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.

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Image: Easy A

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

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Image: Hailey Hamilton

Moving from primary school to secondary school can bring up loads of different feelings. Excitement, fear, sadness, happiness: the first few weeks, or even months, of secondary school can make everyone feel a bit wobbly. After all, you’re in a new place, among mostly new people, doing new kinds of tasks and classes. But you’re not alone.

If you move to secondary school with some friends, this can feel really comforting. You have someone (or loads of people) to lean back on, meet at lunchtime and walk home with. However if you move on your own, it can be scary. Either way, sometimes the process of moving to a new school can change your friendships.

This could be that you drift apart from a friend because they’ve made new friends in their form or at a club. Or it could be that one of your friends wants to stay in touch and you don’t. Or the other way round: you want to stay friends and your friend from primary school doesn’t. It can be tricky to get through it but we’re here for you, and here’s how to deal…

Try talking to your friend if you’re feeling hurt and confused

When someone isn’t talking to us as much as they usually do, it can feel confusing. Before thinking that your friend doesn’t want to be your friend anymore, talk to them. This doesn’t have to be scary or confrontational.

You could say: “I feel sad because we don’t spend as much time together anymore.” Then suggest something you could both do together, like catch up at lunchtime or on a weekend instead. If they don’t want to, it’ll be tough. But at least you’ll know where you stand rather than assuming what’s going on. Be brave and start a conversation.

It can really hurt when friendships end or drift apart

The first thing we recommend is being okay with how you feel. Moving schools, meeting new people and friendships drifting apart is bound to feel a bit weird and even sad. This is a totally normal thing to feel. It’d actually be surprising if you didn’t feel sad! The best thing you can do is remember it’s okay, however you feel.

Sometimes it can make you angry

When we go through a difficult time, we all tend to act differently. Some people feel sad, some people get on with things as if nothing has changed, some people get angry. Just like it’s normal to feel sad, it’s normal to feel angry too.

Chances are you felt quite comfortable at primary school, you knew everyone and how everything works. Now that you’re at secondary school and everything is changing it’s normal to feel angry – especially at friends you feel aren’t there for you like they used to be.

There’s always a silver lining to a friendship ending or drifting apart

But there’s good news here, promise! Once you’ve let yourself feel your feelings, you need to remember that you can get through this. There’s always a good side to everything, like your gran says “every cloud has a silver lining.”

And you need to look out for the good bits of a friend drifting away. Sometimes friends that drift away actually come back as better friends later on – this happened to me loads in secondary school!

It can be a great opportunity to meet new people in your form or at clubs

One of the good things about a friend drifting away is the spare time you have. This is a really good chance for you to meet new people, whether that’s joining a new club or talking to people you wouldn’t normally talk to.

… And it can be a good opportunity to make new friends in different groups

Who knows, some of these new people you talk to might become really, really good friends with you. I remember when I moved from primary to secondary school I wasn’t in the same class as two of my close friends.

I felt really sad for weeks, but soon I began to make different friends and I realised that I actually had more in common with my new friends – we all really liked drama and performing arts. I still said “hi” to my old friends from primary school, but felt really glad to have been strong and started talking to new people.

@BeccaCaddy

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Image: Hailey Hamilton

If you haven’t gone through these 10 stages during revision and exam season then you’re probably not revising properly.

ps. We reckon you’re somewhere around stage six. Why? No reason at all…

1. Announcing how on it you will be

It’s a good three months before your first exam and you are THINKING about revision. It is ON YOUR MIND. You have CONSIDERED it. What a feat. You think about all the time you have in front of you and the possibilities you have. This will be your year. You will be so organised. Disgustingly so. You tell the WhatsApp group, Insta-story it, and speak up during dinner to announce this new you.

