Sisters get all the glory. They’re in-built BFFs and take turns being bridesmaids. They borrow each other’s clothes and the older sister always teachers the younger one about periods and sex. Apparently.

I don’t have a sister. Instead, I have a lot of brothers. I always liked that about myself, as if I had anything to do with it.

I didn’t understand sisters; didn’t understand the way they could be screaming at each other over a pair of jeans one second, cuddling on the sofa the next. I would watch my friends fight with their sisters, hatred streaming out of their mouth, their faces red and vicious, completely unembarrassed by my presence. I would watch them storm out and slam the door, only to reappear ten minutes later and ask if they could borrow a phone charger, like nothing had ever happened.

People with sisters know how to fight. They know how to speak their mind. To let their emotions fly out of their mouth, rather than swallowing them whole.

Instead, I had three older brothers. Mostly, we conformed to stereotypes: they played lots of sports and I wore pink and complained when I was made to watch aforementioned sports. We never fought. Well, we did. But our fighting involved them tickling me until I cried or holding me, fully clothed over the pool while I screamed bloody murder. I wasn’t a defenseless kid, I would bite down until my entire dental records were ingrained on their skin, or pinch them until they let go of me. Our fighting was physical and fast and playful and almost always ended with our mother telling us to be nice to each other.

I liked our way of fighting. Actually, I still like our way of fighting, but it got harder as we got older and it became unacceptable for adults to throw each other in the pool or bite each other’s forearms.

monica-and-ross

These days, when we fight, our tactic is avoidance. We screen each other’s phone calls or let texts go unanswered until we’ve forgotten what we were cross about in the first place. We stew, wait for it to pass, put it aside. My family don’t work ‘through’ things, we work around them. I am always semi in awe of the people who are able to express their feelings. Those who deal with conflict head-on rather than running around the back and checking to see if the coast is clear before reemerging.

To be honest, my brothers and I rarely fight anymore. Mostly, they feel like my team mates. People who look like me and sound like me and remember the time our dad got airlifted out of the Australian desert because he had a headache that he was convinced was a tumour (it wasn’t).

We aren’t close in the way sisters often are, we don’t talk about relationships and we are perfectly content to let our mum collect and pass on our news, like some sort of loving, all-purpose media outlet.

But we are close in a different way. They call every so often just to make sure I’m doing ok. They are protective whenever I introduce them to a boyfriend. They randomly send me texts littered with emojis that I take to mean, ‘Hey, I’m thinking of you.’ They let me go halves on a birthday present for my dad if I can’t think of anything good to buy him. Having three older brothers feels a bit like having three bodyguards who each call you by a different childhood nickname.

Maybe, if I had had a sister, I would have been better at speaking my mind. I would have learnt how to deliver that verbal blow that sisters seem so adept at doing.

Instead, I had brothers. So I know exactly the spot on someone’s arm to pinch that will cause a bruise the next day and I know that there are a million ways to say ‘I love you’ without ever using the words. And who knows, maybe that’s just as useful.

Ahhh hormones, they make the world go round, right? Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration but they’re deffo responsible for rollercoaster emotions and the weird and wonderful things that happen to bods during puberty and beyond.

So are you clued up or totally clueless about the chemicals that make us fabulously female?

Let’s find out! (WARNING: This test is tricky).

1. Ok, so one of these ISN’T a legit hormone. Can you spot it?

2. What’s the name of the super-important hormone that kicks off your first period during puberty?

3. Aww, did you know the brain releases a ‘cuddle’ hormone that makes you feel all warm and loving. What’s it called?

4. What natural chemical in the bod causes those demon cramps when you’ve got your period?

5. Boys have oestrogen in their bodies too. True or False?

6. You feel pain less when oestrogen is at its highest (the week after your period finishes). Fact or fib?

7. The follicle-stimulating hormone sounds fancy. But what does it do?

8. Due to the blue light that devices let off, too much time on your phone late at night (yup, guilty), can meddle with the sleep-related hormone called…

9. Progesterone majorly peaks sometime during your monthly menstrual cycle, but do you know when?

10. What’s the name of the brain-chemical that makes you happy and fun? (When this dips you can feel super-sad too. Boo.)

