This post was originally published on yet another blog of mine, which I started as an experiment to try to monetize my work a bit. I have all of these mega thoughts about the direction my writing has taken, and the direction I would like it to go, but they’re like, boring and stuff. Just fair warning that I’m probably going to be sharing a lot of content back and forth, and the nature of what I post here might be shifting a bit.
When I was really young, my best friend’s mom worked at the local library, which just happened to be right across the street from school. Since both my friend and I were kind of weird kids and were picked on pretty mercilessly, a couple of times a week we managed to “miss the bus” and went over to the library to wait for a ride home from her mom. And while we were there, we read Seventeen.
Seventeen didn’t appeal to me after I hit about twelve or so, which makes me believe that despite the title of the publication, its target demographic is not, in fact, seventeen-year-old girls, but rather, girls who are much, much younger – the girls who aspire to be seventeen. When I was young, I didn’t want to grow up to be an astronaut or a marine biologist – I wanted to grow up to be a teenager. I thought that perhaps this was a phenomenon unique to the “Clueless” generation, but at a Purim party a couple of years ago, I asked a girl about her costume, and she told me that she was a teenager – proof, at least in my eyes, that girls are taught to believe that life ends after high school (which is kind of true – fun life ends after high school).
So when I was aspiring to be a teenager, Seventeen was the publication of choice, which upset my mom. She preferred me reading American Girl, which, by the way, I fucking loved, I just didn’t want anyone else to know that. They only saw the side of me that pretended to like boys and loved the shit out of Ace of Base (never mind that I knew all the lyrics to “Psycho Killer” and only managed to half-heartedly hum along to that one song about the traffic signal or whatever).
My weird friend and I mostly read Seventeen for two things – the “most embarrassing moments,” and the advice columns. The “most embarrassing moments” were genius. They always involved a girl either farting, pooping herself, or unleashing a tidal wave of period blood in public, and they were fucking hilarious. I remember this one where a girl went and took a crap in the woods, and forever after was known as “Forest Dump!” Oh my god, I almost had my own “most embarrassing moment” when I read that one!
The advice columns taught me a lot about what puberty was going to be like. I learned that if I happened to grow up with hairy nipples, that would be normal, and washing my face twelve times a day might keep the acne from eating me alive.
But most importantly, I learned to be horribly, terribly confused about my feelings of attraction toward other women. You see, a girl wrote into Seventeen, terrified that she was a lesbian because she found herself getting turned on by scantily-clad women in movie sex scenes. Don’t worry, was Seventeen’s response – you’re probably not actually turned on by the women, it’s the situation (not The Situation) that’s making you horny!
That was something I internalized and greeted with sincere relief. Even as a young girl, I had doubts about myself and thought that maybe I might be gay. But Seventeen taught me that it was the fucking that piqued my interest – not the vaginas.
I have to wonder if that advice is true. I mean, it’s not true for me – I discovered later that it really was the vaginas. If it was, in fact, terrible, misleading advice for everyone as much as it was for me, then I have to wonder how many girls grew up guiltily hoarding lingerie catalogs beneath their mattresses, and telling themselves, as they furiously masturbated, that it was the situation those half-naked ladies were in, and not the fantasy of scissoring the shit out of them, that was getting them off.