2. Demanding a supplies trip

Obviously this ‘new you’ requires new supplies, so you tactically ask a parent for a lift to the nearest Paperchase/Tiger/WHSmith/Wilko/The Works. The world is at your fingertips and all you need is new coloured pens and a book of plain A3 paper. Maybe even some post-its, revision cards, and string. Who knows what the string’s for, but this new you will find a use.

3. Creating the most beautiful spreadsheet

Before you start revising, you need a revision timetable – so you open Excel. It takes a while, it’s never been opened before, but you get there. The slight flutter in your heart at all the cells makes your vision slightly blurry BUT IT’S JUST ALL THE EXCITEMENT. Right? You Google a revision timetable template and throw your subjects in, making sure you have adequate food and sleep time. NOT TOO MUCH, MIND. No slacking.

4. Staring at the most beautiful spreadsheet

It’s like having your newborn in your arms. So beautiful, so fresh, so hungry for your attention. You’ve done a cracking job with the colours and font choice and print off three copies. One for your room, one for the living room, and one for opposite the toilet so you can’t even poo without being reminded of all the stuff there is to be learned.

5. Ignoring the most beautiful spreadsheet

The revision timetable has been up for a good 10 days and you’ve already started ignoring it. You had the intentions of starting but things just… got in the way. TV, going out, sleeping. And sleeping is SO important. Like, so important. You just can’t miss that. You’ve spent a lot of time standing in front of the timetable with your hands on your hips and frowning though, so. That must be doing something.

6. Realising how distracted you can actually get

School has started banging on about how important these exams are and inspirational music plays as you walk into assembly. Your friends have started bailing on plans in favour of revision and your timetable has started gathering dust. So you sit down with your colours and start revising. And… it works, oh God. YOU’RE REVISING! LOOK AT YOU GO! So then you have to tweet about revising, and post a photo on Instagram, then you start scrolling and watching videos on Facebook of baby goats being silly and then it’s bedtime. Whoops.

7. Forming a revision group with pals

The lack of social life is starting to grate on you so you decide to be all American about it and form a study group. It’s nice weather now so you host the session and set out a rug and cushions in the garden, with snacks and drinks. Oh, and your revision stuff. The sun’s out and this is Britain so you all decide to appreciate it for a bit first. You deserve the rest, after all. Then suddenly two hours pass and the only revision you’ve done is recite the STI song you got shown in Sex Ed, and you haven’t got an exam on that. Balls.

8. Attending one revision sesh at school

Things could definitely be going more to plan. You’re fitting in revision here and there but the days are slipping by and you’re starting to get anxious. There’s only one thing for it. Going to a revision session after school, AT school. You’ll be that person. You turn up and there are about five people there, but it’s actually great. You get more attention than you do in class and can ask all the questions you have. You’ve learnt stuff. I mean, you should have already learnt the stuff and should just be going over it, BUT WHO CARES?!

9. Having a go at cramming

It’s the week before your first exam and the nerves have set in. Even though you’re predicted a good grade, you’re wondering if you’ll pass at all. So you try to crack the art of The Cram. You give your laptop/tablet/phone to a family member with strict instructions to not fall for your charm when you ask for them back in 10 minutes, and you spend a good four hours straight revising and necking coffee. When it hits 1am and your eyes are about to fall out your sockets, you look back at your handiwork and realise you can’t actually read your scribbly handwriting at this point, so. Good.

10. Praying to the Baby J

There’s only one thing for it. You turn to religion. You go to church, temple, wherever (take photos of the pretty building for your Insta) and pray to whoever’s listening. You’ll take anything right now. Any sign at all. You’d even welcome a bird crapping on your head for that good ol’ luck.

Then you walk into that exam, out of that exam, and realise you knew way more than you thought you did. You smashed it. BOOM.