Do you hear the words, “Oh my God you’re SO EXTRA!” more often than your name? Do you start each week vowing to control your OTT behaviour, only to get to Wednesday and turn back into a human meme? Well, my fellow drama queens, that’s OK. In fact, it’s more than OK; it’s downright fabulous.

You see, I might keep them under wraps 75% of the time, but I definitely have ‘so extra’ tendencies. Case in point: wearing a dress with my own face on it to my 21st birthday party – and the fun didn’t end there, oh no. I then changed into a black leotard and gold glove for a surprise solo performance of Beyoncé’s Single Ladies dance. Yep, I watched way too many episodes of My Super Sweet 16 growing up, but there’s no shame in that.

In fact, being extra could be the antidote to a world where we’re too often taught it’s cool to play it cool. In relationships (“don’t text back too quickly!”), fashion (“why does she always try so hard?”) or in social situations (“ugh, she’s just so LOUD!”), we’re always being told not to care too much or show our excitement too easily. Whether they realise it or not, unapologetically extra gals are actually paving the way for their fellow females to speak up for themselves, and to do, say or dress as they please without judgement.

Take Beyoncé, for example (can you tell I’m obsessed?). Whenever she has an important announcement to make, be it a tour or the birth of her twins, does she just send out a tweet or a statement from her spokesperson? Indeed she does not. There’s a full-blown Instagram photo shoot every time, with the first snap of her baby twins garnering over 10 million likes to date.

Sir Carter and Rumi 1 month today. 🙏🏽❤️👨🏽👩🏽👧🏽👶🏾👶🏾

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Not that it’s about the ‘likes’, of course; quite the opposite. Being truly extra means giving zero cares as to what others think of your decisions. It’s all about what YOU want to wear, say, do and project onto the world, without actually needing their approval. It’s about the dress code being casual, and you turning up in sweats with six-inch heels and stacks of jewellery. You’re not being rude, that’s just how you chose to interpret ‘casual’.

There’s a level of self-awareness that comes with being extra, too, which Rihanna demonstrates perfectly. “When you a plus 1 but squad wanna come,” she captioned a recent Instagram photo of her, hairstylist Yusef Williams, personal assistant Jenn Rosales and BFF/photographer Melissa Forde. Yes, RiRi was being extra with her entourage, but she owned it. “Spam,” is another of her favourite captions, for when she posts five frames of a red carpet or shoot instead of one – classic extra behaviour.

when you a plus 1 but squad wanna come

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Being in on the ‘extra’ joke is all part of the fun. While in my day-to-day life I’m generally limited to wearing head-to-toe sequins or using more superlatives than a Kardashian, I live for the moments when I can let out my inner Paris Hilton, the queen of extra behaviour. And Paris, like Rihanna, is 100% in on the lols. Heck, she’s even taken to reposting memes that use pictures of her as the punchline, so aware is she of her own OTT behaviour.

Yas Queen! 👸🏼

A post shared by Paris Hilton (@parishilton) on

So, next time someone calls you ‘extra’, embrace it. If it’s good enough for Queen Bey, Rih and Paris, it’s good enough for you.

Image: Scream Queens

Being sporty is hard, man. Unless you’re one of those girls whose ponytail does the perfect swish while running a 5k without breaking a single bead of sweat. Stomach cramps, sweaty fringes, big boobs and chafing thighs do not work in our favour. But even the world’s biggest female champions face the same hardships.

If you ever feel blue about having to go to PE while you’re on your period, or you constantly battle with a bloated tum while working out – take a look at these awesome sporty girls and prepare to be inspired.

1. Fu Yuanhui’s period-power statement

Fu Yuanhui might just be the coolest girl in sports RN. The 21-year-old Chinese swimmer was interviewed on live television after coming fourth in the 4x100m relay at Rio 2016.

Fu told the interviewer: ‘I don’t think I performed very well today. I feel I let my teammates down…It’s because my period came yesterday, so I felt particularly tired – but this isn’t an excuse, I still didn’t swim well enough.’

She instantly became the star of Rio, breaking the taboo of openly talking about menstrual cycles to an international audience. Because – shocker! – top athletes have periods too.

