I Read Cosmo For the First Time in Seven Years and it Felt Weird

I’ve been to the gym, my feet are sore and I couldn’t think of a witty title for this post. On the upside if you’re reading this you know what you’re getting. Don’t come crawling back to me in 15 minutes time and say “oh Alice, I was expecting a post on Manta Rays. You’ve let me down”. No, you can’t say that because the title clearly states this post will be on Cosmopolitan Magazine (hereafter Cosmo). No refunds given on wasted time.

I decided to buy a copy of Cosmo magazine the other day. The last time I bought this magazine was probably back when I was studying for my GCSEs aged 16. I treated as my little naughty secret. “Oh my God it has the S.E.X word on it! Better not show mum, I’ll hide it in my bag.” “Buy anything in town?” “Nope! Nothing!”

Back when I was 16 I knew little of the world and in such an impressionable state I believed pretty much everything that was written in Cosmo. “When I’m a young professional I will be at the fashionable cocktail bars with my girl friends and all the guys will be male models. We’ll talk about clothes and make up and naughty things and horoscopes and our amazing careers and everything will be amazing.”

About seven years down the line I made the impulse decision to buy a copy of Cosmo.

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(Do you like my bedding? You’ll be seeing a lot of it).

There were three factors behind my decision to purchase this. a) I am starting to draft up ideas for this book I’m going to write and the target audience is the sort of person who might buy this (Alice is trying to be down with the kids). b) It’s only £1 (back in my day Cosmo was a luxury item, it was about £3.50 to buy) and c) pure curiosity. Purchase made, I couldn’t wait to take a trip down memory lane and see what Cosmo was like nowadays.

My God it was awful.

A glance at the cover should have really warned me what I was about to expect, but blinded by girlish excitement I chose to overlook it.

The make up and fashion advice this month all revolved around the colour pink. It took me about a week to realise that the colour pink was selected most likely because of Valentine’s day on the 14th February. It was a tedious link, I mean why should wearing pink make you any more likely to bag a guy. Take this article for example:

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Ok, I see what they’re trying to put across here. I mean I have told myself I’m going to try out with make up this year. I wonder how glamourous I can look if I do this right?

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Hmm I’ll pass.

Cosmo does a lot on upcoming trends and how to rock the look. However I did feel at times they were wasting their time and printing ink on questions that could be answered in only a couple of words. Example:

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Answer: Don’t wear them in the first place

And it wouldn’t be Cosmo with a piece of WTF advise:

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At this time all I could think is “is this seriously happening right now? It’s got to be a joke, surely?” But oooh no, it’s 100% serious. Look, they even tell you how to style your hair with bakery names!

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I only hope someone has warned Gregs about the impending wave of young people coming to get their hair styled…

The magazine was hilarious at points, but other times it was actually a little bit contradictory. Take this article which went heavy on the need for girls to love their bodies as they are.

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I have nothing against this article in particular, nor do I have any qualms about Jemeela’s writing (it’s not Oscar winning writing, but hey, neither is mine). Where I do take issue is that this photo appeared on the page before:

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It doesn’t take a feminist rocket scientist to see where the two items differ. I mean heck even I looked at the image above and thought “I’d tap that!”

And on the subject of models, I had completely forgot about the weirdness of the Cosmo fashion models:

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The choice models this month have been selected in association with the Talk to Frank drugs advice service. She gets weirder. This photo genuinely spooked me, and looks like it belongs from a scary movie poster:

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Thanks to the Nokia Lumia the picture quality isn’t great, but that’s her looking blankly through a window. I wonder who she’s not speaking to on the phone? Ah, it’ll probably be her equally spooky partner:

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You’d call the police if they lived next door to you wouldn’t you? Or the RSPCA. Then again the dog is probably the healthiest out of the three.

I mean, can you imagine how intense it would be if you went round for a coffee?

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The photo set ups just get more and more bizarre. Long ago I’d forgotten that these photos were meant to sell clothes.

I’d love to have pinned down the photographer and said to him/her “just what exactly are you hoping to achieve from a shot like this?”

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In the end I realise why I feel uneasy about these models. Even though Cosmo is trying to tell me they’re beautiful in an artistic sense, my brain is screaming at me that these people are actually incredibly ugly.

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Cosmo isn’t all about make up and models though. It also covers the big news stories that really matter.

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I cannot remember what the articles were all about when I was a young teenager, I’m pretty sure they were of the same high quality and research. However it didn’t make it any easier for me to read them with older, fresher eyes seven years later.

This article I came close to laughing at:

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Now this, this is the sort of article I’d have read when I was 16 with my mouth hitting the floor in a mixture of shock, disgust and awe. Apparently this is what all young professional women do in the city of London:

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SEX PARTIES?! What the actual heck?! What started of as mild amusement turned into annoyance at how unrealistic this article is (apparently girls we’ll all on the champagne and drugs with plans to retire in three years to open up a yoga studio. I kid you not).

Changing tack, there was also this amazing program to get quick abs. “This might actually be useful” I thought.

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As an impartial reviewer of this program I can confirm I feebly attempted this routine once and decided I’d spend the rest of my life kidding myself that I don’t need to ever do it again.

And lets not forget the token “celeb” that Cosmo always runs a huge, massively pluggy, feature on. This month it’s some former (I stress former) star from Made In Chelsea, who proceeds to talk all about her amazing rapper husband Professor Green and though the medium of photo shoots sets feminism back a couple of months:

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Although she does give a fair representation of how I look in the office Monday to Friday. Spitting image indeed.

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And don’t get me started on this:

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And why wasn’t I invited?

There weren’t even any horoscopes! I used to love those when I was younger. Kidding myself that because Venus was at her highest in line with Saturn and parallel to Mars it meant I’d find wealth and happiness in the shampoo isle of Tesco. But no, there was none of that, just seedy classified ads.

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You can probably tell how this magazine, far from creating a relaxing and nostalgic evening in, turned into a experience that at best can be described as weird. I mean the only figure I could relate to in this whole magazine was a dog:

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And the only article I enjoyed reading was one which compared the prices of interior decorations:

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I know it’s a sign of getting that little bit more mature, but it actually made me wish I could write some notes on the magazine and post it back to the younger me. Yep, we both would probably have found the image of a model not knowing how to use a hair dryer entertaining…

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…but I’d also tell younger me that there are so many things Cosmo magazine seems to gloss over or not refer to. Never is it explained that all the photos are heavily photo shopped and no where are there articles which inspire girls to think for themselves. This is fashionable, this looks good, this is how successful people live their lives. This is probably why popularity drops off (at uni a friend of mine once told me she’d read the magazine until she was 18 then got bored and stopped). It’s just the same old, same old, with the occasional “sex” or “perfect abs” thrown in to grab attention. I do have vague memories of looking through these magazines and wishing I could look as pretty in make up have the amazing bodies the celebrities have. Dim memories of self loathing for no justified reason. As I flicked through this I couldn’t help but think my time and money would probably have been better invested back if I’d just bought a good book and gone outside.

Glad is a strong word, but I think it was good to buy this magazine. It served as an eye opener to how my perceptions and expectations on life, work and family have changed in a relatively short period of time. I can only wonder what the next seven years will do…

To end on a low note, here’s one person’s confession lifted from the magazine:

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Now don’t you feel glad you spent the time to read that?

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