@louisejonesetc

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Image: Hailey Hamilton

Okay, so you’re probably in one of two camps; you think poetry is cool, expressive and the perfect way to write down your innermost thoughts, or you think it’s naff, outdated and would rather just listen to grime songs instead because they rhyme and they’re waaay more fun, right? If you’re in camp two, give poetry a chance. Like you said, you already enjoy things that rhyme…

It zhooshes language up

“Too wee, or not to wee. That is the question,” proclaims my mate before embarking on a longish car journey. It’s not ROFL, exactly, but quoting a verse from Hamlet’s soliloquy is a bit more entertaining than “mmm, I don’t know whether or not I need a wee.” That’s one of the reasons I love poetry. It makes language fun. It shines a new light on the drab, the dreary, the day-to-day stuff of life. In the words of Matthew Arnold, an Actual Poet, “poetry is simply the most beautiful, impressive, and widely effective mode of saying things, and hence its importance.” One of my favourite poems is about a mattress. Point made.

It NAILS feelings…

Robert Frost had a good acid test for poetry: “the lump in the throat”. “A complete poem,” he said, “is where an emotion has found its thought, and the thought has found words.” You know that feeling of numbness after you’ve been really devastated by something or someone? Well, Emily Dickinson has it down. You’ll find your own though. CS Lewis (of Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe fame) said “friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself’ and that is exactly what it’s like when you find the poet that speaks to you.

…but it’s also licensed nonsense

Jabberwocky by Edward Lear is a poem written for the sheer hell of it. It plays with language — or, rather, it plays with sounds, like babies do when they are learning to talk. To read it is to indulge in the ridiculous, the fantastic, and the impossible. Poetry, more than any art form, can do that: it is self-contained, with its own rhythm, rules and logic. “A big brown bear is knocking at my door” writes Selima Hill in My First Bra, and for a few minutes we can just suspend our belief.

It speaks truth to power

Telling WWI generals how it is in the trenches, telling presidents how it feels to be discriminated against, telling governments how it is to survive on benefits, telling event organisers what it means to be gay… as the old saying doesn’t quite go, the poetic is political, and the political is poetic. Like an ancient form of Twitter, poetry is an efficient form of communication that can – if the poem or poet is a success – strike right to the top.

It’s funny

Not always – sometimes it is seriously, utterly devastating – but some poems can really deep-tissue massage the funny bone: Cinderella by Road Dahl (NOT what you expect), Mr Oxford Don by John Agard, Nobody by Emily Dickinson and most things by John Betjeman are excellent places to start.

It’s not too spenny

Collections are expensive, sure – but there are millions of poems available for nothing at all on the internet. Look at Poetry Foundation, Poetry Archives, The Poetry Society… and Instagram, which believe it or not is becoming something of a poetic hotbed.

It can be written by anyone…

Every language and every dialect in every region of every country of the world has poetry in some form or another, and has done since the beginning of language. Some of the richest poems have been written by some of the poorest people: people without great formal education, who haven’t travelled much beyond their own village, let alone the world. Poets can be young or old, middle or working class, male or female and anywhere on any spectrum. They don’t need to have lots of time: the shortest poem in English, Flea, is four words – five, including the title. Reading poems helps a lot, but they don’t necessarily need to know much about poetry. Or own anything other than a piece of paper, and a pen.

…including you

There are all sorts of competitions, courses and guides for aspiring young poets. For inspiration, check out the latest winners of the Foyle’s Young Poet of the Year Competition – then just sharpen your pencil, and get rhyming.

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Image: Amber Griffin

Being an identical twin is pretty cool: not only do you have a ready-made BFF/roommate/ cheerleader/stylist on hand, but forget having to painstakingly mock up a fancy dress costume – you can just come as The Shining twins. (Yep, I happen to think they’re PRETTY cute)

I’m a twin (identical if you want to know the ins and out) and even now that we’re in our twenties, people still get us confused – probably because we both have long black hair down to our back. It’s not hard to see why twins have always been a source of fascination for everyone. From The Parent Trap’s Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen to, er, Jedward – twins have always intrigued everyone.