And why on earth shouldn’t Fu vocalise her experience? One can only imagine the tears of pain and frustration a boy would cry if he had to race with menstrual cramps.

Oh, and Fu went on to win a bronze medal in Rio *high five*

2. Paula Radcliffe’s roadside poo

Ever found yourself half way through a cross-country run at school and felt a sudden urge to use the loo? We’ve all been there – the panic, discomfort and embarrassment are all too real. But the chances are that you probably make it to the ground-floor bathroom just in time to do your business.

But not three-time London Marathon champion Paula Radcliffe MBE. The English long-distance running hero is testament to the saying ‘when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go’.

With just five miles left to run in the London Marathon, Paula had stomach cramps and knew there was only one way to relieve them. She crouched down at the side of the road and did what she had to do. Paula ran on to win the marathon then endure some very awkward interviews.

We salute her for feeling the fear and doing it anyway, all in the name of ensuring a triple-champion title.

3. Serena Williams’s bare-naked bump

Must read article. Link in bio

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Serena Williams has been ranked ‘world’s number one tennis player’ eight times by the Women’s Tennis Association. EIGHT TIMES – and there’s me struggling to finish a lap limping around my local park on a Saturday morning.

She’s also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and heads up the Serena Williams Fund, which creates equality through education and assists victims of violence.

So Serena Williams is basically Wonder Woman but with a racket instead of a lasso and shield, OK?

And here she is heavily pregnant, butt-naked on the front cover of Vanity Fair earlier this year, absolutely slaying it. This shot screams ‘LOOK HOW AWESOME ME AND MY BUMP ARE’. The whole shoot is beautiful and celebrates her fearlessness as a sports star, tenderness as a mum-to-be and pride in being a woman.

4. Sarah Attar runs for Saudi Arabia

Sarah Attar was one of the first two women to represent Saudi Arabia in the 2012 Olympics. Up until then, the Saudi Arabia Olympics Committee did not let women take part and represent their state in the world’s most famous sports competition.

Sarah was only 16 at the time and wasn’t asked to take part until the International Olympics Committee insisted on female participation at short notice.

Despite coming last in her heat (it’s not like she had a proper chance to train!), she went on to run the marathon in the Rio 2016 Olympics. Sarah made a huge step for female sports in Saudi Arabia and her story makes us feel a teeny bit guilty about using a tummy ache as an excuse not to go for a jog.

She also has a really arty travelling Instagram, which is worth checking out.

5. Jessica Ennis-Hill’s post-pregnancy comeback

Jessica Ennis-Hill is the British three-time world champion heptathlon hero who took gold in the London Olympics 2012 and became a national treasure.

Just to clarify what a heptathlon involves, it is a series of seven events that take place over two or three days. These events include high jump, javelin and various short running distances. Basically, you have to be a pretty well-rounded, incredible athlete to do it.

After London, Jess took some time out for the birth of her baby, Reggie. She returned to the Rio Olympics 2016 with a lot of expectations to defend her gold status, but walked away with silver.

Pregnancy does a lot of crazy but wonderful things to a woman’s body, and anyone who even attempts a heptathlon just over a year after giving birth and juggling motherhood with training, is a gold winner in our eyes. The whole nation probably agrees with that.

Image: Getty/Katie Edmunds

 

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

You can express yo’self…

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

…And not look like every other person in the room

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

You can even experiment with your look

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

You’ll actually have clothes to wear in the morning

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

You can rock the cutest accessories

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

Your legs can actually breathe…

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

…And your arms can wave wild and free too

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

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

 

For any gal who gets a period, choosing how to handle things is a pretty big decision. It’s almost as if the struggle of contorting yourself into a ball to combat cramps, fighting the urge to scoff six packets of chocolate biscuits in a row and trying to keep a lid on an explosion of ragey hormones wasn’t enough to deal with.

A lot of girls would call it a no-brainer when it comes down to what comes next, though. When that magical time of the month rolls around, you stick your hand in your bag and pull out either a pad or a tampon to prevent your favourite undies from being ruined. Right? Um, not necessarily.

