Imagine a scenario in which your lightbulb has bust, the buttons of your only clean shirt have popped off, you’ve got to meet your dissertation supervisor in half an hour and your phone is broken so you can’t use Citymapper.

This, my friends is adulthood – or at least, advanced studenthood. It creeps up on you. One minute you’re laughing the face of your mum/aunt/dad/uncle suggesting they teach you some basic stitches, the next you’re at uni and freaking out because you don’t know one end of the needle from the other and your favourite ever trousers have developed a really graphic hole. Your helplessness infuriates you. WHY didn’t you pay attention? And more pressingly, why isn’t anyone there to help you out?

Betty readers, I’ve been there. I still am there. Whole humans are made in less time than it takes me to hang a picture, or even iron a shirt. So if you’re wondering whether you should start learning a few more domestic skills before you leave home, the answer is yes. Here’s the stuff that as a so-called adult, I wish I had known a bit sooner…

1. How to change a lightbulb

‘Really? A skill?’ I hear you say – to which I’d answer: depends on the lightbulb. Sure you might be able to twist your bedside bulb in and out of place in a minute, but an Indesit E14 refrigerator lamp takes ‘tekkers’, as do bulbs for oven and cooker hoods (yes they’re a thing). Don’t assume your dad knows. I did, and my stepmum was livid – not because he didn’t know, but because she did too and I’d just accidentally done some sexism. “You think I lived in darkness until he came along?” Ouch.

2. How to make a spaghetti bolognese

Learning from my mistakes, I asked my dad for the spag bol recipe. He hadn’t the faintest – though he did show me how to make scrambled eggs in the microwave, should the need ever arise. It hasn’t yet, but the need for stepmum’s spag bol has so many times. (Vegetarians, replace bol with ‘decent tomato pasta sauce’.) Not only can the sauce be doubled up and bunged in the freezer for rainy/skint days, but when mates come round it’s a great go-to: comforting, filling, easy and – if your recipe’s like mine and chock-full of carrots and toms – pretty healthy.

3. How to put up pictures and shelves

It might seem ridiculous now, but believe me: when it comes to moving out, you’ll be richly rewarded. Few things are so simple in theory and so maddening in practice as nailing something to a wall in a straight line. One parent will probably claim to know; the other will beg to differ, and point out all the pictures and shelves across the house whose angle can at best be described as… jaunty.

4. How to make a béchamel sauce

Now, this I can do – though I’m surprised by how few of my mates can. It’s piss easy, and the bedrock of some of the best dishes out there. Macaroni cheese? Béchamel. Lasagne? Béchamel. Ditto fish pie, croque monsieur, haddock mornay and cream of anything soup. Get on board with béchamel, and the world is your soufflé.

5. How to put flowers in a vase

Again, this sounds a) obvious and b) middle aged, because no one’s ever bought you flowers, nor probably will for at least five thousand years BUT – it will happen. Believe me, at some point, far sooner than you realise, you’ll be clutching a bunch of gorgeous tulips and thinking, wtf do I do now? And you’ll wish you’d asked the green-fingered adult in your family because there’s more to it than just bunging them in water. You’ve to know how much stem to cut off, how many leaves to remove, whether they need feeding, and whether they continue to grow after being cut – which tulips do, as I found out over a bunch’s old, drooping and very woebegone heads.

6. How to clean an oven

The grim necessity of this task was brought to my attention the first year of uni. I’d made cupcakes for my housemates, but because I’d never learnt how to make cupcakes, had put them in the oven without a muffin tray. The paper cases collapsed, obviously, as a paper case does when it’s filled with expanding cake mixture, and spilled onto the bottom of the oven where it fried merrily away until we smelled the acrid aroma 20 minutes later. The next hour was a hard lesson in cleaning congealed, burnt cake mix off an oven, from the housemate who had actually bothered to learn how.

7. How to make cupcakes

See above.

8. How to iron a shirt

Or anything else for that matter, given the ‘used paper bag’ appearance of my outfit right now – but shirts and pleated trousers are the most complicated. How do you get the pleats in the right place without creating pleats on the opposite side at the same time? How do you iron a collar without channelling Count Dracula? It’s boring as hell, I grant you, but come interviews and meetings, this sh*t matters. Initiate yourself into the ways of the well-groomed early and you’ll reap the sleek, crease-free rewards all your life.