We’re pretty used to the stares now (I gave up thinking I had something stuck in my teeth years ago) and the ‘are you twins?’ question STILL rears its head almost every day. We might have left school nine years ago but here’s what happens if you have a clone…

You have an existing USP

Forget being known as the girl with the red velvet choker/pixie fringe, you’re forever referred to as The Twins. Oh, and even when you’ve left school? You’re still known as that. Yep, really.

You’re always asked who’s the older twin

And when you tell them to guess they get it wrong. Every. Darn. Time. And as for who’s the evil twin? We both won’t admit to that (it’s definitely her though).

People WILL confuse you

Get used to chatting or waving to strangers who assume you’re the other twin – even our dad still does it. That’s okay as were used to answering both names anyway. Very handy for avoiding exes – ‘Oh wrong twin’ mwahaha.

Swapping classes is the highlight of the term

Getting out of double physics? A BREEZE. Bonus points if your teacher can’t even tell the difference. If only this applied in the adult world and I could binge watch Stranger Things all day while my twin goes to work for me instead. Boo.

Sleepovers are the BEST

Forget inviting friends over with popcorn, candy floss and 90s movies (hello Mean Girls, He’s Just Not That Into You and How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days). This is an every night affair when you’re a twin. Let’s face it, nights out can never compete.

People tell you apart by your physical differences

Sometimes they can even be downright harsh. FYI – being known as the twin with the round face while my sister was known as the one with the ‘long face’ isn’t a compliment. Sob.

Yep we do have *the feeling*

We get a vibe when something’s a bit off with the other. But sadly, we can’t read each other’s minds in exams or tests. If only *sigh*. And we DEFINITELY can’t feel each other’s physical pain so don’t try pinching me to see if she can feel it…

You have two wardrobes

Forget a personal shopper – sure we might have different tastes but my twin always has that perfect item languishing in her cupboard (even though she tries her best to hide it). Gold hoops? Mine please. Red lippie. Stashes in bag. But if she steals my favourite top? It’s World War Three…

Teasing the boys at school is super fun

Watching them stutter as your twin appears suddenly next to you has never been so fun. But if anyone tries to tease your twin? You’ll be there, fists at the ready.

You’re always given one birthday gift

You bunch of tight fists, we’re *two* different people ok?! Yep, we get it that we have the same birthday and buying two presents = a very empty purse. But can we at least have our own card?!

Say bye to your individual identity

Unsurprisingly, being a twin means it can be hard to carve out your own identity. Although we are similar in many ways, we do have our differences. At school, she hated History and I ended up taking it to uni. She loved basketball and I faked a limb-destroying illness every PE lesson. The lesson? We may look the same but that doesn’t mean we’re the exact same person.

Despite wanting to strangle my twin sometimes, you always know that no matter what you’ll always have someone to hang out with at lunch. Whether it’s going through a breakup or your BFF has ditched you to sit with another group, there’s always someone who’s got your back. Bonus points if they like double physics …

@layla_haidrani

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Starting your period is never going to be a beautiful explosion of unicorns, sparkles and rainbows, but at least if it happens at home then you’ve probably got a stash of stuff that can help you out.

But what happens if you’re lucky enough to be blessed with the magical moment on (shock horror gasp agh) an actual school day.

The thought of legging it through the corridors with your thighs squeezed together, or sitting in the middle of a maths exam with no chance of escape, is basically the stuff of nightmares.

But there are actually a handful of things you can do to make sure that starting your period at school is no sweat. Here’s everything you need to know about preparing for a period at school because, let’s be honest, you’ve got enough to worry about when you’re there.

1. Watch out for the tell-tale signs

Most girls start their period when they’re about 12 years old, but it can come as early as 8 or as late as 16 (basically any age really, which is helpful). That means there’s a pretty good chance that it’ll arrive for the first time while you’re at school. We would do the maths to prove it, but err… no thanks.

