Girls’ Life Magazine. Was I aware that such things existed in the world? Yes. Did I have some scant hope that my girls would never be tempted to open the pages of said things? Sadly and naively, yes.
I had seen this issue of the magazine in the back seat of the car on our recent family trip to California. I hadn't paid much attention to it then. I mean, every second spent reading an inane article in a magazine, well, that's one less second spent fighting, and complaining, and asking tedious questions, right? Who am I to argue with that?
When we got home, though, and the magazine ended up on the kitchen counter, I took a closer look. (Once I got over my astonishment that my kids had actually brought it in from the car in the first place, that is.) And, oh the sadness.
Look cute now? Flirting? Kissing? How to get flat abs and hot hair? It hurts me. It actually physically hurts to know that these are the best things they can think of to put in a magazine for young girls. And I know. I know. This is just a small thing. The least of the places that they are being bombarded with these impossible and ridiculous ideals. I know. But it still makes me sad to see it right there in glossy print. Unbelievably sad.
And it brings back memories of my own awkward and uncertain adolescent days. Those days of flipping through Seventeen and Glamour and YM. Where in between quizzes like: Danny, Donnie, Joe, Jon, or Jordan? Who’s the New Kid for you, kid?
(None for me, thanks, I was utterly devoted to Michael Hutchence and Steven Tyler. And Morrissey...yeah, I know.)
Or: Are You a Guess Girl or an Esprit Spirit? What Your Jeans Say About You!
(I think mine said I was a thief who stole her brother’s Button-Fly 501s. Cuz they were so cool. And they didn’t make them for girls.)
And beauty articles like: How to Get the Best Bangs for Your Buck.
(Brought to you by Salon Selectives and Aqua Net.)
And Q&A style advice columns: Are These Keds Made for Walking? How to Know When It’s Time to Break Up.
(With a junior high or high school boyfriend? Immediately. Always immediately.)
In between the totally awesome features such as these was page after page of flawless looking girls. Make-up tips, exercise tips, relationship tips, and countless glossy photo spreads. All designed to subtly and not-so-subtly remind the already-struggling-with-her-self-esteem teenage girl that she was not quite good enough. And it worked. (And it somehow still does. Which is why these days, I insist on only reading the National Enquirer. Plus, how else are you going to get all of the hard hitting facts that the government doesn’t want you to know?)
I hoped against hope that my girls would not be subjected to such things. That these stupid magazines would have no pull, no draw for them. That they would be so confident and self-actualized that they would scoff at the very thought of such silly ridiculousness. And even knowing now that they do read them, I still hope against hope that it does nothing to make them doubt how beautiful and amazing they truly are.
I will undoubtedly never be called upon to be the editor-in-chief of a teen fashion mag. And, as the mom, I will rarely even be called upon to offer my opinion (On anything. At all.) But I want my daughters (and all young girls) to know what I think a "Girl's Life" should consist of. And, guess what? It's not flat abs or lean legs. And it's definitely not boys.
What should it be about? I'm glad you asked.
Being Your (Beautiful) Self: So trite. So clichéd. So true. Your hair. Your skin. Your bodyshape. Your laugh. I am guessing you are satisified with few, if any, of these things. Can I just take a minute to tell you how beautiful it makes you? How original? How amazingly stunning and unique?? I know. You want nothing else more than to look like everyone else. To have hair like that girl. And that one's clothes. And teeth like that other one. I know. But guess what? You have a look and a style that is unlike anyone else. And it is fabulous. I know it because I see it. Even your self-consciousness, your uncertainty, and sometimes your false bravado. It's adorable. It really is. You are beautiful because you have a light that is all your own.
Don't let anyone tell you different.
Being a Friend: You are constantly thrown into situations where you are around hundreds of other people. Every single day. Some of them you have things in common with. Some seem like they might be the very sister (or brother) of your soul. Some of them are so dissimilar from you they seem to have been born in a different era. Or on a different planet. Be friends with as many of them as you possibly can. They will add things to your life that you cannot even imagine. It is nice to find people who share your interests, but people who are completely unlike you will open you up to tastes, and varieties, and experiences you may never otherwise have. Above all, be kind to everyone. Mean people, weird people, happy people, sad people. All of 'em.
You never know the difference you will make in someone's life by just being a friend.
Being Happy: It's different for everyone, isn't it? The things that make them happy? It could be movies, or books, or food, or board games, or shopping, or sports. Find it. Find the things that make you happy. That you enjoy. That are fun for you. And then do as much of it as you possibly can. One day you'll have a job (groan) and children (sigh) and other obligations (boo) that can sometimes put a damper on your me-time. And I know that even now you have school, and homework, and chores and other things that interfere with things you would rather be doing. But you are also in a unique time of your life where you can focus on yourself a little bit. Do it. Find the things that make you happy. Read, play, shop, cook, watch.
Squeeze all the fun out of life you can and enjoy every last drop of it.
My opinions and advice will never make it to the pages of Teen Vogue. I know. And as sure as hormones and mean girls rage, and acne and short skirts flare, teenage girls will experience self-doubt. It's inevitable. But for every nay-sayer and bubble-burster out there, there is someone who thinks you rule and there is no sit-up you can do or lip gloss you can buy that will change the fact that you rock their world.
Even if it is just your mom.