9. How to sew on a button and darn a hole

Yes you could just buy another one from Primarni, but with 235 million items of clothing hitting landfill every year, you’re doing the planet a favour by mending and making do. Besides, sod’s law dictates holes will always appear in your most favourite jumper – the irreplaceable one you bought from a tiny shop on holiday – not the grey V-neck your nan bought you from M&S. Also that buttons which pop off shirts are always the boob-covering ones, and they must always fall off halfway through the day. The law.

10. How to read bank statements and bills

These guys are suspect. If they can slip something in under an asterisk, behind an acronym, or beneath some corporate BS they’ll do it – and they’ll often assume you won’t notice. So don’t be that girl. Get the most financially savvy parent or adult in your life to talk you through their bills, and make some notes as they do so. This stuff is so boring it’s easy to forget.

11. How to read an actual IRL paper map

Because Google Maps and sat-nav, while fantastic, aren’t totally foolproof. Even in 2017 the possibility of your screen smashing, battery dying or signal failing is all too real. So get the ‘rent with the best sense of direction to locate an OS map and an A-Z, and show you the way.

12. How to make a roast dinner

The secret to your grandma’s perfect roast potatoes doesn’t come down through your genes. You need to ask her – or whoever it is that’s been entrusted with The Knowledge – what they do, what fat they use, and how long for. Ditto gravy, Yorkshire puds and stuffing. And spend some time with whoever the roast boss is in your house so you can work out the hardest part of it all: the timings. You’ll never regret it.

And if the parents/siblings/responsible adults in your life don’t know any of this stuff either? Well then, that’s what YouTube was made for.

@finney_clare

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Hailey Hamilton

Having grown up with two mums since she was four, Jillian never really thought much into her family set up. It was what it was. Both she and her parents loved, argued, disagreed, laughed – the same as any other family out there.

After all, mums and dads exist in the world, but so do step-mums, step-dads, grandparents that act as parents, guardians, foster parents and of course, same-sex parents. Was anything about her upbringing really *that* different? Well, tbf, yes, but for so many different reasons.

From the fact that her mums were the first lesbians to marry in Scotland (which she says was “the coolest thing ever” btw) to her negative experience of high-school and continuing social media abuse, Jillian tells betty.me about the struggles she and her family have faced – but also dishes out some awesome advice.

What happened when your mum came out?

“I was only four when my mum told me she was a lesbian, but from what my mum’s told me, my main concern was whether I would still be seeing my dad. Once she’d said of course, I was sort of like “Fine then, okay”. I didn’t really have much more to say. Being so young I didn’t really care as long as my parents were happy. My mum and dad split up 20 years ago, then my mum got together with Gerrie so I’ve never really known any different.”

Did you ever think of your family as anything other than just that?

“I just thought we were unique! I never made it a secret that I had two mums. I would actually make sure it was something everybody knew about. I’d be like “Yeah I’ve got two mums!” Some people definitely thought we were weird but at the end of the day I didn’t care because they were my family.”

How did your friends react?

“My friends have always been so supportive of me and my family. They’ve never used my mum being gay as a way to be nasty to me or anything like that. I think it helped that they were all so young when it happened, so they’ve grown up with me having lesbian mums as just a normal thing.”

Do you experience any prejudice or bullying?

“In my teenage years boys would tease me about my mums, asking crude sexual questions. YUCK. In RE classes there were sometimes debates about it too. Some of the more religious kids would say that it wasn’t ‘right’ or what God intended. But I’d take no notice. Gods are meant to accept everybody in this world so I don’t think that matters.

“It’s actually since filming a documentary with Newsbeat that I’ve received the most abuse. People from all over the world tweet us saying we’re disgusting, but to every negative comment there are ten more positive comments, so whatever. People hide behind their keyboards. If they said it to my face, maybe I would feel more upset.

“Growing up in the early 00s it was ‘different’ to have two mums so I had to grow a thick skin. People labelled me as ‘the weird one’ because I didn’t have the same family as them. But if anything, that has helped me going into adult life. It’s made me a lot more confident.”

How about your mums?

“They have definitely received a lot of prejudice over the years – when the news broke that they would be the first lesbians to marry in Scotland, they received a lot of hate. At first me and my sisters used to try and reply to the comments but we realised not to bother. There were so many people who hated it, but they’re the ones who are wrong and have not realised it’s normal to be lesbian or gay or whatever sexuality you want to be. It was definitely tough for them but they never let it get them down. They’re so cheesy, they just say ‘Well we love each other, we’ve got each other so that’s all that matters.’”

They were the first lesbians to marry in Scotland, how does that make you feel?