Signs that you might have your first period on the way include other signs of puberty, like growing underarm hair or pubic hair. Usually, you’ll start getting your monthly present about two years after your boobs start to grow, and about a year after you start to get a white vaginal discharge. Spot any of those making an appearance and it might be worth popping a pad in your bag.

2. Talk to someone about it

The best way that you can prepare for it is to fully understand both your period and your body. That way you won’t be caught out by any unexpected surprises. They might be kind of annoying, but mums are also a fountain of knowledge when it comes to this type of stuff, so talk to them.

It’s not as embarrassing as you might think – the majority of women have a period, it’s literally how the human race works. Try to talk to your mum, aunties, grandmas, older sisters or your school nurse about any questions you have. It’ll put your mind at ease and help it to seem a whole lot less scary.

3. Always keep a backup in your bag

If you’re going to do one thing to give your period a big, warm welcome, then do this one. It’s always a good idea to start carrying sanitary pads or tampons around with you in advance to make sure you’re not caught out.

Not only will it mean that you’re ready to save your favourite knickers from inevitable disaster when a period does arrive in town, but it also means that you can potentially save your bestie if she gets into a sticky situation, too. Friendship goals.

4. And in case of emergency

Maybe the most extra but genius top tip of all? Keep an extra pair of underwear at the bottom of your school bag. It might sound OTT but whether it’s your first unexpected period, or another one later down the line that sneaked up on you, some spare knickers and tights can be a LIFESAVER.

If you’re caught off guard and have the chance to quickly whip off your now-very-ruined pants for some new ones, you’ll have nothing to worry about and still feel fresh and clean. Just shove them into a pocket in your bag, or hide them in a sock and no one will ever know they’re there.

5. Stash them in a few places

Keeping an emergency pad or a tampon at the bottom of your bag is all very well and good – but what happens if you start your period while your bag is in your locker, and you’re in the middle of P.E. on the other side of school?

You can never be over-prepared, so why not distribute a few more backups in other handy places? You could keep one in your main school bag, your P.E. kit, your pencil case, your locker and one in your blazer pocket.

6. Remember there’s always someone who can help

Forgotten to shove a tampon in your pencil case? Sitting through English with the feeling that um, it’s definitely happened? Please don’t worry or panic about being caught short – there are tons of people in school who’ll be able to help you out.

First of all, ask your closest friends if they’ve got a spare pad that you can steal. If they’re not able to save the day (or you don’t feel comfortable talking to them about it), a female teacher or your school nurse will always be on hand to get it sorted. You might feel a bit awkward or shy about asking, but just say: “I started my period today and I don’t have my supplies.” They’ll know exactly what to do.

7. Create a period first aid kit

We all have that one friend who’s always RIDICULOUSLY over-organised, and if that friend is you then this will definitely be a period preparation dream to you. To make sure that you’re always ready for the crimson wave, pack a mini period first aid kit in a spare pencil case or makeup bag.

How about you basically just empty the contents of your bettybox – tampons, pads, makeup for your period spots, chocolate to ease PMS – into the super cute pouch and sit back in awe of your handy work.

8. Make a note of your dates

Your first period probably won’t last very long as it can take your body a little while to get into a regular pattern. As a general rule, once they’ve settled into a normal cycle, you’ll have a period every 28 to 30 days and will last between 3 to 7 days.

It makes sense to start making a note of the dates that your period arrives, as it’ll help you to figure out when you can expect the next one. If you don’t want to write ‘PERIOD PARTY DAY’ in big capital letters in your school planner, a little sticker or emoji could be a good shout.

9. Don’t worry about it

Whether you’re the first in the squad or the last to get your period, it’s absolutely something you shouldn’t ever be embarrassed or worried about. You’re literally one of thousands of girls who will have had a period at your school.

It’s just a natural part of growing up, you’re surrounded by people who’ll be able to help you out if you need it, and now you’re clued up on a few easy ways to prepare in advance! You’ve only got another fifty years of period to get through anyway. YAY.

