The first time I ever fancied someone I was four years old.

Let’s be honest, that’s premature. And a bit weird. So you can imagine my surprise – and disappointment – when, first secondary school disco in full swing, I found myself in the girl’s toilets, totally consumed with fear at the thought of the night ending in my being someone’s girlfriend.

It wasn’t like Scar from The Lion King was even there (plot twist: I no longer fancy cartoon lions, but still love a black hair/ green eye combo). Or that anyone was showing the slightest whiff of interest in the glitter hair mascara fringe I was debuting that evening.

But, despite the sassy four-year-old inside me who was so desperate to be wifeyed back in 1994, the mere thought of anyone trying to snog, dance or really do anything beyond offering me their seat so I could rest my inexperienced platform-heeled feet was enough to make me fake illness and call my Dad to come take me home. Ah, home. I could eat Indian takeaway and watch Friends there, I could have a bubble bath, I could listen to The Killers and imagine what it would be like to be in a relationship without the scary reality of actually having to go through with it.

Needless to say, after that first school disco, it was obvious: casual intimacy intimidated me. And I ended up spending my entire teenage years single.

It wasn’t because I’d suddenly stopped fancying anyone – quite the contrary. I fancied everyone. At least it felt that way; but as I quickly learnt, my feelings were fickle. The second anyone paid any interested in me I was onto the next one, before they had a chance to fish out the alleged eyelash from my heavily kohl-lined socket.

On several occasions I was accused of being a tease or a flirt, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I was interested in being in the relationships I formed in my mind – it’s just the reality brought so much pressure, and I was yet to meet anyone with the maturity and patience to match my timid curiosity. I wanted fun from a relationship and, from the looks of things, the real-life kind involved heartbreak, school gossip and the risk of everyone knowing the private things I only wanted special people to know.

It took me longer than I wish it had to realise that I wasn’t a tease, and I wasn’t frigid. I just didn’t want to be in a relationship with anyone who didn’t love me. It was as simple as that.

Of course I felt embarrassed about being what from the outside probably looked like a ‘late bloomer’. When you aren’t in love it always feels like everyone else is – but, honestly, this is just imagination talking. I have friends who lost their virginity aged 14 and friends who had their first kiss aged 22, there is no finish line when it comes to intimacy. There just isn’t. Adult life doesn’t begin with your first kiss. If you’re interested in that stuff then life will be littered with it, and you’ll have times when it’s happening a lot and times when it isn’t happening at all.

I’m a bit older now, and I’ve had a serious relationship. We made it work for three years, which doesn’t sound like long but considering the fact that we were broke, lazy students who wore the same Dominoes-stained joggers every day (him) and believed that jarred pesto counted as one of your 5 a day (me), it was a triumph against bad odds. That relationship had everything I’d thought up in my Killers bubble baths. He was loving and hilarious with a gorgeous face, and the first time we kissed I remember being surprised because I wasn’t thinking about when it would be over like all the regretful snogs before him.

It’s important to say here that I think prolific ‘relationship people’ – the types that seem to have loved a hundred times before they’re even legally allowed to drink – are sensational. In my experience they tend to be super open, to both rejection and love, because they come as a pair. Emotional gamblers, pursuing subtle flirtation with the conviction of some sort of intimacy gladiator. But, unless that comes naturally to you, you can’t force it.  As with everything in life, but especially your emotions, you’ve got to consider what you’re comfortable with.

A few days ago a friend asked when I was going to get round to dating someone seriously again and I felt that familiar pang of embarrassment – like FOMO with a sprinkling of shame. The truth is, I just really like being single. Not because I’m frigid, or want a different person every night, or have low self-esteem, or think I’m too good for that bloke who asked me out. I simply love being single because there is so much to love about it.

I don’t have to share anything; my money, my time, my bed, my pizza. I’ve got to know myself in incredible depth, because I’ve had to. I plan my weekends depending on what I want to do, I go to places I want to visit on holiday, I cook what I love for dinner every night. I know exactly what I’m lacking, and what a potential partner could give to make me a better person, but I also know that I’m enough. It’s a strong and sentimental statement, but it’s true. And I like to think this relationship with myself started during those relationship-less teenage years. I’m not scared of being single.

Ultimately relationships can be crazy, fun, sad, beautiful life experiences. But they’ve got to happen on your own terms. My advice would be: take the time to understand exactly what you feel comfortable with.

Because in the end, the only person you have to live with forever is yourself.