“Honestly, I think it’s the coolest thing ever! Who else in Scotland will be able to say that their parents made history? We always jokingly call them ‘The Lesbian Royalty Of Scotland’ LOL. I’m so proud of them, a lot of people definitely wouldn’t have the balls to do that. The wedding was the best day ever. We did ceremony on the stroke of midnight, so we had a huge party in the evening and then did a countdown to midnight on the day that gay marriage became legal. They said their vows at one minute past midnight. As soon as the law passed they were the first people to be married.”

What positives and negatives have you experienced?

“The positives: definitely growing up being taught that I could be whoever and whatever I wanted to be – your sexuality is your choice and you should just accept yourself. It’s made me a much more confident adult and I’ve never been afraid to tell my truth or wanted to hide who my family are. I’ve always been so proud of them, being different is cool. The one negative is high school. Once I escaped, I realised that the world was a huge place and there were people out there who accepted you for you.”

What misconceptions have you had to deal with?

“People definitely think that because you aren’t being raised with a male and a female influence in your household that it will affect you later in life. I think maybe my brother felt that. He was the only boy in a house full of women so people used to judge us and think he had no male mentor in his life, but what people seem quick to forget is that we still have a father, we just don’t live under the same roof. It’s such a backwards way of thinking. I just don’t understand why people can’t move forward with the times.”

What advice would you give your 14 year old self?

“When it comes to bullying, never listen to it! I soon realised that having gay parents is one of the coolest gifts you can ever be given. It makes you stand out from the crowd and different is NOT wrong. Different is something to be encouraged. It’s something to be proud of. Talk to people, whether it’s a friend, parent or teacher, speak about how you feel and if you are getting bullied, the bullies need to be called out for it. There’s always someone to talk to so don’t suffer in silence. Finally, be proud of your family because there’s not one particular way to be brought up.”

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Amber Griffin

Let’s face it: no one in their right mind would choose to grow up in the paved, semi-detached equivalent of own-brand Coca-Cola. No one voluntarily sacrifices a cool cosmopolitan back story in favour of Netflix and bus stations. No kid chooses suburbia: home of charity shops, grumpy cats and uncertain parents who, torn between the bright lights of the city and the fresh air of the countryside, opted for… er, neither.

But if these are your parents, and you are that suburban kid, here’s what you already know.

There will be four hairdressers, 25 charity shops and four kebab shops

But no newsagents or post office. Because who needs milk, newspapers or stamps when you have a wardrobe full of cast offs and really great hair?

Everything is just a bit too far to walk

Tesco, your mates, the cinema: you name it, if it’s worth getting to, the chances are it’ll be the sort of distance you can’t do by foot. Except you know asking your ‘rents to run you there is a waste of your unspoken ‘car lifts ration’. You could cycle but, meh. So you sit at home in a grump instead, until you’ve spent so long thinking about that bar of Dairy Milk/gossip/film/train ride to somewhere cooler, you might as well just have walked.

There are so many estate agents you start to wonder if you’re missing something

If there’s some banging secret your suburb has been keeping from you all these years, but which has brought home-buying adults running. The reality is that good mortgage rates, reliable transport networks and good local schools are the grown up equivalents of a 2-for-1 Ben and Jerry’s binge.

You dread the ‘so where have you come from?’ question on holiday

…and you’re not sure what’s worse: when they’ve heard of where you’re from, or when they haven’t. Early on you learn that the best way to handle this is to adapt where you’re from to who you’re speaking to, such as: Watford for the football fans, Harrow on the Hill for the posh, Hertfordshire for the country folk and a simple ‘ummm, London’ for those who know basically nothing about the UK.

You are the ultimate everywoman

The advantage of being from the ’burbs, you discover later, is that you’re able to swing with the city slickers, dig with the farmers, josh with the Jack Wills, joke with the average Joe and appeal to everyone else in between.

Your parents’ childhood homes were at least 10, if not 10,000 times more exciting

Making it all the more baffling that they decided to bring you up in a place where culture is an ASK Italian, history is a war memorial and leisure is a paddling pool with plasters floating in it. Were Edinburgh’s rolling Pentland hills not good enough for me, Dad? Did the seaside get you down, Mum? Was the excitement of museums and galleries and carnivals and daily swims, rounders, camping and bonfires too much to bear?

Starbucks/Costa/equivalent coffee shop opens and life is NEVER THE SAME

Omg race you to the red cups.

You get overexcited when you discover a celebrity who grew up in suburbia

Because you always assumed an interesting back story was a precondition of fame.

If they’re not driving a Volvo or an Audi estate, they clearly don’t live here

Maybe it’s the celebrity, come back to visit their mum?