Did you know that there’s actually a shedload of alternative options if you’re still not convinced by the two main players in the ‘feminine hygiene’ (eye roll) aisle? Here’s a few other genius ways of handling your period that you might not have heard about before.

Period pants

Alright, hands in the air if there’s a couple of pairs of particularly tragic looking undies in your drawer, that have been officially ruined by an unexpected period or two? Yep, that’s everyone then.

Luckily, there are now specially designed PERIOD PANTS out there to make sure that such knicker-related disasters never happen again. Some brilliant human has invented totally stain-resistant underwear called Thinx, which are absorbent enough to hold up to TWO tampons worth of fluid.

They totally eliminate the need for any extra bits and bobs each month, and all you have to do is pop them in the washing machine between uses. Even if you’re not quite confident enough to rock them through the day, they could just save your sheets through the night if you get particularly heavy periods.

Menstrual cup

Tempted by tampons but ever so slightly freaked out by the cottons, the fibres, the fact they cost a million pounds a box? You’re not alone, and that’s where THE CUP could be ready to change your life. A menstrual cup is a small, cute little silicone cup which basically just sits inside you and collects your flow as you go.

Attempting to use one can be a little tricky to begin with, but once you’ve cracked it, some say they’re way more comfortable to wear than tampons. Plus, a cup can hold a LOT of fluid, so it can be left to do its thang for up to 12 hours, and they’re as environmentally friendly as it gets. Some can last up to ten years if cared for properly. It’s kinda like your ride or die.

Importantly, a cup is the ultimate way to get to know how your body works (yup, emptying them into the loo is weirdly satisfying) and will teach you more than you ever knew about the whole process of your period from start to finish.

Sea sponge

Everyone wishes they were a mermaid, but using a sea sponge for your period surely takes things to the next level. Almost definitely favoured by Ariel, this non-toxic, all-natural little guy really does come from the sea, and basically transforms your ovaries into a coral reef. Kinda.

Sponges are obvs super-absorbent and soft when soaked in moisture, so it totally makes sense that they’d be handy for periods. A menstrual sponge/sea sponge/sponge tampon is literally just a piece of natural sponge that’s cut to the right shape and soaked before use.

It might sound kinda crazy, but hear us out. All you have to do is use it, take it out, rinse it and pop it straight back in – and they can last for up to a year which would save you a few quid. They’re comfy, sustainable and are even more absorbent than your average tampon. Okay, so it’s not your usual period accessory, but everyone HAS been going on about #mermaidgoals this year…

Free bleed

For the girl who owns a strong supply of black underwear and is on the ball when it comes to changing the sheets, free bleeding – as in, just letting your period come on down – is a perfectly valid option and it’s totally okay.

Grossed out by the idea? Well, think about it. You’re simply just letting your body do what it’s naturally born to do, without any hassle from a load of products getting involved. A lot of women opt for it for comfort, ease and even as a kickass feminist statement.

There’s all sorts of benefits that come with literally going with the flow. Tampons absorb more than just menstrual blood – they also take in vaginal and cervical fluids, so ditching them leaves your bits and pieces in their perfectly natural state. It’s better for the planet, it’s free and hey, the only thing you have to lose is your last pair of stain-free undies.

Resuable pads or tampons

Who knew that reusable tampons were a thing that existed? Washable versions of the trusty, traditional (but not always perfect) tampon can actually be knitted, sewn from cotton or even crocheted, which just brings a whole new meaning to arts and crafts.

You can easily find them online, and once you’re the proud owner of a reusable tampon or two, you’ll never have that horrible, sinking feeling of realising you used your last one this morning.

Reusable pads are also a solid choice that you might want to consider. They vary in absorption and comfort levels to perfectly suit your period, depending on the type of material that they’re made from. Often with a clever built-in waterproof back lining, reusable pads just need a wash between uses, and are often made from cute AF patterned fabrics.

So maybe it’s time to think outside the tampon box for your next cycle? Whatever you choose to opt for to tackle your time of the month, make sure it’s something that’ll leave you feeling totally confident and comfort. Period.

Ok, ok… *almost* as satisfying. But in the long run far better for your face. 