 Image: Getty

Whether your dream bedroom is pretty and pink like Betty’s in Riverdale, or sleek and chic like Serena’s in Gossip Girl, we’ll bet there’s one thing you definitely don’t want in it – your sister.

But sometimes you don’t have a choice when it comes to sharing a room, and it can be pretty frustrating. No privacy, conflicting sleep schedules and having to live among all their junk does not make for harmonious sisterly love!

Sharing a room is not ideal, but it’s also not impossible. These top tips will help you keep the peace.

1. Remember it’s not forever

First things first, no matter how annoying your sister is and how much you feel like screaming every time you’re in your room together, remember it’s only temporary. One day you’ll have your very own room and you can do what you like with it. You could start a Pinterest board to plan exactly how it’ll look – it’ll give you something to focus on when she starts snoring again or after you’ve tripped over her shoes for the millionth time.

2. Don’t be petty

It might be tempting to literally draw a line down the middle of the room but that just makes things awkward for everyone. Agree that you’re both allowed to move around freely – within reason, of course. Sprawling across her bed because yours is covered in laundry isn’t cool.

3. Schedule some private time

Privacy pretty much goes out the window when you share a bedroom, but it’s important you get some time to yourself occasionally. Try striking a deal for some regular ‘me time’; perhaps she could watch her favourite TV show in the lounge each week, while you could take the dog for a walk on a designated evening?

4. Share and share alike

Set some ground rules for sharing your stuff. It’s probably a bit unreasonable to flat out refuse to lend her any of your clothes, because chances are she’s got something you’ll want to borrow, too. Agree that any borrowing requests must be made with plenty of notice – no sneaky pinching!

5. Keep it clean

Living with a slob is a clean freak’s worst nightmare – but it’s not much fun living with someone who has tantrums over mug coasters, either! Try to keep your mess to a minimum, and schedule some time once or twice a month to give your room a good clean together, so you feel like you’re putting in equal effort.

6. Respect each other’s sleep schedules

Sleep deprivation is horrible, and if you’re not getting to sleep early enough or you’re being woken up too early, you’re going to be tired, cranky and miserable. Decide on ‘quiet hours’ – say 10pm until 7am – where you both make the effort to keep noise to a minimum. Ask your parents to pick up some low wattage light bulbs the next time they do the weekly shop too so you’re not blinding each other if you need the light on in the night.

7. Make your space your own

You’re probably never going to agree on a décor theme, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put your stamp on your area of the room, whether that’s draping fairy lights around your headboard or putting a funky rug down beside your bed. There’s loads of shared-room interiors inspo Pinterest to get you started.

8. Get your parents onside

Chances are, your parents aren’t super happy about you having to share a room either, simply because they know it’s going to result in arguments now and then. But at times it’ll feel like they don’t care about your situation – after all, they chose to share a room. But if something is really bothering you and you’ve already tried talking to your sister, speak to your parents about it. Keep a cool head and explain that you’d like their help in sorting out the problem. It’s much harder for them to say no to something if you’re reasonable about it.

9. Remember it’s no fun for them either

It’s easy to focus on how much it sucks for you to have to share a room, but your sister probably isn’t that happy about it either. Next time you’re about to lose your temper with her, take a deep breath and try to remember that you’re probably just as annoying in her eyes. You’re both in this together, which means sometimes just letting things go.

10. Enjoy it

Sharing a room with your sister can be a right pain, but it can also be a lot of fun. You’ve got someone there when you’ve had a bad day, someone to chat with late into the night and someone to have a giggle with 24/7 – you’ll never feel lonely. Make the most of it – you might miss it one day!

Image: Hailey Hamilton

I am a sucker for romance. I have watched pretty much every two-and-a-half star romantic comedy there is. I’ve pined along with Elizabeth for Mr Darcy, even though I still think he’s a grumpy arsehole. I’m the first person my friends call when they have a new crush because I know all the right moments to ‘ohhh’ and ‘ahhh’ at their story. 

So it wasn’t exactly surprising that in the early years of being a teenager I fancied my friends’ older brothers. Not just one of my friends’ – I fancied ALL of their older brothers.

I didn’t discriminate on anything so trivial as age or appearance or sexual orientation. If you were my friend between the ages of 10 and 15 and you had an older brother, I fancied him. There is literally no exception to this rule.