Going to the nearest town is a MASSIVE deal

It demands careful outfit consideration, a full face of makeup and a dedicated WhatsApp group to plan it all.

You’ll grow to love it and you will never, ever be able to put your finger on why

As poet Philip Larkin once famously wrote, ‘Nothing, like something, happens anywhere’

@finney_clare

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I was nine when I started my first period. Nine.

I was so young I was still making up dance routines in the playground and absent-mindedly picking my nose in public, but then one day the puberty gods decided I would be plucked from my innocent childhood and made to menstruate.

It was a weekend. I was sat on the upstairs loo while my mum hung out washing on the landing. I wiped after doing my business and there it was on the tissue: blood.

It wasn’t bright red like the normal blood I’d seen when I’d fallen over and grazed my knees. This was darker and definitely not wee, so it had to be my period. I pulled up my knickers, flushed the chain and walked out of the bathroom. “Mum, I think I’ve started my period,” I announced.

My mum did what any normal mum would do when a nine-year-old announces she’s bleeding from her vagina: she freaked out. Dropping the bed sheet she was folding, she hopped from one foot to another, spluttering, “OK… um… right… OK… um”. I shrugged, walked past coolly and reassured: “It’s alright, mum. I know what to do.”

I was too young to have had sex education at school, but luckily my mum had been spotting signs that my period was on the hormonal horizon. While she may have been useless on the day (bless her), she’d been super organised beforehand and prepared me for aunt Flo’s imminent arrival.

She later told me she’d noticed a white discharge appearing in my knickers when she did the washing, which is a sure sign your first period is about to start. (BTW: regular discharge is totally normal and part of a woman’s monthly cycle. It’s not gross and is nothing to be ashamed of. Find out more about it here.)

So when my period came, my mum had already given me “the talk”. She had put sanitary towels in my knicker drawer and performed an extremely detailed demonstration of how to stick a white-winged sanitary pad into the gusset of my age 9-10 knickers.

By the time I went back to school on Monday, I was a period pro. I skipped into the school playground with a packet of Always tucked away inside my backpack and that was that. The world kept turning and nothing really changed.

After a phone call from my mum, the school made a few changes to accommodate the “more mature” girls in my class (which is code for “those with boobs”). We got changed in the toilets for PE instead of the classroom, we could go to the loo in the middle of a lesson and we knew where the secret stash of sanitary products were.

People feel sorry for me for having “grown up so fast”, but in reality I was remarkably unfazed by the arrival of aunt Flo.

Puberty is a slow and steady experience for girls, unlike boys who seem to sprout overnight and get reaaaaally deeeeeep vooooooices all of a sudden. So I was used to “growing up”. I had boobs – not budding nipples but actual breasts that needed a bra – and had discovered my first pubes a year before.

Maybe I was too young to feel that shame and embarrassment that a lot of girls feel when they start their period. I was more interested in cartoons than how I looked, what boys thought of me or what was happening to my body. If anything I’m happy that I started so young, it meant that when my friends started I was a dab hand and could help them out.

Periods aren’t always easy, of course: sometimes you leak blood onto bed sheets or your pants (which is really easy to wash with cold water), the pain can be excruciating (hot water bottles are your friend) and it makes swimming awkward (you can still go, just wear a tampon and change it when you get out – you don’t want a wet string dripping in your undies).

I’d recommend using a period tracker app to log pain, flow and moods, so you know what is normal for your body. That way if you are worried or notice anything unusual speak to an adult you trust. The most powerful thing you can do for your health as a woman is get to know yourself.

But for the most part, you, like the other half of the population who menstruate, will be just fine. And if a nine-year-old can do it, I’m sure you can too.

@Brogan_Driscoll

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It’s August 2004 and tears are threatening to spill over my bottom eyelashes as I stare back at my reflection in the hairdresser’s mirror. There are chunks of black hair all over me and I daren’t look at what’s on the floor. My palms are clammy and I feel weak as the hairdresser gives my hair a final brush then unhooks me from my gown. I daren’t meet my twin sister’s eyes. Her long, glossy black mane (so like Princess Jasmine’s) now seems like a cruel reminder of my former glory.

It’s hard not to draw comparisons to Jacqueline Wilson’s Double Act where twin Ruby cuts off her hair to look poles apart from Garnet. But, in my life, there was no major twin fight, no break up with a summer love or even a friendship break up. Instead, I had spent most of the summer fantasising about sashaying through the school gates looking a million times more grown up. The hot trends – yeti boots, circle belts and Baby G watches – were not going to cut it this term. I needed real change.

