myself that this is the body I was given. This is who I am.”

Ariel Winter practises the art of self-acceptance.

“I was actually just taking a picture of the bruises and then I saw the stretchmarks in there. I have those apps, the Facetune and Photoshopping ones, and I just didn’t feel like doing it anymore — and I’m never doing it again, because I think we forgot what normal people look like now.”

Chrissy Teigen explains her stretchmark selfie and why she won’t be editing them out of her Insta pics from now on.

“Stop trying to make people feel badly about their bodies. It’s okay to be different… to be curvy or to be thin… How about we respect people’s body boundaries and encourage each other to feel like a babe no matter how they are? That would be nice.”

Ariana Grande has nothing but love for ALL body shapes.

Amen, sisters!

Image: Getty/Katie Edmunds

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

Dear Me,

All that stuff that makes you different to the other girls at school? Being brown, Pakistani and Muslim? You don’t have to hide any of it.

Don’t be embarrassed about praying at home with family, learning Urdu, going to the mosque and wearing shalwar kameez. Those family moments that you purposefully kept separate from your school life will make the sweetest of memories that will one day brighten up your homesick soul. Also, if other people haven’t realised that a shalwar kameez is as comfy as a pair of pyjamas and doubles as an acceptable form of daywear, it’s their loss.

I understand why you hate speaking up and try to hide among the many, instead of standing out amid the few. All this uncertainty is necessary right now because you’re choosing who you want to be and listening before speaking. But, that doesn’t give you a free pass to edit out your opinions and experiences because they don’t match everyone else’s. Like a ghost hiding in the shadows, don’t be left shapeless and voiceless. Be seen.

Remember this: those who are the loudest in the crowd haven’t always got it down. Say what you want even if it first comes out in a whisper – softly speak the truth and people will listen harder until you gain the confidence to shout it out. Once you can shout, make it a point to listen to others.

Your unique voice is the very thing that will fuel your career. I know you want to be a postal clerk working in a quiet back office in solitude listening to Bollywood songs on headphones; but tough luck, one day you’ll be a writer with an attitude. You’ll write for the Muslim girls of today so they don’t feel like you did (as out of place as a baguette in a gluten-free pantry) because if you don’t, who will?

Believe in yourself. One day you’ll lecture university students and be on the radio, you’ll pitch to magazine editors and move on after every rejection while fighting the urge to vomit after putting yourself out there (unfortunately that feeling never goes away so you may as well get used to it). Get all the comfort you need from family and friends, but be bolder and do the scarier stuff at school. It gets less terrifying the more you do it.

Work on improving your Urdu vocabulary because it will give you the tools to communicate better with your relatives and learn about your history. Make your dad another cuppa. One day you’ll be too far away to do it and miss sprinkling sweetener in his tea and dipping a digestive in it while he’s not looking. Believe your mum when she tells you that you’re beautiful, even though you feel like you look like a baked potato with curly hair. She may cook stinky food that makes your clothes smell and put a sour spice mix on her fruit salad, but soon balsamic strawberries will be all the rage and her Pakistani habits won’t sound so weird anymore.

Some girls will never ‘get’ you and criticise everything over the next few years, like why you wear a long skirt to school, don’t have a boyfriend and don’t drink alcohol. They are not your people. Instead of bootstrapping your way through those conversations, make friends with like-minded girls.

That empathy that you’ve got in spades? Hold on to it. Feeling affected by people’s pain is a good thing. Being sensitive is not a character flaw despite what the arrogant know-it-alls might tell you. Sensitivity is a route to compassion, to understanding human nature and to a better awareness that everything you say or do has a direct impact on the feelings of others. Next time someone tells you that you are too sensitive, remember it’s just because they don’t like your valid reaction to their unacceptable behaviour. Thank them for the compliment.

Not everyone experiences the special sweet spot between two cultures. Your perspective is rare and interesting so don’t make a secret of your superpower. Instead of dimming your brilliance, shine like a star.

Love,

Me x

@javaria_akbar

Don’t say you haven’t thought the same! No seriously, shh.

“There is nothing as satisfying as perfectly wrapping up your used pad in the wrapper from the new one. Look at that! I’m an artist.”

“ATCHOO! Was that a sneeze or… pants Niagra?”

“One of these days I’m going to leak so bad that I owe someone a new sofa.”

“Uber, but for a robot to come and change your tampon so you don’t have to get out of bed on a Saturday morning.”

“If I tense my muscles and try really hard, could I, like… speed up my uterus? Get it all out a bit quicker?

“If I had the choice, would I rather have all my year’s period in one go?”

“Or even… my whole LIFE’s period. In one go. Imagine! You could go away to a special place to get it all over with, somewhere nice with loads of pillows and hot water bottles and warm baths. A period spa.”

“Actually a period spa is a fantastic idea. All the towels and dressing gowns could be red! One of the treatments could just be a beauty therapist patting your head for an hour and saying “there there” while you whimper.”

“Do you think women who do bell ringing in churches are extra good at getting their tampons out?”

“What if other girls are taking their bags to the toilet for some other cool reason I don’t know about?”

“Do Americans call full stops ‘periods’ because they make everything feel like it’s the end?”

“Why has nobody invented a bra made from something softer for when your boobs hurt? Like… I don’t know, feathers? Marshmallows?”

“Mmm, marshmallows.”

“Would it actually be easier to just sit here on the loo for five days? I could have pizza Deliverooed to the toilet!”

“There we go, another business idea. A period delivery app, that just does cookie dough and chip butties and all the orders come with a pre-filled hot water bottle.”

“I wonder what a cramp looks like inside. Is it like, a whole load of my uterus wall just falling away like a waterfall?”

“Do periods make a noise? If I listened really carefully would I be able to hear it, like a stomach rumble?”

“Shhhh…”

“….”

“No.”

@laurenbravo