I went to an all girls’ school from 12 to 15, or what I refer to as ‘The Oestrogen Years’. While other girls in my school would go to dances on Friday nights and meet boys, I went to debating and ate chips in the park with my teammates. On the bus home from school, other girls would flirt with the boys at the back of the bus, while I would sing loudly along to 90s songs with one of my friends.

I was scared of boys I didn’t know. My tongue would go thick in my mouth and I would end up shouting at them by mistake.

But my friends’ brothers? They were boys I knew. I saw them on a semi-regular basis, but never had to spend time with them one-on-one, which as far as I was concerned was the ideal amount of interaction.

My friends would drop crumbs of information about them – they liked maths, they went to see the new Star Wars movie, they were allergic to yoghurt – that I would feverishly collect with the same enthusiasm most people reserve for actual hobbies. I would use these pieces of information to adapt my daydreams of our eventual relationship to ones that included Yoda or excluded Yeo Valley.

Naturally, I had elaborate fantasies about how our relationship would go.

I imagined watching a movie, something funny and probably featuring Owen Wilson, when his arm subtly started edging closer to mine. The completely wonderful and secret kissing, where our teeth would never, ever, knock together. The conversation with my friend who would give me her complete blessing because she knew I was excellent and her brother was excellent and she wanted us both to be excellent together. Obviously.

I imagined the declaration of love that would make me weak in the knees. The eventual Loss Of Virginity. The wedding, where of course my friend would be my maid of honour and make a hilarious, yet deeply moving speech about how we were meant for each other.

I’m almost certain these boys had no idea I existed. A fact that one of them confirmed when I did eventually kiss him, a few years after I emerged from my obsessive bubble.

“When did you start fancying me?” I asked, hoping he would reveal that he had been pining for me for years. That my obsession with him wasn’t one-sided, but rather completely requited.

“I dunno,” he replied. “When you got hot?”

Yep, he was a regular Casanova. This answer was also unhelpful in a myriad of ways.

Firstly, it implies I wasn’t always hot. Which is obviously false. Secondly, even if I wasn’t hot (which I was), my personality is rockin’. How dare he overlook my passion for US politics, my weakness for videos of unlikely animal friends and my admirable loyalty to both of these topics throughout all the years he’s known me? Thirdly, it gives me no clear time line. Lastly, it was wildly unromantic and not at all like the script I had prepared in my head.

Being in love with your friends’ brothers can be difficult. Especially when you’re in love with eight of them simultaneously. And in real life, it might not work out anything like in your head. But hey, a girl can still dream.

You’ve been chatting online for a while, and now you’re ready to take things off-screen and into reality – eeek! Loads of people make IRL friends and relationships through the internet and social media so meeting in the flesh is nothing to be worried about, but it’s normal to have a few nerves (ok, a lot of nerves).

So here are a few pointers to make sure your first meeting goes as smoothly as possible.

1. Do a bit of online sleuthing

Ok, chances are you’ve already stalked their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat (but of course you’d never admit it ‘cos you’re cooler than that, right?), so you’re definitely up to speed with their life online. But before you agree to meet, do a little research to make sure they are who they say they are. Do you have any mutual who could vouch for them? Do they have pictures with friends, or are they just solo selfies? We’ve all seen Catfish – never underestimate the power of a reverse image search!

2. Get your friends’ opinions

Your mates know you better than anyone, so they’re in a pretty good position to judge whether or not your crush seems like a decent match for you. Admittedly they’ve only got the same online intel as you, but fancying the pants off someone can make you blind to red flags, so it doesn’t hurt to get another opinion. Plus, your mates being clued up about who you’re meeting is always a sensible safety precaution.

3. Meet in public

This is pretty obvious, but worth repeating! Even if you’re desperate to check out their games collection or they offer to whip up a storm for you in the kitchen, make sure the first time you meet is in a busy public place, preferably with a friend nearby. If everything goes well they can cook for you next time, right? If they’re a decent person they’ll totally understand, so be wary if they’re weird or pushy about meeting somewhere private.

4. Keep it casual

Don’t make a nervy time worse by adding a stressful or potentially embarrassing activity (abseiling! Karaoke!) into the mix. Going for a walk in the park, grabbing a coffee or catching a movie are all pretty failsafe ideas. If you really want to take the pressure off, you could suggest a big group meet-up involving your friends and their friends, too.