Then…suddenly…BAM. Flicking through a copy of Sugar magazine, I noticed a model with a black bob and pink highlights. This would be it. MY MOMENT. This would be my America’s (or let’s face it, Camden’s) Next Top Model makeover. After all, I had gone on holiday with my best mate’s family and had recently turned the big ONE-THREE so surely my new bob would prove I was officially a grown up.

But now, post-chop, school’s first day was inching closer while I was itching for my hair to miraculously grow back. I promised the Hair Gods that I would nevereverever touch my mane again and stop using that TGI hairspray every morning if only a few inches could grow back. I spent each morning checking with my pound shop ruler, dreading entering the school gates, imaging everyone’s pointed stares. I was known for the long, shiny black hair down to my back. As an identical twin with long black hair too, it was not just my marker, but ours.

During those last few weeks of summer, it felt like I had to learn who I was again. Mirrors became THE ENEMY as I no longer recognised the girl in front of me. I had massive tantrums as I realised that none of my clothes seemed to match my awkward bob, each time swearing at the evil page of Sugar magazine. But the girl with the bob kept winking back.

Looking back though, my bob forced me to confront my fears now that I was no longer hiding underneath a mop of black hair. I inherited a newfound confidence – after all, surely I could face nothing worse as a just-turned teen. As I realised I was visible in public, I threw myself into after-school activities from gym classes to being part of the Greek chorus in the school play. I no longer cared if my bum jiggled too much in front of the dance class mirrors or if I had to sing in public. I even became a regular member of the Pink Police for the school’s charity fundraising team, ‘arresting’ anyone who wasn’t wearing pink on Pink Day and asking the girls in higher forms to cough up some pounds and pennies – all the things that the former me would have been too scared to try.

This new-found confidence led me to talk to people I normally wouldn’t have bothered with. At dance class, I met Imogen, who would later become my best friend. I met a few other pals from theatre club too who, twelve years later, are still part of my solid friendship group.

Having my hair chopped off helped me mature into the bolshy teenager and adult who was able to cope with any type of change. I learnt to be brave about fashion choices and meeting new people but it also allowed me to think openly about new experiences – even if they initially scared me. I even ended up living in Miami for five months!

When I finally hit the growing-out stage of my awkward bob, I didn’t use it as an excuse to retreat back into the background. While I never did take a trip back to the same hairdresser for another chop, I was still dancing at gym class and fundraising for charity.

And whenever adult me is scared of something, I try to think about how it felt that day in the hairdresser’s chair – and how it ended up being the making of me. I guess I have my awkward bob to thank.

@layla_haidrani

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To tongue or not to tongue? That is the question… 

1. It’s totally going to happen isn’t it? I mean, why else would we both have left the main party (especially when the pizzas are about to arrive) to go for a ‘nice refreshing walk’ around this garden?

2. I mean what are we, 70? What teenager turns down Domino’s in favour of a ‘bit of fresh air’? 

3. And why did we both pick this ridiculously romantic cherry blossom tree to sit under? Eh? Even though this long grass could easily be hiding piles of dog poo. 

4. Actually that IS a worry….

5. WHEVS, I am about to have my first ever kiss! Under a CHERRY BLOSSOM TREE! Am pretty much a Jane Austen character.

6. Not that they ever kiss, actually. So rubbish for them. Bet sometimes all they wanted was to snog each other’s faces off.

7. Well don’t worry, Lizzie Bennett. This one’s for you! And it’s going to be the most romantic-novel-worthy kiss anyone’s ever seen.

8. Oh god, I hope no one sees.

9. Unless I’ve completely got the wrong end of the snog stick and they don’t want to kiss me at all? I mean, maybe we really have come out here to enjoy the air.

10. But then why would we have stopped talking and just been smiling awkwardly at each other for the last three minutes? And why would they be staring at me like that?

11. OH CRAP HAVE I GOT A BOGEY.  

12. Quick check: nope. All clear. And that was mega subtle bogey checking, too. Go me. Nailed it. Figuratively and literally.

13. So if it’s not bogey-related then this silent staring thing is clearly the beginnings of my first. Ever. Kiss. Eeeeeeee!

14. Um…. how does it start exactly? Do I just lean in and close my eyes and pout?

15. But then if they’re not into it I’ll just be left hanging there like some weird unconscious duck. And anyway, why can’t I make the fist move?

16. Nonononononononono I do NOT want to make the first move. What would I even do? Lunge at them? I may not know much about kissing but I know that THAT’S not cool.

17. Mmmm, maybe I could be like, “I’d really like to kiss you right now”…

18. Ugh no.

19. “I really like your lips”?