1. Seeing your food coming in a restaurant.

2. Your fave artist dropping a surprise new album.

3. Finding a fiver in your pocket.

4. Finding a tenner in your pocket.

5. Your cold clearing up for a solid 30 seconds so you can actually taste your food.

6. Waking up in a panic then realising it’s the weekend.

7. Stepping on really crunchy leaves.

8. Your phone dutifully staying on 1% battery until you get home.

9. Two chocolate bars falling out of the vending machine.

10. Finding free public WiFi.

11. Tweezing out an ingrown hair.

12. Your favourite TV series being renewed for another season.

13. The person you fancy texting back STRAIGHT AWAY?!

14. Having a really good poo.

15. Getting bettybox through the post! *ahem*

16. 7 Chicken McNuggets.

17. 7 Mini Jaffa Cakes.

18. Finishing your shower just as the hot water runs out.   

19. All your TV shows scheduling perfectly one after the other in the evening.

20. Everyone around the table saying ‘yes’ to seeing the dessert menu.

21. The dog trotting towards you so you don’t have to make the first ‘can I pet your dog please’ move.

22. Seeing a dog.

23. Dogs.

24. Snow day at school.

25. Finding a secluded spot and finally pulling your tights back up.

26. Getting the window seat on a train/plane.

27. Peeling off dried glue on your hands.

28. Bubble wrap. Obv.

@louisejonesetc

Image: Getty

#BrowGameStrong. #BrowsOnFleek. The world (and Instagram) is obsessed with eyebrows, with the face-framers now more talked about than any other feature, and a new brow product popping up every week.

But what if you’re just getting into this brow-grooming malarkey, not yet an Anastasia Beverly Hills expert, and are starting with the traditional eyebrow wax?

Well, you’ll probably never look back, but your first brow wax does come with a whole host of emotions, like…

Acceptance

Sure, big brows are in, but your slugs are starting to drive you crazy and you want more of an arch. You book a wax at a random (cheap) salon on Treatwell before you can change your mind.

Fear

What if the salon’s gross and you end up with an infection on your face? What if it hurts? What if half of your skin comes with the hairs? Maybe you should just cancel and stay sluggy forever.

Excitement

Once your brows are in shape you can start buying all those products the Instagram models advertise! Like, they’re crazy expensive, but that’s what you’re meant to do right?

Pain

WHAT EVEN WAS THAT?! SERIOUSLY?!

Embarrassment

Why didn’t you think to have someone pick you up from the salon? Now you need to get the bus with a big red forehead and everyone is clearly staring. Sigh.

Uncertainty

Did she make them too thin? Are they even? Is this the shape du jour?

Pride

Actually, they look great. You can’t wait to show them off at school; most of your mates have only had a few ill-advised encounters with their big sisters’ tweezers. You feel like the grown-up one for a change.

Annoyance

Why do they grow back so quickly? This upkeep faff is time-consuming and expensive.

Obsession

But you do it, time after time, because who doesn’t want a strong brow game?

Image: Clueless

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

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

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

1. Life is bigger than kissing the person you fancy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Know when to stand up for yourself

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

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

5. Everybody feels like an outsider sometimes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. Just keep doing your own thing

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

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

@alice_emily

Image: Getty/Katie Edmunds

Personally, I love family gatherings. Always have, ever since I was kid and family gatherings meant running amock with my cousins. Yet there’s no denying that with the onset of teenagehood, en mass family time becomes harder to bear. You don’t want to run amock with your cousins. You don’t want to run, period. But nor do you want to be grilled by your great uncle Pete on your GCSE, A level, degree and career choices when your whole brain is currently engaged in weighing up the relative merits of mum’s trifle versus aunt Anne’s cheesecake.
You need some survival tactics — some coping strategies you can employ when tensions are high and the conversation is low. Listen closely then, to the following advice. Because if anyone knows how to ride out an awkward family situation, it’s the girl with two stepparents, six step siblings, 10 cousins and more uncles, aunts and step uncles and aunts than you can shake an angry stick at…

Find a safe space

There will be moments when the atmosphere in the room is tense enough to tightrope on. These are the moments to find yourself suddenly and urgently needing the loo. You don’t actually have to go to the loo: in fact it’s probably best if you don’t, as you can bet your bottom penny you won’t be the only one with that escape route— but do, before you get stuck into the family time, scope out a quiet hiding place to which you can retreat when the going gets sticky. Mine was my grandad’s workshop — but I can also recommend attics, garages, large cupboards and the upper branches of an easily climbed tree.