5. Dress like yourself

If you feel uncomfortable in what you’re wearing, it’ll show – and you want to feel as relaxed as possible, right? Wear layers so you’re prepared for whatever the weather might throw at you, and think about leaving the killer heels at home. You don’t want to spend a (potentially) romantic walk in the park cursing your newly-forming blisters.

6. Have an escape plan

Make sure you’ve got a friend on standby, ready to send the ol’ OH-NO-THERE’S-AN-EMERGENCY text, in case you want to bail early. Or, if you can’t quite bring yourself to do that, tell your date that you can only hang out with them until a certain time because you’ve got to babysit or do family stuff afterwards. That way you’ve got a ready-made escape plan, but if you’re having a good time and want to extend things, you can just pretend you’re not needed at home after all.

7. Take cash with you

It just makes everything more convenient. You won’t have to waste time looking for a cashpoint should you need one, and it saves the hassle of splitting a bill across two cards. Plus, if you want to leave in a hurry you can just chuck your share of the lunch money on the table and scarper.

8. Manage your expectations

It’s really easy to build up an imaginary picture of your crush based on what they’re like online, but they might be totally different in real life. Go into your date with an open mind – that way you won’t be too disappointed if they’re not exactly how you’d hoped they would be.

9. Don’t rush into anything

It takes time to get to know someone properly, so even if you’ve been chatting online for months there’s still a lot to discover about your crush – and a lot for them to discover about you. They’ve never seen you when you’re hangry, you’ve never seen them when they’re feeling blue. Even if your first meeting has gone really well, you don’t need to jump into a relationship just because you’ve known each other for a while online. Take your time. If they’re the one for you they’ll respect that.

10. Be yourself

The beauty of the internet is that you can curate your online persona however you like. We’re all guilty of taking a thousand selfies in order to get the very best angle, or carefully ‘gramming a cup of tea next to the bath to make it look like we’re having a lovely night in when we’re actually bored out of our minds with nothing else to do. A little bit of artistic license is a given. But when it comes to real life, let your crush see who you really are, not who you think they want you to be. You’ve got to be yourself, because in the end, it’s exhausting being anything else.

@Rachel_England

There’s nothing worse than a bad date. You go to the cinema so you don’t have to talk, the film your date finds hilarious you think is boring, later in Pizza Express he sends his food back because there’s “not enough cheese” – all the while you’re thinking of how Rihanna doesn’t have to deal with this crap.

But if you thought this only happened to normals, you’re wrong. As these quotes prove, celebs also struggle with the topsy-turvy world of dating…

“In fifth grade, I went to meet a boy after school for an ice-cream cone, and I don’t think he spoke one word to me. I think he was a little nervous. I was a foot taller than him.”

The trials and tribulations of being a supermodel, Karlie Kloss.

“Relationships are hard, at any age… You’re on a date with someone you really like. It should be that simple, right?”

If Harry Styles struggles, there’s hope for all of us yet.

“I can’t tell if a girl is hitting on me or she just wants to be friends. And I don’t want to flirt with a girl if she thinks I’m just being her friend.”

Bella Thorne knows the neverending “will-she, won’t-she” all too well

“No one ever asks me out. I am lonely every Saturday night.”

We’re not sure if we believe you, Jennifer Lawrence.

“[It’s] just to stay on the couch and watch TV.”

Rihanna’s ideal date sounds very similar to ours tbh.

“I was dating this guy and we would spend all day text messaging each other. He thought he could tell that he liked me more because he actually spelled the word ‘you’ and I just put the letter ‘u’.”

Kelly Osbourne, like all of us, has so much to thank predictive text for.

“I’m not great at dating, but I need to do it to relax.”

That isn’t exactly the word we’d use, Lena Dunham

“Dating has become a sport and not about finding the person you love.”

Rashida Jones seems fed up of the dating world. Imagine if it made the Olympics, though.

“If you kiss on the first date and it’s not right, then there will be no second date. Sometimes it’s better to hold out and not kiss for a long time.”

Thanks for the tip, J-Lo.

“There’s more to life than dating the boy on the football team.”

If we only ever learnt one thing from Taylor Swift, it would be this.

@emilyrbakes

There’s something super romantic-sounding about love at first sight, isn’t there? Your eyes meeting across a crowded room, knowing immediately that they’re the one for you. Or, if you don’t fall in love in that VERY instant, at least embarking on a whirlwind romance that sees you smitten within days, if not hours. It sometimes seems like only love of the fast, breathless, thunderbolt variety is deemed really, properly proper.

Well sorry, but we’re calling bulls**t.