20. NOPE. You are not a stalker-slash-serial-killer.

21. Uhmmmmm…

22. WAIT! They’re doing the unconscious duck! They’re doing the unconscious duck! How long have they been doing that for?

23. Doesn’t matter! Don’t leave them hanging just KISS THEM you moron!

24. Oh god but what if I get it totally wrong?! What if I miss and kiss their chin or their nose or something? Is that… a thing? A sexy thing?

25. Ok. I’m going in.

26. Eyes open? Eyes closed? Eyes open? Eyes closed?!

27. And do I need to hold my breath, do we think? Can you kiss and breathe at the same time?

28. Better take an extra deep one, just in case.

29. Ok, Ok, they’ve been there for ages now, just go for it. Eyes closed, deep breath and…

30. NOSE CLASH! Noooooo! Kill me now.

31. Oh it’s ok, they’re laughing.

32. Laugh too, you idiot.

33. But now I’ve lost all my air! I am going to suffocate and die kissing! Although, not a bad way to go. In the grand scheme of things.

34. Oooh, they’ve got really soft lips. And they taste of Haribo. WHY did I go for the garlic bread over the Haribo at snack table? WHY?

35. Tbh if they don’t like garlic bread then they’re probably not worth kissing anyway.

36. Do I open my mouth? What if I accidentally drool on them? Or our teeth smash together?

37. Ok, they’re opening theirs. Better give this a go.

38. WOAH there with the tongue! Too much too much too much too- thank you! That’s better. 

40. Much better.

41. What do I do with my hands? Maybe stroke their face? No, that is their eye. You’ve poked them right in the eye. Nice one. 

42. I wonder what this looks like from the outside? I bet we look totally grown up and experienced. I bet they look gorgeous. Maybe I’ll just have a little peek. I mean, I really ought to take a mental picture of the person I had my first kiss with. Just open my eyes a crack. Just to –

43. GAHH! They’re looking right at me. Like a frog.

44. And good, now we’re just staring at each other.

45. This is SO. AWKWARD.

46. And you’re still looking.

47. You’ve been looking at them for basically about 45 minutes by now.

48. SHUT YOUR EYES. SHUT THEM. FOR THE LOVE OF BEYONCE, SHUT. THEM. NOW. 

49. There you go. Just keep kissing. Just keep kissing. It’s all good. 

50. Wow we’ve been kissing for aaaaaagggges now. How long do we need to carry on for it to count as a proper snog? Like, officially? I reckon at least 2 minutes. And I mean we must have done, what, one and a half minutes AT LEAST. Maybe I should do a countdown. 30. 29. 28

51. OK well now you’re just opening and closing your mouth in time with your inner counting.

52. Just enjoooy it.

53. But now I’m all red and spitty and… to be quite honest… my jaw’s getting tired. You know what? I think that’s enough to qualify as a proper first kiss. I’m out. Final peck, pulling away… eyes open.

54. And there we go! My first kiss! Completed! Tick! 

55. I mean it wasn’t great and it was a bit weird and awks. But hey! It wasn’t that bad!

56. And appazza it only gets better with practice. 

57. Practice, they say… Practice…

58. I’m going in again, aren’t I?

59. Yes, yes I am. Pizza can wait.

@LucindaEverett

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

One of the best things about having an older sister is listening to her life advice, right? Bras, boys, big life decisions like whether or not you should try unicorn hair or Topshop’s see-through jeans. Well, betty has a VIP pass to a group of girls that are sharing their words of wisdom, too. Because there’s always room for more embarrassing stories we can learn from. Awkward sex chats, fashion mistakes, first kisses… ex Made In Chelsea star and My Flash Trash founder Amber reveals *everything* about growing up. And you’ve got a front row seat.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Living as we do in the age of green juices, Instagram wellness gurus and friends who just happen to turn gluten intolerant overnight (except for, mysteriously, Colin the Caterpillar cake?) it’s easy to feel confused about food.

On the one hand: diets suck. Body positivity is the way forward, ‘strong not skinny’ is so now and we know it’s so much healthier to have a cookie when you fancy one than to live a life of obsessive calorie-counting. But on the other hand, when you’re fed up of bad skin, feel like hormones are taking over your body and need all the energy you can get to keep up with your busy, busy life, food could hold some answers.

“Teenage years are BIG years for your body – there’s a lot of change and development,” says Alice Walker, a registered dietician (which FYI is a legal title, whereas anyone can call themselves a ‘nutritionist’ without professional qualifications). “Your body is calling out for good nutritious food.” So how do we sort the true superfoods from the trendy fads? Ask a professional, that’s how.