Go armed with life choices

These do not need to be set in stone. They don’t even need to be real, in fact — but they need to be delivered with conviction. If it’s sociology and biology A-Levels followed by a stint on Love Island, you need to be as confident and positive about it as you might be a degree in law. See each family gathering as a dry run to a meeting with your careers advisor — we’ve loads of excellent betty guides here — and once great uncle Pete has dredged your entire future, turn the tables on him: nothing stops the Spanish inquisition like another Spanish inquisition.

Consider it an act of charity

For Pete’s sake, if no one else’s. You might not be living for the family do, but for the older members it’s probably the highlight of their social calendar: they’ll be dining off these memories until the next one comes around. Make them worth their chewing on – out of loving duty, preferably, but if it is easier to consider it your good deed of the week, then sure. Show them some affection, tell them your stories, ask questions and pay attention when they reply to you. What is the smallest sacrifice on your part – time – will be rewarded many times over by the pleasure you’ll give them – and besides, you may find you learn something. You don’t get to their age without racking up a fair few experiences, and, having grown up in a very different time to your own, their old tales are quite literally portals to another world.

Initiate games

My family are big game players: cards, Boggle, Pass the Bomb, Pit, Chinese Chequers, Rummikub, rounders, cricket: if it involves fighting each other to the death via the medium of a board or a pitch, we’re all over it. It makes for the perfect failsafe should conversation take a turn for the awkward, and – whisper it – it’s actually pretty fun. If your family don’t have any go-to games yet, initiate some. There’s plenty to choose from, and you can bend the rules to accommodate age and ability. Sure, you’ll be at each other’s throats by the end of it – but at least you’ll be arguing about spades and aces rather than the inheritance from your great aunt.

Help out

If all else fails – and there is a certain arm of my sprawling family for whom I have as much tolerance as I do a bluebottle trapped in a strip light – throw yourself into helping clear dishes, wash up, set tables and stir gravy with all the enthusiasm of those little mice in Cinderella. You’ll get brownie points AND you can minimise all unwanted contact with the fam.

Image: Katie Edmunds

You know the saying knowledge is power? Well that’s soooo the case when we’re talking vaginas. Discovering all the wonderful, and let’s face it sometimes weird, things that goes on with our ladybits is fascinating, huh? More importantly though, learning what *really* happens between our legs can be the difference between thinking you’re freaky and knowing you’re totally normal. Trust us, you’re normal.

So how much do you know already about the inner and outer workings of your vag? A lot? A little? Nada? Take our test to find out…

1. How many holes do you have *down there* (bum included)?

2. Which moves us swiftly on, what the heck is the urethra?

3. The clitoris is the vagina’s super-sensitive feel-good button, but how many nerve endings does it have?

4. Vaginas are clever, but which one of these things CAN’T your vag do?

5. The outer lady bits – the labia, clitoris, urethra and the vaginal opening – are together called…

6. Which one of these ISN’T part of your vagina?

7. Their official name is the labia, but do you know the purpose of your lovely lady lips?

8. What is the hymen?

9. The cervix links up your uterus and your vagina, but do you know where it sits?

10. ONLY one of these discharge situs is totally normal. Can you spot it? (The others need checking out by a doc btw)

Image: Katie Edmunds

Cramps, clots and moods: we’re living in an era where people are more vocal and open about periods both among our friendship groups and in popular culture. We discuss the merits of a menstrual cup vs tampons, swap cramp cures and are just generally more comfortable chatting about that time of the month. This shift in how we talk about and manage our periods is amazing, but what about how they were dealt with in the past? How did people treat cramps in medieval times? What did people use before tampons?

Ancient attitudes

The root of the word ‘menstruation’ comes from the Latin word ‘mensis’ which means month. The word ‘moon’ also originates from this Latin root. Using the word ‘period’ is actually relatively modern, although it was in use from the early 15th century, it wasn’t used in the context we know it until the 1820s.