There’s another way to fall. And it isn’t glamorous. But it can be totally awesome. The cosy pyjamas of the relationship world, if you will. We’re talking about when your buddy becomes your bae.

There are tons of benefits to being friends first, but let’s start with this lightning bolt: you probably actually like each other. We know: duh, right? But don’t try and tell us you’ve never considered going out with someone just because it’d look good. (“They’re in the year above and in a band for chrissake. I can totally put up with narcissism and a terrible sense of humour!”) But friends first = you’re probs dating a genuinely good human.

And even better, your attraction’s probably based on more than looks (although wanting to smooch them constantly is great, too). Maybe you’ve got tonnes in common, they make you laugh, or you admire their gaming skills. Whatever it is, things will probs be funner for longer because your feelings are more than just butterflies in your pants. Ruth, a magazine designer, has been with her boyf for four years, but they were friends for a year and a half first. “We had a mutual love of design and I found I could bounce ideas off him and really admired his way of thinking. His creative side was a big part of why I fell for him, and it feels nice to have some substance beneath the fancying. After all, looks fade eventually!”

And who’da thunk it, that whole admiration thing works both ways. So yep, if you’re dating your friend, they probably actually like you, too. The real you.

“We all have a ‘false me’ and a ‘real me’,” says Emma Gleadhill, a speaker and coach who helps young people manage their relationships. “In some social situations we choose to keep the ‘real me’ more hidden. But you shouldn’t have to do that with your partner. It takes so much emotional energy to keep being ‘the girlfriend’ instead of just being yourself. You should be able to tell your partner that you’d rather stay in and be ‘boring’ tonight, or you should feel comfortable even when you’re not looking your best. There should be an inner confidence that they accept the real you.”

There’s also the big T. And no we’re not talking about the fact you both love tacos. Or T-Swift. (Although surely they’ve got to be two of the best Ts, right?). “I guess the biggest thing was the trust between us,” says Ruth. “At the time, we were both involved with other people and so we really were just friends. But it was nice to have somebody to confide in who was outside of things. We’d meet for coffees, and over time we came to really trust each other. That meant that when we were single and got together, things seemed natural because we already had that foundation.”

As well as being a generally awesome ingredient in a relationship, trust is also super handy when it comes to funtimes of the sexy persuasion. “It’s easy to get swept along with things you’re not comfortable with because you want to keep the other person happy,” says Emma. “But it’s so important not to do that – to remember that you have power and control over your own body. Hopefully, if you’ve built up trust as friends, it’ll be easy to be honest with each other about what you do and don’t want.”

And when real life makes you want to kill each other / cry on each other / run away… fear not! Turns out there are skills you’ve already practised as friends that help you boss it as a couple, too. “Things like negotiation, discussion, collaboration and being supportive,” says Emma. “If you get those things right, you should end up with a relationship where you understand and complement each other, rather than where one person always leads and the other follows.”

We also reckon you’re more likely to try fun new things with friends-turned-heart-flutterers. No one wants to royally SUCK at rock climbing with some hottie they’ve only just met and haven’t sussed out yet. But the person who’s already seen you fall on your face ice skating, or forget your lines in the school play? That feels weirdly fine. Especially since they lay on the ice with you while you both died laughing.

But best of all, they can help you push yourself to new heights of awesomeness. “When we were friends,” says Ruth, “my other half would show me his design work and I’d say, ‘why don’t you try this instead?’ He’d do the same for me. It wasn’t about impressing each other. It was about challenging each other to think differently, and pushing each other’s limits. If I’d just started dating someone I think I’d have felt put out to be questioned like that. But with a friend, it was ok. We made each other want to be the best we could be. And we still do.”

#Relationshipgoals, right? So, if you’ve been having ‘Feelings with a capital F’ for a mate, but think you should be wait for some fateful earthquake with a gorgeous stranger, stop waiting. That cosy pyjama love could be one of the best of your life.

@LucindaEverett

Emma Gleadhill runs workshops in schools helping young people to handle their relationships.

Image: Getty

Activating: relationship. Level: beginner. You got this, girlfriend…

1. I am in a relationship now.

2. I AM IN A RELATIONSHIP.

3. I AM SOMEONE’S GIRLFRIEND.

4. I must assume the role of girlfriend!

5.…what does that even mean? I don’t feel any different.