Here are Alice’s top five nutrients to be eating more of in 2017. Tuck in!

1. Fibre – keeps things moving

“First up is fibre, which we don’t seem to be consuming enough of these days and we need it to keep [lol] regular. Fruit and vegetables are an excellent source of fibre and have the added benefit of being rich in other vitamins and minerals too – so if you aim to meet your 5-a-day of fruit and veg then that’s a good target. A portion could be an apple, two satsumas, two broccoli spears or a banana. Wholemeal carbs (oats, bread, pasta and rice), nuts, seeds, lentils and beans are also great sources. Long-term low intake of fibre can cause digestive problems later in life, so it’s important to get your fill.” 

2. Protein – power up

“A teenage body requires plenty of protein. Having good skin, hair and nails could all be down to having enough protein in your diet – but that doesn’t mean you need to go and drink protein shakes. Lean cuts of meat, fish, yoghurt, milk, eggs, quinoa, soya and tofu all are good sources of protein. Be savvy and include a portion of protein at each meal – that could be a palm-sized amount of the above, a chicken fillet, a salmon steak, an individual pot of yoghurt or a couple of eggs.” 

3. Calcium and Vitamin D – besties for bones

“These two together make a heavenly pair for strong bones. Teenage years are crucial as it is when bone strength peaks, and a diet lacking in calcium and vitamin D could lead to Osteoporosis (thinning of the bones). Calcium is, famously, found in dairy products like milk, yoghurt and cheese – but if you’re vegan or don’t like the white stuff then oily fish, calcium-enriched breakfast cereals and green leafy vegetables can also help. Again, aiming to have a portion at each meal would be a good start. Meanwhile vitamin D is added to lots of breakfast cereals, milk and margarine but the best source is actually direct from sunlight. As well as eating a balanced diet we should also have an active lifestyle, so fresh air and safe sun exposure [remember your SPF] for at least 15 minutes per day also benefits those bones.”

4. Iron – for inner strength

“We lose iron every month in our menstrual cycle, so it’s extra important to make sure you get enough once you start your period. Found in red meat, green leafy vegetables, fortified breakfast cereals, dried fruit and nuts, iron also helps to carry oxygen around the body, giving our muscles energy to move – so there is some truth in Popeye downing the tins of spinach to make him strong! If you don’t think that offal is awful then liver or kidneys are fab sources of iron. Vitamin C can also help the absorption of Iron from plant sources – so a perfect breakfast could be breakfast cereal with a glass of orange juice to wash it down with.

5. Fats – oil’s well that ends well

“Finally, let’s talk fat. Good fats are essential – our bodies can’t make them, so we need to eat them. Let’s not worry about the long complicated names but oily fish (like mackerel, sardines or salmon), avocado, nuts, seeds, rapeseed and olive oil all contain essential fats that can help give you great skin. Fats found in processed products – like cakes, crisps, biscuits and pastries – contain the less brilliant fats that it’s better to eat only in moderation.”

“But most importantly,” says Alice, “enjoy your food and be creative with it – variety is the spice of life!”

So there you go; proper, medical permission to fill up your plate with all kinds of food. Because there’s so much more to life than green juice.

Alice Walker is a registered dietician.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Manjit Thapp

I think I was seven or eight the day I cried to my mum about just wanting a cake with candles.

I pleaded so much that she brought out the Victoria sponge with raspberry jam that she had just made, stuck a dinner candle on top and lit it. ‘Are you happy now?’ I wiped my eyes and nodded, because for a moment I think I genuinely was. I made a wish like I had seen on TV – probably for Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin to be my boyfriend, yuck – then blew out the candle. I don’t even think it was my actual birthday.

The joy quickly went away though as I looked at the once perfectly good cake now with blobs of wax and a gaping hole in it, and waited for a call from Macaulay that never came. What a letdown. I couldn’t understand what the fuss was about, but I was glad that I finally got an insight into the ritual that seemed to be the norm for everyone else but me.

I grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness, a Christian subsect that views many aspects of society as morally corrupt and, cheerily, believe that the world is due to end any minute now. Basically, Witnesses believe that living according to their interpretation of the Bible will mean that once the world ends, they will be rewarded with eternal life. And while it’s not specifically mentioned in the Bible that birthdays are bad, Witnesses don’t celebrate birthdays as they believe they are rooted in pagan origins and therefore a big no-no to God.

