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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Same strop, different day. Not that we’re predictable, or anything…

1. The Ignition

Jelly wobble spoon gif

It might be something as small as not being allowed a packet of crisps before dinner (despite the fact you’ve been at school ALL DAY and need to get your energy levels back up for all that Instagram scrolling you need to catch up on), or something bigger like not being allowed to extend your curfew despite your friend’s parents allowing HER to be out until 10pm… but your parents have wronged you.

The heat inside you has begun to bubble…

2. The Decision

Now you have mere seconds to weigh up the situation and decide whether to implement Strop Central. Is it worth it? Can this be reasonably sorted out instead? Do you have the energy? You’ve been at school ALL DAY, remember…

3. The Storm

Little girl storming out gif

Of course it’s worth it! DING DING DING, off we go. You narrow your eyes, take a deep breath, dislocate your jaw for maximum impact and give an almighty HUFF before sassing your way out of the room.

If you’re going all-out, you choose a phrase to shout as you leave. Something like “THIS IS RIDICULOUS”, “YOU DON’T EVEN UNDERSTAND” or the timeless, “UGGGHHHHH.”

4. The Stomp

Joey slamming a door on Friends

A strop must always involve stairs. That is the law. If the Ignition occurs downstairs then you’re set. You can stomp, stomp, stomp up to the bathroom or bedroom. If it occurs upstairs, you can stomp your way to… the garden shed? Just make sure you slam a door on your way out.

5. The RIGHT THAT’S IT

Angry little girl

Well, everybody in the immediate vicinity knows you are in a strop. Good. You’re fuming. You’ve had enough and this is the final straw. Nothing will ever be the same again for this family. They will regret their decision until the end of time itself.

6. The Reflection

Glowering girl gif

It’s been 10 minutes and you’re still sitting on your bedroom floor. The dust has settled, the bubbling anger has subsided. You realise that maybe this strop isn’t sustainable and maybe you could have tried to compromise and… NO. No, you must stick with the strop. You chose this path, you are entitled to the strop. Right?

7. The Hunger

How I Met Your Mother food gif

It’s been 45 minutes. You’re called for dinner. You hear your brother come out of his bedroom and run down the stairs. It does smell good and your stomach’s rumbling. You were at school ALL DAY, remember? There’s nothing in your room to eat… maybe this was a rookie error.

8. The Return

Beyonce strutting

Ok. You’ve built yourself up and will go downstairs for dinner. You realise that you can’t stay up here (or in the shed – too many spiders) forever and dinner really DOES smell good. You open the door, hold your head up high, and walk down those stairs with great confidence.

9. The Dignity

Dignified girl

You won’t mention the strop. You’re over it. But they must still know that you’re not happy with their parenting, so you’ll take on a silent protest. No eye contact. No conversation. You will sit and you will eat. Nothing more, nothing less.

Apart from asking for the ketchup.

10. The Pretending Like Nothing Happened

I'm Fine Ross gif

Screw it. You can’t be bothered to be quiet and you’re getting a headache from looking down so intently. The strop is over, the silent protest is over, and you just hope that no one mentions it…

“Stopped stropping now, have we?”

HOW DARE THEY.

See stage 1.

@louisejonesetc

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

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

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

1. Life is bigger than kissing the person you fancy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Know when to stand up for yourself

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

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

5. Everybody feels like an outsider sometimes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. Just keep doing your own thing

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

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

@alice_emily

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: Getty/Katie Edmunds

You… yes you! You can keep your BIG NIGHTS OUT and trips to the cinema, because as far as I’m concerned you absolutely can’t beat a sleepover. Seriously, from my cat’s birthday to Halloween, New Year’s Eve to the Strictly Come Dancing final – give me a half-baked ‘occasion’ and I’ll grab a mate, some snacks and a sleeping bag.

But isn’t having your friends round for dinner practically the same thing, you ask? Well no. No it isn’t. Yes, having your friends over for a homemade feast is fantastic, but having them stay the night is a whole different – and far superior – ball game.

Here’s why…

Blossom sleepover

Quality friendship time

We’re all so busy that under normal circumstances it’s hard to spend more than a couple of hours with a mate (usually sandwiched between boring commitments you’d sell a kidney to avoid). Sleepovers however guarantee a good 12 – 16 hours of solid gold quality friendship time. Keeerching!

You always have THE BEST conversations just before you drop off to sleep

Whether it’s a drunk-on-tiredness confessional or something nonsensical but pee-your-pants funny, some of my most memorable convos with friends have happened just before we’ve departed for snoozeville.

The munch

Everyone knows a good sleepover should involve food. LOTS OF FOOD. Basically, it’s the perfect excuse to totally overindulge – if you don’t wake up with a Haribo-induced tummy ache you’re doing it wrong.

The morning after the night before

Although you’ll probably wake up with a stiff neck and Doritos crumbs on your face in a room that reeks of ‘body’, the morning after a sleepover is still THE BEST. Because if there’s a better way to start the day than eating tea and toast in your pjs, in front of Princess Diaries, surrounded by your besties, we wanna hear about it.

Bff bonding

Sleeping next to someone is obviously a pretty intimate act, which is why a sleepover is a great way to bond. Nothing says friends4eva like a bit of occasional spooning.

Cheaper than chips

Broke (or just trying to save your pennies for a rainy day), but also in need of some serious friend time? Then a sleepover is your saviour, as they literally don’t have to cost you a penny. We know… genius!