6. Is there a book on this? Do I put it on Facebook?

7. I haven’t even told my mum.

8. Is she gonna give me the sex talk again? Ugh.

9. Wait, sex. Do we have to have sex now?!

10. No, we don’t. We don’t have to have sex. We will talk about being ready for sex.

11.

12. Will it weird them out if I create a wedding Pinterest board?

13. I need to learn how to hold hands with someone in public.

14. I get sweaty palms, maybe I should carry talc around with me.

15. No, I’d smell like Nan.

16. Oh boy, introducing Nan. How do I explain Nan?

17. INTRODUCING PARENTS.

18. BEING INTRODUCED TO PARENTS.

19. RED ALERT, RED ALERT. EVERYONE TO THE BUNKER.

20. How long do I have before I meet the parents?

21. I will google a script.

22. THEY’VE TEXTED ME.

23. Hold on, I don’t need to freak out at that anymore, I’m their girlfriend.

24. I’M THEIR GIRLFRIEND.

25. Have we stepped up a level with kisses? How many do I put?

26. Or do I put none at all because it’s just implied now that I lov-

27. WHEN DO I SAY I LOVE YOU?

28. What is love?

29. I will google that as well, to be sure.

30. Shall I prepare an ‘I love you’ speech or just slip it in?

31. Oh jeez, sex.

32. This being in a relationship thing is more stressful than I thought.

33. How long has it been?

34. *checks * 10 minutes. I have been in a relationship for 10 minutes.

35. I think I have an upset stomach.

36. CAN I FART IN FRONT OF THEM? Who makes the first farting move?

37. What about pooing, can I poo? I poo a lot.

38. Thinking of them pooing is weird. Maybe it isn’t love yet.

39. Is that love?

40. 

41. Ew.

@louisejonesetc

Ah, love. It’s a tricky bastard. Love means a million different things to a million different people, and sometimes it’s hard to tell if what you’re feeling is true love, intense like, a raging crush or just the first twinges of indigestion.

But sometimes, you just know. Shakespeare had his summer’s day, Jane Austen had her country dances… and we have the moment you decide to share your Netflix password. Here are some 2017 signs that you’re probably, definitely, in love.

1. You let them take the stamp for your coffee on their loyalty card.

2. You actually put your phone down when they talk to you.

3. You offer them the last slice of pizza.

4. …then they say, ‘No, you have it.’

5. You agree to see La La Land for a second time, even though musicals make you want to punch things.

6. Even Snapchat knows you’re together and puts two pink hearts next to their name.

7. You can share a tent at a festival in August for a whole four days and still be speaking to them at the end.

8. They let you practice everything you learned from Dr Pimple Popper on their chin.

9. You’ve felt a strange and overwhelming urge to give them your wifi code.

10. There are more strips of adorable photobooth pictures in your purse than actual cards or money.

11. Every meme they tag you in actually makes you laugh, not just like to be polite.

12. You have Instagram notifications turned on for them, even if they’re a six-nearly-identical-blurry-selfies-at-once person. Even then.

13. They are the very first person you WhatsApp “SNOW!!!!! ❄️☃️❄️☃️” to when it snows.

14. And sad faces to when it turns to rain three minutes later.

15. You know their exact Starbucks order, and recite it faithfully even when it’s embarrassingly long.

16. You look at them the way everyone looks at Beyoncé.

Image: Getty

So here’s a thing: I never had a Valentine’s card until I was 24.

No flowers, no chocolates, no cross-eyed teddies or poem mugs or any of the other ‘romantic’ gubbins that filled Clinton Cards from the first week of January onwards, like a red velvet blizzard – not even an ‘i fancy u’ note or a furtive snog or somebody giving me the other half of their two-finger Twix. The whole of my teen years passed completely un-Valentined.

I’d love to say I was always totally cool with this, but that would be a bigger lie than “oh how lovely, a teddy from Clinton Cards!”. I was not at all cool with it, for many years. At primary school I turned up every year on the big V-Day hoping that a pink envelope would have found its way into my drawer or desk, and even at an all-girls high school where literally the only boy I ever even had contact with was the caretaker’s son, who I glimpsed through a gate, I still got a little giddy every year imagining the Valentine’s booty that might turn up in my locker.

“Dear Lauren, I saw you through a gate that one time and now my heart is yours forever!” the card might say. But no. Nada. Year after year, Cupid screwed up his sat-nav.

