Happiness, through fear
A magazine showed up in my mailbox last week, uninvited. It was wrapped in plastic, and on the cover was a young woman smiling seductively.
It wasn’t anything salacious, just the August issue of one of those magazines aimed at young women. It had been years since I’d leafed through one of these (I am much too nervous to read in doctors’ waiting rooms), and so I tore into it with all the eagerness of my 17-year-old self.
After all these years, these magazines are still peddling the same half-dozen headlines that exploit the primal fears of your average 16-to-35-year-old. I recognize the fears, because I had them, too:
• Your hair won’t be shiny and touchable. The expert advice still stands: Don’t wash it too often, and use a mild shampoo. I’ve been following this advice for 45 years, and most days I’m still the only one touching my hair. Last time it was shiny was right before puberty.
• Your legs will be less than silky smooth. The conventional wisdom is still that you should shave them and then put on lotion. My magazine implies we all should have touchable legs, but I don’t think mine are. My dog is always trying to lick my ankles, but I don’t think that counts.
• The fear of a flat rear end. I’ve known since the age of 10 the key to a good butt is to do 120 sets of 80 leg lifts every 30 minutes for the rest of my life. The protocol still stands, apparently. The magazines make us all feel really bad about our rear ends by showing photographs of models in bikini bottoms with sand perfectly arrayed on their cheeks. Like we’re supposed to walk around on the beach like that. Those models are, like, 14 years old.
• You will wear the wrong shade of lipstick. OK, I get it: Pink shades for pale skin and peachy shades for pink skin, and most of us can’t get away with bright red lipstick. Oh, and I’m supposed to exfoliate my lips so I’ll be more kissable.
• The fear that we will never lose those last five pounds. Ah, such nostalgia for the days when the only thing standing between me and perfect joy was five pounds. The advice now, as always, is: Don’t ever eat bread again. Whole publishing empires were built upon that sentence.
• You are not happy enough. My magazine has a big cover headline that said Fun and Fresh – the message being that we are all not quite fun enough or fresh enough, and this magazine will unlock the secrets of fun freshness, which are: hair that feels like silk and legs that even strangers can’t keep their paws off of, and yummy lips and a rear end like a peach.
I’m poking fun now, but there was a time when I ran to the mailbox toward the end of every month, hoping to find the latest issue of CoverGirl magazine. Between the covers lie the secrets to a world of fresh happiness.
Not to mention touchable hair.
Beth Dolinar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.