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

Image: Amber Griffin

Often, childhood friendships disintegrate into nothingness. It’s no one’s fault, there’s no huge fight or grand betrayal – but the friendships that once were the most comfortable things in the world start to feel too tight, like the favourite shoes you bought years ago and now are two sizes too small.

‘It’s natural,’ your mum tells you. ‘People outgrow each other,’ your dad says. And they’re right, of course. Some friendships don’t last.

But some do.

These friendships, the ones that started in sandpits when some kid looked at you and didn’t immediately smash your sandcastle with their foot? They’re pretty damn special. So while it might be hard to keep up childhood friendships once you stop seeing each other every day at school or when you actually have to arrange to get together rather than being able to rely on your mums to sort it out, there are a lot of reasons you should hang in there and go the distance with a longterm friendship. For example…

1. They can always help unpack the dishwasher in your house, because they know where everything goes better than you do.

2. You have permanent and inalienable rights to their wardrobe.

3. And they won’t get too cross if you spill on their best top, because, let’s be honest, they’ve done the exact same thing to you.

4. You don’t have to explain your weird Uncle Frederick to them because they know your weird Uncle Frederick. In fact, they sat next to him last year at your birthday dinner and had a nice chat about the Romans.

5. They will be honest and tell you that no, you won’t suit a fringe.

6. And they’ll be sympathetic when you ignore them and get the fringe anyway, and end up completely hating it.

7. You can call them to ask them the name of your primary school librarian.

8. And if they don’t know the answer, at least they’ll be able to share in your frustration.

9. Let’s be honest, who remembers their sixth birthday? You never know, your long-term BFF might.

10. You can sit with them in silence for ages without ever being uncomfortable.

11. And you can be as weird as you like, without worrying that they’re going to stop being your friend.

12. Because these are people who’ve probably seen you pee your pants. At least once.

13. They never forget your birthday because it’s seared into their memory as deeply as their own.

14. You have childhood photos of each other that you can make into pretty collages. 

15. Or use for blackmail.

16. They know the name of your childhood toy.

17. And that you still like to cuddle it when you’re ill or sad.

18. They won’t judge you for what subjects you choose in school, what career you aspire to or what grades you get – they knew you long before any of these things even mattered.

19. And maybe most importantly? Because they’ve loved you at every stage of your life; when you were missing your two front teeth or you couldn’t tie your shoes. They’ve loved you when you couldn’t even spell your own name, let alone write it down. They’ve loved you when you called them crying at 2am or when you’ve given them a hideous cold by sneezing in their face accidentally.

Long-term friendships don’t always work out, but when they do they’re amazing. If you’re lucky enough to get the chance, maybe you should give them a try.

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

Image: Hailey Hamilton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

@Brogan_Driscoll

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

1. Are they walking towards me?

2. Does my breath smell?

3. Why did I have a tuna sandwich for lunch?

4. Why did I have a tuna sandwich ever? Tuna is the kryptonite of romance.

5. My arms feel weird.

6. Should I cross them?

7. Or just leave them by my sides?

8. Oh my god, what do I normally do with my arms?! WHY IS THIS SO HARD.

9. What should I say?

10. “Hey!”? Nope. Too American.

11. “Hi”? Too simple.

12. “Howdy?” Wait, am I suddenly in a 50s Western film?

13. Maybe I’ll just nod. Nodding says, “I acknowledge you exist, but your presence doesn’t make me want to run away to Spain with you and tattoo your name on my bicep or anything.” Nodding is cool. Right?

14. Right?!

15. Oh my god, they’re coming! No, no no – they’re right here.

16. “G’day partner, do your arms ever feel weird?”

17. Nailed it.

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

Image: Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging

We’re taught it at school more than we are trigonometry and the Tudors. If someone is constantly picking on you, taking the mick or harassing you, it means they fancy the pants off you. They really, REALLY like you. Like, LIKE-like you. Right?