One especially mopey February 14th my Dad even, very sweetly, bought me flowers (we were categorically not a Dad-gives-everyone-a-Valentine kind of family, thank God), but made sure it was a smaller bunch than the one he gave my mum. “Lovely wife; pathetic spinster daughter” – I was convinced I could see the thought process. The year after I got a date (A DATE!) on Valentine’s Day itself, which turned out not to be a date at all when we ended up eating marmalade sandwiches and playing Monopoly with his younger sister.

Several years after that I managed to snare an actual boyfriend (A BOYFRIEND!) in late January, only to find out he was staunchly anti-Valentine’s Day. A signed-up, snarling member of the “it’s all commercialised sh*te!” brigade. Undeterred, I made a huge chocolate cake and invited him over. He fell asleep, never turned up, and I ended up eating half the cake myself, alone, reading my Chaucer textbook. I’d like to imagine Jennifer Lawrence playing me in the rom-com adaptation of this story.

It’s ok though, there’s a happy ending. Not me eventually getting a Valentine’s Day card, although that was nice – but learning to be my own Valentine instead.

It might have been easier to rage against the romance machine and join the “it’s all commercialised sh*te!” brigade myself, but in all those years of waiting round for a pink envelope or a fugly teddy, I never really did. I still wanted to take part. Because there’s nothing wrong with loving love, or with using February 14th as an excuse to go a bit heart-eyed and see the world through rose-tinted glasses. But what is a total waste of time is thinking that you need someone else to put those glasses on for you.

If February 13th is (inspired by Parks and Recreation’s Leslie Knope) officially ‘Galentine’s Day’, a day to show all your most treasured female pals some love, then I say we reclaim the 15th as a day to show yourself some love.

Give yourself treats. Buy that thing you want. Play your guilty pleasures out loud, without feeling even the tiniest bit guilty. Eat that sandwich filling you adore that everyone else finds disgusting. Run up a nearby hill and shout “I AM AMAZING” off the top of it. Have a bath until you prune, or don’t have one at all and sleep for an extra hour instead. Make a chocolate cake for yourself, and ice it with your own damn name. Tell everyone you love that you love them, in the most lavish ways you can frankly be arsed to. Borrow a puppy. Tell your crush you think they’re hot, but also that you’re quite busy right now. Make the whole entire week an extravagant, delightful love-fest in every way you can think of.

Because here’s the thing: whoever gives you Valentines in the future, and however huge/glittery/expensive/fluffy/romantic they are, those people will never get it as spot-on perfect as you can get it yourself. Cupid can be stupid, but you’re smart. And you are so much better than a teddy from Clinton Cards.

Image: Manjit Thapp

How many times have you stalked a couple on social media? Whether you’ve known them for years, or found them through your best friend’s cousin’s dog’s postman’s niece? Trawling through a couple’s social media history is a brilliant way to procrasti- I mean, super interesting. You’ll find you can probably filter them into these eight categories…

The ones in the same room-ers

mindy

@girlfriend101: @girlfriend102 Pass the remote.

@girlfriend102: @girlfriend101 It’s literally right next to you.

Their phones have taken over so much of their lives that they can no longer communicate physically. They’ve forgotten how to. Everything is done by @-reply. You know in WALL-E where the future humans are stranded in those chairs? Basically that.

The LOOK HOW GREAT THEY ARE-ers

look-how-great

Where they get their money from is anyone’s guess, but they’re constantly buying each other lavish presents and splashing them all over social media. Yes, yes your boyfriend’s wonderful. He is good at buying stuff. We all know. But just think of the clear-out you’ll have to do when you eventually break up. Effort.

The meme taggers

happy-gif-56b472ee7a1fa

It’s all they do. It’s their life, it’s their Bible. They tag each other in memes. Everything is relatable. They are peak internet.

The Snapchat streakers

taylor

Much like your nan telling you that one day the wind will change and you’ll be stuck frowning, soon these Snapchatters will have the dog filter permanently plastered on their faces. They’re obsessed with showing their bf/gf their every sight during the day and the heart emoji is cemented next to their name to prove it…. UNTIL IT’S NOT?! WHO THEY HELL HAVE THEY BEEN SNAPCHATTING? Which brings us on to…

The popcorn gatherers

popcorn

You don’t really have any care for these people, but their drama is too good for you to ditch. They love to air their dirty laundry publicly on every social media site (just in case you missed it elsewhere) and break up on Facebook at least once a week. It might be worth keeping a tally.