As an adult, the reasoning behind JWs not doing birthdays (as well as Christmas, Halloween and other ‘worldly’ practices) makes more sense to me – but as a kid with little understanding of what the point of religion even was, it was mostly just embarrassing and silly. What kind of god hates cake, presents and a cute song? And I constantly felt guilty for being naturally excited about turning a year older.

This isn’t to say the lives of Jehovah’s Witness children all over the world are grim. I still got presents and stuff, just sprinkled throughout the year for no reason at all, and there were always parties for some reason or another. I was pretty lucky in that my mum understood how confusing being part of a world-critical religion but having to, you know, be a part of the world, could be for a kid. A lot of Witness families are much stricter though. I remember one boy in the year below me at my primary school whose parents requested he sit out of the end of Autumn term assemblies so that he didn’t have to sing the Christmas carols. I think the most important thing in my family was that we had a solid foundation and understanding of the faith but weren’t given an excuse to be made to feel like weirdos, especially at an age when that can happen easily enough without even bringing religion into the mix. 

Over the course of my teens, my family gradually stopped being practicing Witnesses. Conveniently, this was also at a time I was increasingly convinced that it was in no way the faith for me. So the first time I had a proper birthday cake with real candles and actual icing, I was 18. This time it felt a little more magical (although that could have been the cocktails). I can’t remember what I wished for but I remember not having that guilty feeling in the pit of my stomach that I was doing something wrong.

I’ve still never had a big party though, I don’t really see the point when I managed my entire childhood without one. Now I see birthdays as a time to reflect on how much I’ve grown over the past year and where I hope the next year will take me, whether that’s spent amongst friends and family or alone. But either way, I’m always happy to catch up on all the cake I missed.

@KirbyAfua

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

@finney_clare

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Girls in the UK are in the midst of a body confidence crisis, and the cult of ‘perfection’ isn’t helping. Our guest writer Adeola Gbakinro tells us how we can help change that. 

What is low body confidence? When I was younger I felt like I needed to fit in, I believed there were criteria I needed to meet. If I didn’t fit into those criteria, there was risk of ridicule, or even being bullied. The peer pressure from friends, the ‘ideal’ girl that we thought boys liked – it made me want to be ‘perfect’.

According to the Girls’ Attitudes Survey, published by Girlguiding, 49% of girls aged 11-16 fear people will criticise their body if someone takes their picture. I know all too well how this feels and just what a detrimental and lasting impact it can have on the happiness and mental wellbeing of a young woman. If an individual has a negative perception of their body, perhaps they feel they’re not ‘pretty enough’ or don’t look the ‘right way,’ then hearing one negative comment can increase this x 100.

I can’t help but think that if I’d had a safe place and time in school, to discuss the core issues and importance of positive body confidence, I would not have let the pressure around me sink in. I would have been better prepared to deal with the situations I faced and to challenge them.

In the Girls’ Attitudes Survey  75% of girls aged 11 – 21 told us they believe  women are judged more on their appearance than on their ability and 47% aged 11–21 said the way they look holds them back. One look at the media and you see thousands of airbrushed photos, portraying this ‘perfect’ image of a woman where she fits a particular size and shape, where the person she is and the things she achieves are rarely mentioned. 

It is so easy to compare yourself to everything you see in magazines and on billboards. Recognising that your own body doesn’t look anything like that can make you feel inadequate and it becomes increasingly harder to ‘be yourself.’

As a Girlguiding advocate, I believe this needs changing and the time is now!

Girlguiding is campaigning for compulsory Personal, Social and Health Education and Sex and Relationships Education to include body confidence and healthy relationships. We want girls to be confident in their bodies, from their school years through to adulthood, and we believe education can play a major part in this. By teaching body confidence in schools, girls can learn how to increase their self-esteem and learn how to value themselves.

Girls and young women need to be reassured that there is no perfect image. Their size, shape or height does not define how far they can reach in life.

We need to teach girls that they are awesome whatever their shape and size.

In Girlguiding, through resources such as our Think Resilient and Free Being Me badges, we inspire girls to be confident within themselves. But we know much still needs to be done and we believe it can start in school.

You can help us achieve this by signing the petition here.

Adeola Gbakinro, 20, is a member of the Girlguiding Advocate panel. The Advocate panel is made up of 18 girls and young women aged 14-25 who speak out and call for change.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Manjit Thapp

We were lucky enough to interview the wonderful Nina Cosford, author and illustrator of ‘My Name is Girl.’

We talked to her about growing up, what’s it like to be a girl in 2016 and how it’s ok to change as well as nabbing a look at her beautiful studio.

You can also watch Nina drawing an exclusive illustration of her PMT self for betty.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome.