I have some really close family friends who, for the sake of this article, I’m going to call The Flintstones.

The Flintstones are excellent people. Growing up, I used to love going to their house. They had a trampoline and a pool and I was allowed to “help myself” to their chocolate stash. And yet, every year, when Christmas rolled around, I would dread seeing them because I knew what was coming.

There would be a gift, wrapped in that weird foil sort of wrapping paper with my name written neatly on it sitting under the tree.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the sort of person who judges a gift by its wrapping. And despite everything I’m about to write, I truly appreciate that they bought me a gift in the first place. Generally, anxiety is the furthest thing from my mind when I’m opening a present. I love tearing quickly at the two edges, I love the suspense, I love the 0.006 seconds before I form an opinion about a gift and instead just feel surprised and excited by the promise of this new thing in my hands. (I’m literally smiling at my screen right now evening thinking about opening presents).

But opening gifts from The Flintstones filled me with a cold panic. Every present from The Flintstones was bad. Not just a “well this isn’t quite to my taste” sort of bad, but rather the type of gift you open and mentally compile a list of things that you would have preferred to receive, such as a can opener or a paperclip clumsily bent into the shape of a star or a skirt that only fits over one of your thighs. I’m kidding. (I’m not).

But years of less-than-ideal presents have prepared me well in one respect. I have perfected one of life’s most sought-after skills: the ability to pretend to like something you hate. And now, I shall pass 15 years’ worth of lessons on to you, dear reader, in 200 words. Grab a notebook.

The ultimate guide to pretending to love a present you hate

Step 1: Take a deep breath

What you’re aiming for here is a low-level gasp. A gasp that says, “This gift is so amazing that it literally took my breath away and isn’t at all me buying time so I can think of how to react.”

If in doubt, channel Hillary Duff.

gasp

Step 2: Oooooooh

If you still need some more time to put your game face on, a long ‘Oooooh’ can buy you an extra second or two.

Young Will Smith gets it.

oooh

Step 3: Turn the gift over in your hands

This shows that you like the gift enough to not instantly want to hurl it at a wall.

The polar bear knows what’s up.

turn-over

Step 4: Establish eye contact

Establishing eye contact is crucial. It shows sincerity. Or at least, the appearance of sincerity, which is all we’re really after here.

Nicole Scherzinger’s been there, done that.

eye-contact

Step 5: Smile

You want to look happy, but not so happy that they know your happiness is fake. Ideally, you’re going for the type of smile you’d use if you found a £20 on the street, or if your crush told you that they liked your new jumper. A mix of surprised and happy. This is a smile that requires teeth, but doesn’t need to last more than a second.

Nicki Manaj-style.

smile

Hopefully by this point you’re free and clear, and they’ll have moved on to the next doomed recipient or been distracted by a bunch of rogue carol singers. If in doubt, ask your brother if he farted. Sing a song. Say you’re so overjoyed with the gift that you need a lie-down.

But at the end of the day, just remember the number one faker’s rule – sometimes less…

really is more.

kady

Image: Getty

What could be more fun than giving gifts to your best friends, with an added element of mystery and intrigue? Well, if we’re talking about Secret Santa, there are moments when having a brace fitted, cleaning a toilet or doing maths homework for the whole class might beat the activity in the excitement stakes.

It’s stressful, it’s intense and it can cause enough friendship fury to lay out the whole of Taylor’s squad. Still, it’s also fabulously festive, and we love it as hard as we hate it. We wouldn’t be without it. Here’s the typical timeline of your standard Secret Santa draw…

Draw doom

Depending on how organised you are, you might decide to start Secret Santa proceedings the old fashioned way – by ripping a bit of notebook into pieces, carefully writing down everyone’s name (and someone will hold everything up by insisting that this can only be done with a cinnamon scented gel pen, and they’ve definitely got one in the bottom of their bag, actually why not wait until Monday because they’re going to buy one from WH Smith?) Alternatively, you’ll get an app, and half of you will fail to respond because the confirmation email will get stuck in your junk folder, and one of you will try to sign in through Facebook on someone else’s computer and accidentally join the draw as your Dad.

Guess who?

“So, who have you got for Secret Santa?” is a question that can be asked so innocently and casually that it’s perfectly normal to reply “I’ve got Jennifer, and I’m really annoyed because she’s a pain to buy for and doesn’t seem to like anything and…SECRET! It’s supposed to be a SECRET, how dare you trick me! Anyway, who have you got? Want to swap?”

In the run up to the big present presentation, everyone will buckle under the strain of their own giddy festive excitement, apart from one person who will irritatingly hold out, and say “la la la, I don’t care who has who, I’m not listening!” It’s probably Jennifer. She doesn’t seem to understand that absolutely everyone else has worked out who she is buying for using a very simple process of elimination. And because she was seen buying a personalised notebook and glittery name stickers.

Budget busting

You swear to a pocket money-friendly £10 limit, and spend hours working out exactly how to play the Boots three-for-two system in order to get maximum bang for your buck. Then one of the Santas lets slip that she’s gone “way over” because she found the perfect thing and couldn’t resist. Her Santee freaks out and has to do some emergency chores or dig deep into her piggy bank in order to make sure both gifts are equally extravagant. The day arrives, and it turns out the “perfect” gift is a 450 colour eyeshadow palette made up of different shades of sludgy brown.

Sneaky gifting

You never draw the person you really want to buy for, which is a problem that can be dealt with in two ways. You simply put up with it, and acknowledge that’s all part of the risk of deciding to take part in a Secret Santa exchange in the first place. Or, you buy a special secret gift for your BFF, and you can’t resist spilling the beans about it because you’re hoping they’ll get you something too. Which brings you all straight back to the budget problem, as well as making the other people in the group feel rubbish because they don’t get a ‘special’ present.

You try to rectify this by buying several boxes of stripy candy canes and distributing them around the group. Someone gets one stuck to their coat, someone else requires an emergency dental appointment and no-one can face eating anything minty until the following May.

Santa’s schedule

Getting everyone together to swap gifts is the most exciting part of Secret Santa, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be straightforward. Only you can’t do it on the last day of term, because half of the group are in junior windband and spending the afternoon playing O Holy Night at an old people’s home. You can’t do it the weekend before Christmas, because someone has to go to Scotland to see their Nan. You can’t do it at registration because you’ve all got to go to a special assembly in which the sixth formers will dress in tinsel and do impressions of the Physics teacher. You can’t do it early, because someone got their Mum to order something on Etsy, it’s coming from Canada and delivery takes 2-12 weeks. So you end up swapping gifts on the bus, in the middle of a traffic jam, still swaddled in scarves and gloves.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

@NotRollergirl

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

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

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

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

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

Socks

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

Impractical novelty games

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

An itchy jumper

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

Guinness Book of World Records

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

A gift voucher from a store you never visit

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

A Cadbury’s Christmas selection box

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

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

Pants.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

@JazKopotsha

Image: Katie Edmunds

Right, this is tricky to write – because, as we are all constantly told by advertising, your period is no big deal! NBD at ALL. Why not slap on a pair of white lycra shorts, befriend a troop of chihuahuas and go rollerblading with them?

On the other hand, we know that handing a woman a bar of chocolate and sticking a chick-flick on Netflix just because her uterus happens to be shedding its lining is a little bit patronising.

The truth is, we all have good period days and bad period days. And if you have a friend who’s battling through a bad one, here’s a care package you can put together for her that (hopefully) won’t make her feel like a useless lump – either because you’re stereotyping her or making her feel bad for not cartwheeling about athletically. You are such a lovely person.

(Incidentally, this is a mix-and-match list. No one’s saying you have to get the whole lot, unless you have just won the lottery – in which case, forget the kit and take your friend to Miami or something).

Paracetamol

My BFF doesn’t get period pains. During her Moon Time she will literally put her hand on her abdomen ONCE, frown, go “ooh” and then forget about it. Assuming YOUR BFF isn’t a robot, period pains will probably raise their head at least once in her cycle. They can be awful, but just two paracetamol can help to take care of the pain (make sure your friend can safely take paracetamol first, though – and if the pain is so bad that she has to stay in bed, it’s worth seeing a doctor, just FYI).

A water bottle with pineapples on itA water bottle

Obviously it can be hard to stay hydrated when you’re roller-blading with chihuahuas all day, but dehydration can actually worsen that bloated feeling that can accompany your period – so include a pretty water bottle in your care package.

Dry shampoo

Increased testosterone makes your skin produce more sebum (calm down, it means oil) which is what causes the delightful increase in spots that can announce the arrival of your period. More sebum on your scalp can make your hair slightly greasy during this time, but a hair-wash might seem like a huge chore when your friend’s in the throes of cramps and rabid hunger. However, a quick spritz of a travel-sized dry shampoo will sort all that out quick-smart.

Tea tree oil

To dab on, and dry out, aforementioned spots. Not that she has any spots! Nope. There’s, like, literally nothing there at all babe…

Cute cheap undies

One of the things that can be most depressing about your period is the ritual wearing of stained grey pants for the best part of a week. But why bother with these when Primark sells pants in soul-lifting colours for less than the price of a Frappuccino?

minihotwaterbottleMini hot water bottles

Period pains can strike all over the place at once – like your lower back and your abdomen – so pop a couple of these portable Fairisle jobbies in her care package for when the cramps strike.

 

A snack box

Frequent snacking can keep your blood sugar stable and avoid energy dips and the emotional highs and lows that come with them. Pack her up some tasty snacks rich in fibre and protein (and yes ok, chocolate), so she doesn’t have to crawl to the kitchen too often.

Dark chocolate (a bit) and normal chocolate (a lot)

Dark chocolate is packed full of mood-boosting and stress-busting nutrients, plus magnesium (which can help relax your muscles), iron (which can run low during your period), and potassium (which can help cramps). But while dark chocolate can be good for you, milk chocolate makes you happy because it tastes so nice. So don’t skimp here, get both – unless your BFF hates chocolate, in which case you might have to be noble and eat it yourself.

pyjamasShort-sleeved PJs

At some point your friend MAY want to spend some quality time with her sofa. NOT because the stereotype is correct, but because periods can be exhausting and sofa time is a basic human right. So, if she’s a very good friend, why not get her a pair of PJ shorts to lounge around in? Your body temperature can rise by a full degree during your period, so bundling up in a fleecy onesie is out of the question. Oh yes, and make sure they have an elasticated waistband, like these from H&M.

Fish and chips

Fish is full of Vitamin B6, which can help with cramps, cravings, fatigue, bloating and mood swings. And chips are full of deliciousness, which they deserve.

A bouquet made from tampons and sanitary pads

Because everybody loves spares!

And finally, text her a few links

But not kitten gifs or anything. Text her something that will really make her angry – like examples of bad grammar on Twitter, or some random trolling of her favourite celebrity. Because, if she’s anything like me, before and during her period there will be MOUNDS of pent-up aggression floating around her psyche and she’ll thank you for helping her to get it out.

Move the water bottle first, maybe.

Or…

If you want the same wonderful thought but with loads less effort, you’ll be able to sign up for bettybox very soon. Watch this space!

@orbyn

Image: Getty