The subtweeters

maths

Much like the above but instead of being explicit about their drama, these couples like to be cryptic. Who was that dig directed at? Why has one of them had a terrible day and the other is ‘thinking about who’s really important in life’? It’s the modern crossword. It would save a lot of time if they just stepped up a level to ‘popcorn gatherers’ and were a bit more direct but, hey, it gives our brains a workout.

The vomit-inducers

mute

The only thing worse than couples fighting publicly on social media is couples who actually love each other. They check in together everywhere from Nando’s to the dentist, post kissing selfies with every heart emoji every damn day, and hashtag every soppy status with #love #truelove #loveofmylife #couplelife #relationshipsgoals #soblessed… ugh, sorry, I can’t… I’m gonna… oh God… *retches*

The ones that make you question whether they’re still together-ers 

modern

And finally, the couples who are too chill for social media. Yeah, they’re together, but they make you work for proof of their existence. You’ll be honoured with a viewing of a collage of their goofiest selfies on each other’s birthdays, maybe, and they tag each other in the odd meme. But otherwise, you’re kept on your toes. And while you’re seven months deep into their Instagram, they’re hanging out IRL.

Who are the real winners in this scenario? Hard to say.

@louisejonesetc

Illustration: Hailey Hamilton

The first day of high school, I came home and cried. Not a little bit of blink and you’ll miss it eye leakage, but the sobbing, can’t breathe, wonder if you’ll ever be able to stop sort of crying.

I loved my primary school. I had a close group of friends who were my entire world. But we were split up and spread out like confetti across a few different schools in the area.

The school I joined had a primary school, so half of the year already knew each other. They eyed us newbies with the sort of scepticism I’m 100% sure I would have done if I was in their position. Would we ‘steal’ their friends? Would we be smarter than them? Would we mess up the social hierarchy that they’d carefully established since they were five?

The answer to all of those questions was unanimous: yes, yes, we would.

I didn’t make a single friend that first day, aside from with the year 10 girl who was assigned to mentor me and fourteen other girls, and as I explained to my concerned mother, she didn’t really count because the school had told her to be nice to us.

The thing is, I didn’t really know how to make friends. Most of my existing friendships had been formed in the sandpit, when my definition of a friend was a person who would share their sandwich with you when you left your lunch at home.

(Side note, this is still probably the most accurate definition of friendship I’ve ever had).

I did find friends eventually; the will-answer-their-phone-in-middle-of-the-night, will-cancel-a-date-with-their-crush-of-five-years-if-you-need-them, will-tell-you-if-your-dress-is-too-tight-(but in a gentle way) sort of friends.

Here are my tips for making the forever-til-the-day-I-die sort of friends:

1. Be yourself. I know, I know. This sounds like the sort of trope your granny trots out whenever you make the mistake of confiding in her, but in all honesty, she has a point. If you pretend to be someone else to make people like you, you’ll end up being friends with people you don’t really have all that much in common with. It might take a bit longer to find your people, but trust me, they’re out there somewhere.

2. Making new friends is hard. There is literally no exception to this rule. Everyone worries if they’re talking too much. Or if they’re being too clingy. Or that if your friendship group was to hold a spin-off of The X Factor, where someone had to be voted out, you would be the one sent home. You’re not alone. Everyone around you feels like this too. Hang in there.

3. Be nice. In my experience, girls often do this thing where they bond by bitching about other girls. The enemy of your enemy is your friend etc. It’s all very Animal Planet and completely unnecessary. I know it’s tempting, but try and resist the urge to take this shortcut, these friendships can sometimes turn toxic and become more trouble than they’re worth.

4. Find the girl who has the biggest smile. She will be your salvation through high school. She’ll teach you the rules to sports, which will come in handy when you try and flirt with boys a few years later. She’ll stay on the phone and patiently explain the answers to your maths homework. And you’ll get the chance to be a good friend back; you’ll be the person she texts when she gets her first period and you’ll duck out of class take your jumper to the bathroom stall so she can tie it around her waist.

5. If you get really stuck for an opener, come up with a quirky fact about yourself. I learnt this tactic off a friend of mine who stuck her hand out when she met me and said, “Hi, I’m Alana, and I’m ambi-dexterous,” which is pretty much the best opening line in the history of the world.

I promise you’ll find your tribe, even if it doesn’t seem like it right now. The people who laugh at all your jokes and will help you when you’re struggling with a particularly nasty geography assignment. They’re out there, and they’re looking for you too.

Image: Emma Block