There was a major taboo around periods in ancient civilisations, and this means that there isn’t a lot of recorded information about what people used to deal with periods thousands of years ago. What we do know for sure is that both Ancient Greeks and Romans used makeshift ‘menstrual cloths’, a very basic version of the sanitary towels of today. A lot of these historical records were also written by men, so there’s not a lot of first-person accounts from people who actually had periods.

The medical knowledge we have today about periods means that a lot of the mystery that was there before has been debunked. Ancient civilisations were far more superstitious about periods and what they ‘really meant’.

The Ancient Greeks believed that if you didn’t get your period after the age of 14 the excess blood would cause a condition called ‘hysteria’, the main symptoms of which were headaches, depressive episodes and (gasp) swearing. Strips of linen were used and washed by Ancient Egyptians, who viewed the period as a time of ‘cleansing’. Ancient Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder was pretty outlandish in his claims about menstrual blood. Calm down, mate:

“turns new wine sour, crops touched by it become barren, grafts die, seed in gardens dry up, the fruit falls off tress, steel edges blunt and the gleam of ivory is dulled, bees die in their hives, even bronze and iron are at once seized by rust, and a horrible smell fills the air; to taste it drives dogs mad and infects their bites with an incurable poison.”

Medieval menstruation and beyond

Hygiene standards in the Middle Ages were less than perfect. In the era of the bubonic plague and open sewers, it can’t have been easy around the time of the month. Super-absorbent bog moss was used to stuff homemade menstrual pads, and petticoats were often red to disguise bleeding. Historians Karen Harris and Lori Caskey-Sigety wrote a book all about the subject and found that few medieval women actually got regular periods because of poor nutrition, and often menopause began earlier in light of the short life expectancy in general. Religious beliefs at this time also meant that periods were still seen as unclean and something not to be discussed.

The beliefs about periods varied from culture to culture. When Europe colonised America, they found that the indigenous Cherokee tribe avoided women during their periods, and the women stayed in special houses for the few days a month. Christian Europeans wrongly believed this was a result of the tribe thinking the women were unclean, when it was actually a case of them believing menstruating women were extremely powerful.

The hysterical Victorians

The Victorian era was extremely conservative and uptight, and any discussion of periods or female sexuality was usually silenced. People were more generally aware of having good hygiene standards, so tampons, if used at all, were made with linen and even had the string they come with today. A girdle-like contraption called a ‘sanitary apron’ was also used during this time. The idea of female hysteria from the Ancient Greeks became something Victorian doctors wrote about a lot, with symptoms like headaches, mood swings and even homicidal mania. These ideas would eventually evolve into what became known as PMS (pre-menstrual tension).

The first period products

The first disposable pads were called Lister’s Towels and were made by Johnson & Johnson from 1888. During World War One, nurses noticed that wood pulp bandages made excellent makeshift pads. Cellucotton were big suppliers of these bandages and in a stroke of genius decided to market them as Kotex. The first commercial tampons were invented a few years later in 1929 by Dr. Earle Haas. He later sold the patent to Gertrude Tendrich who made each tampon by hand with a sewing machine and air compressor. Her company is now known as Tampax.

The first pads with an adhesive strip were made in 1969 by Stayfree, which was just one of many design changes that made life easier for millions of people.

The first menstrual cup was patented all the way back in 1932. It was made of rubber, not like the modern silicone variety and wasn’t a commercial success, as people were still a little squeamish at the idea. The popularity of reusable cups has now skyrocketed, as a way to save money and also avoid creating waste.

Still a way to go

The stigma around periods is lifting, with companies finally realising that ads depicting a blue liquid being poured onto a pad just aren’t going to cut it anymore. Approaching periods in a realistic way means more of us are talking about them. We’re ending the shame, piece by piece, conversation by conversation.

Although many of us are lucky enough to be able to afford period products, there are many others who are not as fortunate. People who are made homeless or living in poverty don’t have access to the comfort and security of pads or cups, but there are ways you can help. Dignity Period are an organisation that provide pads and education to improve the lives of women and girls in Ethiopia. Closer to home, food banks accept donations for those they help, and your donation can really make a difference.