The other night, I did something that I haven't done since my high school days. I plunked down on my front porch and read the ultra high-brow July issue of Cosmopolitan magazine.
Yes, that Cosmopolitan, aka the kneejerk metaphor for pretty much everything wrong with women's pop culture today.
And no, it wasn't an affinity for cover girl Shakira that led me to fork over my hard-earned $4.29. Believe it or not, it wasn't the "99 New Sex Facts" inside, either (although more on that later). As some of you might have guessed, the idea came from 18-year-old Jamie Keiles, recent high school graduate and genius behind the Seventeen Magazine Project. If you haven't checked out Keiles month-long adventure living the Seventeen life, check out her blog. Essentially, she grabbed the June/July issue of the teen mag and decided to follow all its principles - fashion dos (or don'ts), beautification tips, service projects, etc. - to find out of the traits Seventeen endorses measurably improve your life. In doing so, she also took aim at the messages delivered to teen girls about what constitutes being pretty, popular and successful.
Keiles brilliant project got me thinking about Seventeen's big sister Cosmo. Molly and I constantly reference the lifestyle mag on Stuff Mom Never Told You to symbolize the clichéd female image in mainstream media. Every issue heralds some new, scandalous method to "please your man," and outlines the standards for its tagline "Fun, Fearless, Female," embodied in the non-diverse, heavily airbrushed lovelies who grace their covers.
But realizing that I hadn't cracked a Cosmo since I was Keiles' age, I wondered what was inside these days. Are they still peddling a lot of the same lines about beauty ideals and "secrets" to sexual attraction? Spoiler alert: yes. However, it's still the top-selling young women's magazineon the market, so somewhere along the line, we're buying Cosmo both literally and figuratively.
So to get a handle on exactly what's happening in Cosmoland, I decided to take a cue from Keiles and try to live out the July issue as much as possible. Now, back to those "99 New Sex Facts" for a moment. The point of project isn't to wrangle unsuspecting men into the bedroom and report back. In fact, out of the 236 pages in this month's Cosmo, only 15 are solely devoted to s-e-x. Obviously, there's a lot more to discuss beyond questionable mating strategies.
Instead, I'd like to learn a thing or two about how I fit into the Cosmo mold, whether it contains any useful advice (the July issue promises that I now have the secret to instant friendship!) and, of course, how to make myself irresistibly attractive and likeable, according to Cosmo.
I hope you'll come along for my journey this month as I get uncomfortably close to the magazine I've lobbed many an insult at. It should be an interesting month.