Totes on trend

You’ve heard of ‘hygge’ – the hot-right-now Danish lifestyle trend which is basically all about being cosy – right? Well what could be more hygge than midnight hot chocolates under the duvet with your soul sisters? We think we’ve made our case.

And because I’m such a sleepover connoisseur, here are my top tips for the perfect slumber party:

1. Friends. You will need some. Ideally no more than five. Sleepovers should be intimate (not like THAT) and chill, and if the group’s too big it’ll splinter off into sub-groups and probably end in tears – or at least tension. Also – who has room to sleep more than five extra people in their house? Exactly.

Sleepover gif

2. Food. You will need some. In fact, the more the better. Sleepovers are all about homely indulgence – no one should ever feel peckish. Main meal wise, you really can’t beat pizza or, if you’re feeling fancy, fajitas. But don’t stop there. You’ll also need snacks, lots of snacks.

 

Little Mix eating pizza

3. Entertainment. If you’re planning to watch a movie, please learn from my past mistakes and make it one you’ve all watched a million times before. There’s absolutely no way you’re all going to stay quiet the whole way through (or be able to pause every time someone needs a loo break), so watching something that will require your full concentration is a recipe for sleepover disaster.

Sleepover girls

Now, go forth and slumber! Or at least lie in the dark and try to, until one of you starts laughing.

@SiamGoorwich

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The Olympics has left a five-ringed void in everyone’s hearts and TV schedules. There are no more medal tallies to discuss or heptathlons to obsess over. No more gymnastic routines to attempt to copy in our bedrooms. No more humble speeches to weep at or national anthems to sing. Or at least, not until the Paralympics start next month and all the cheering begins again.

But hey, we have the legacy! And while we will probably never again see Usain Bolt or Jess Ennis-Hill compete for Olympic gold again, there are some new Olympians that wormed their way into our hearts in Rio. Presenting: our Olympic Sheroes.

Britain's Amy Tinkler celebrates after the women's floor event final of the Artistic Gymnastics at the Olympic Arena during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 16, 2016. / AFP / Ben STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)
Image: Getty

 Amy Tinkler

Amy is the ultimate overachiever. As well as being team GB’s youngest athlete (she’s 16), taking her GCSEs and spending 30 hours a week training, she went ahead and brought home a bronze medal in gymnastics for her floor routine #likeaboss. Now, she’s back from the Olympics and waiting to hear how she did in her exams. Amy, as far as we’re concerned, you’ve scored straight A*s.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 16: Abbey D'Agostino of the United States (R) hugs Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand after the Women's 5000m Round 1 - Heat 2 on Day 11 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 16, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Image: Getty

Abbey D’Agostino and Nikki Hamblin

She didn’t take home a gold. Or a silver. Or a bronze. But she most definitely takes home the Miss Congeniality award. Halfway through the 5,000 metres, Abbey clipped fellow runner Nikki Hamblin and both girls tripped and fell. Abbey quickly recovered, and jumped back up, but instead of running off to try and make up for those lost few seconds, she noticed Nikki was lying on the floor in the fetal position, crying. Nikki remembers feeling a hand on her shoulder, helping her up and Abbey’s voice in her ear: “Get up. We have to finish this.”

And so, despite their injuries, they did. *Sob*

Fu
Image: Getty

Fu Yuanhui

If you can watch this video of Fu and not want to hug her senseless, we can only assume you’re playing Pokemon Go at the same time and not giving it your full attention.

In addition to being adorable and winning the bronze medal for the 100m backstroke final, Fu also got real about her uterus. After competing in the final of the women’s 4 x 100m medley relay, in which her team came fourth, she sat down and clutched her tummy. When a reported came over to ask her about the race, Fu responded, “I feel I didn’t swim well today. I let my teammates down. Because my period came yesterday, I’m feeling a bit weak, but this is not an excuse.” Round of applause for Fu for letting the world know that even kickass sportswomen have to deal with periods too.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 16: Gold medalist Laura Trott of Great Britain celebrates during the medal ceremony after the women's Omnium Points race on Day 11 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Velodrome on August 16, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Image: Getty

Laura Trott

Laura Trott is the most successful female British athlete in history. In history. Can you imagine? She has won seven World Championships. Ten European Championships. Two Commonwealth Games titles. She is un-freaking-defeated in the Olympics. As a side note, she’s engaged to fellow Olympian Jason Kenny. The pair took home five gold medals between them, meaning if their home in Cheshire was a country, it would have finished 19th on the table – above Canada and New Zealand. Couple goals: redefined.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 17: Simone Biles of the United States performs on the beam during the Gymnastics Rio Gala on Day 12 of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Image: Getty

Simone Biles

You know it, we know it, the whole internet knows it – Simone Biles is bae.

But while she might look like the most together teenager in the world, her life wasn’t always paved with gold medals. When Simone was three, her mother became unable to care for her and her three other siblings. Simone went to live with the grandparents on the other side of the country, who formally adopted her and her younger sister a few years later. She has won five medals in Rio, four of which were gold, and they’ll look damned good hanging next to the 14 World Championship medals she already has.

To think, some people collect Beanie Babies.

(Right now, there is no one else in the world that can perform this manoeuvre. They call it The Biles, obvs.)

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: Getty/Katie Edmunds