No. Absolutely not.

This myth has been drilled into us since the dawn of time itself, and though it may seem harmless, believing that abusive behaviour is actually a sign that someone loves you can really damage your future relationships.

But what counts as being horrible?

When someone fancies you, they treat you well. They do not:

1. Physically hurt you. Ever.

Do they flick you when they sit next to you in class? Push you over on the school field? Pull your hair? Trip you up? All for a laugh? It does not mean they fancy you.

2. Call you names.

Did you embarrass yourself one time and earn a less-than-lovely nickname? Do they not let you forget it, and insist on banging on for a laugh for their mates? It does not mean they fancy you.

3. Repeatedly annoy you when you asked them to stop.

A light bit of banter is fine – you don’t take yourself seriously and can take a joke. But after a while it gets tiresome, so you ask them to stop. They don’t. In fact, they do it more. It does not mean they fancy you.

4. Touch you, or have you touch them, without your consent.

Wolf whistling is not a compliment and nor is touching your bum without asking. The latter is, in fact, sexual assault. They might try and dare you to kiss them or might put their arm around you affectionately when really they want to try and touch your boob. Any form of sexual contact without your consent is sexual assault. It does not mean they fancy you*.

5. Steal your stuff. 

Ever walked away from your bag or phone and come back to find it missing? Yep, great joke guys. You can give it back now. If they don’t – even if they run off with your stuff and throw it in a bin for you to find – it does not mean they fancy you.

Of course, it’s still possible they DO fancy you despite all this douchebaggery – but that’s kind of irrelevant because either way, you deserve someone who actually treats you well.

Ok. Got it. So how do I know if someone does fancy me?!

Easy. They’re nice to you! For example…

1. They compliment you without being unnecessarily sexual or gross.

2. They make an effort to spend time with you.

3. They’re super interested in what you do and what you say.

4. They want to talk to you for ages and never seem to need to be anywhere else.

5. They ask you out. Politely.

6. They laugh at your (even rubbish) jokes.

7. They blush when they see you – adorable.

8. They support you when you need it.

*any other nice stuff that makes you feel warm and gushy and comfortable and confident*

That seems fair…

Yup! There’s a big difference between some jokey, flirty banter and straight up horribleness. Don’t feel like you have to play along. If the behaviour carries on when you tell them to stop, please tell someone. You’re worth more than that, you beautiful, strong, lovely angelic human.

ps. What’s that * there for?

Ah, yes. Crushes are fun but sexual assault and abuse of your consent is super serious. If you think you’ve been assaulted or are worried about someone’s behaviour towards you then there are loads of people out there you can talk to. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. Talk to a teacher, your parents/guardians, your doctor, or any adult you trust. If you don’t want to talk to someone you know then you can always speak to Childline or The Mix.

@louisejonesetc

1. You promise to message and meet up all the time.

text-ok

2. You judge each other’s uniform.

Total idiot gif

3. They quickly find new friends and you get protective. How dare they.

Big Brother 'who is she?' gif

4. You stalk everyone involved in any second of your spare time.

Modern Family stalk gif

5. You debate joining a sports team just so you can go to their school and fight the new friends.

What team gif

6. Your best friend starts to change and you don’t like it. At all. You agreed Snapchat filters were overrated and now look! She’s wearing a flower crown!

Shady Real Housewives gif

7. The “Do you mind if so-and-so comes?” texts start to roll in and encroach on your BFF time.

She doesn't even go here gif

8. Your parents start to ask why you haven’t mentioned your best friend in ages.

fine I don't know gif

9. But then, suddenly, they turn up in your Facebook messages when something goes wrong. They need you and only you.

Best friend back

10. And you realise that no matter where you are, how you’ve changed, and what you’re doing, that’s just life and you’ll always be each other’s number one.

Flying hug gif

10a. (Fine, and the new friends are actually ok…)

Easy A screaming gif

@louisejonesetc

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