It's been a while since I've read Seventeen, but I assumed not much would have changed. Through the ages, teen girls have always needed the magazine to rehash the same stories about which jeans look best on "curvy" figures and assuage their fears about vaginal odor. But this wise "older sister" has turned abusive of late. Even though makeup, boys, and eating disorders are still the topics at hand, the August issue has a pretty relentless message of "everyone is judging you constantly, so listen to us or suffer the consequences." After the jump, a guide to the panic attack-inducing world of the adolescent female, as seen through the eyes of Seventeen editors.
This letter from Editor-in-Chief Ann Shoket sets the tone for the entire issue (bold-facing hers):
Hi! I have a weird Q for you: If your outfit could talk, what would it say about you? Think about it for a sec. We put so much importance on first impressions. And when you're going back to school, meeting new teachers, checking out cute guys, and seeing your friends again after a long summer, it's especially important - you're making impressions on about 150 people a second. Sure, your energy and vibe go a long way toward telling people who you are and what you're about, but your clothes and makeup are an important part of the package. That's why I'm practically obsessed with helping you get your look just right for the first day of school. So when your fourth-period history teacher sees you in class, or when your secret crush (who, BTW, got the best muscles over the summer) asks where the music room is, you'll be saying all the right things - before you even say a word! How's that for an awesome payoff from a day of shopping?
What impression do you want to make this year?
Tell me everything at firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm never going "back-to-school" again, and yet for some reason I'm now anxious about September. Thanks Ann!
The beauty section explains how to "tell everyone about yourself" by "picking the look that makes the right statement about you." So, if I wear a subtle shadow with purple liner, will that tell the world "I'm serious about school" but "I don't take myself too seriously?"
This two-page fold out chart shows how size measurements vary for different styles of jeans. Maybe I'm just feeling vulnerable after measuring my waist to 1/8 of an inch, but I think the real message in the size 15/16 row may be "Sorry! They don't come in this size, fatty!"
In case you're a little too flabby for those "perfect fit" jeans, the magazine's health section includes a "get your best butt" exercise plan. It also advises that you shouldn't eat chicken Caesar salad because the dressing is fattening, but that apple rice cakes "are almost like mini apple pies." But watch out, because exercising too much or counting calories obsessively could be a sign that your "feelings are bad for your body." And yet, if we don't watch ourselves everyone may "see the emotional weight we're carrying right there on our stomachs, hips or thighs." I guess everything about me really is wrong!
Maybe it's not just me – there's probably something wrong with my friends too. I'd never considered the possibility that boys don't like me because my friends are annoying!
But think twice about ditching your friends for a guy. In "Sex Lies He Tells you," we learn that "sometimes he'll say anything to keep going."
I remember there being a few non-heinous aspects of being a teenage girl, but after reading Seventeen (motto: "It's fun to be seventeen") I've realized it's just seven years of public humiliation and ridicule. I wish that when I was growing up I had more positive role models to guide me through these difficult years - like the girls from The Hills! Who better to look to for cues on self-respect and supporting other women than Lauren Conrad?