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In an earlier post, I mentioned a website that I started back in ’09. The goal of TheCoolAid.com was to blend entertainment and social responsibility. Kind of like a GOOD magazine for the young, cool-kid set, now that I think of it. (Speaking of GOOD, check out this amazing Kickstarter campaign initiated by the staff writers who were recently fired.)

I decided to redirect my energy away from this blog last year, but yesterday I was reminded of a post that struck me. I wrote this on March 8, 2010. It’s a pretty thoughtful piece, and I’m surprised at how honest I was at the time. Check it out (see the original blog post here)…

 

There’s a magazine I started grabbing off the newsstand recently, and now, it kinda makes me sick. It’s a fashion and lifestyle publication that targets young women with flashy covers of recognizable white women in bright party dresses and wind-swept hair.

As someone who’s kind of a tomboy, reading this magazine has served as a monthly reminder that I actually have a girly side. For the last 6 months or so, I’ve flipped through makeup tips, nail polish colors, and fashion trends that I’ll never follow or even purchase, but reading this stuff makes me feel like I’ve made some attempt to get glamorous.

I always finish the magazine with a list of changes I’d like to make: try a new red lipstick; give high heels another chance; find my “signature fragrance.” But the real me always comes to the surface. To this day, I’ve yet to cross anything off this mental checklist. Truth is, I prefer Vaseline on my lips, comfy sneakers on my feet, and the strong smell of perfume makes me nauseous. I used to eat this magazine’s content like candy, daydreaming about a closet full of sparkly tank tops, figure-flattering pencil skirts, and “statement-making” jewelry.

Surprisingly, what made me toss this month’s issue in the trash, is not the fact that I have to skip over the entire hair section (the tips simply don’t apply to my kinky curls), or even that I have to breeze through the makeup pages (the “For Dark Skin Tones” suggestions are just too broad for the many hues of brown women). Nope, I’m actually accustomed to being excluded from magazines. I was a confused adolescent who grew up reading Teen, and YM magazines, where spotting a black girl in the issue was like catching a glimpse of the damn Loch Ness Monster.

What actually changed my mind was noticing the heavy, almost obsessive push to satisfy and attract the opposite sex. This magazine—from cover to cover—caters to the one thing young women have far too much of: insecurity. Insecurity about our bodies and how to use them, our facial features, and how to glam ourselves up to win the ultimate prize: a boyfriend who’s good enough to marry.

I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read about pubic hair—the “To Wax or Not to Wax” internal debate. I’ve learned—and re-learned—that the most sensitive part of a man’s anatomy is the underside tip of his penis. I know how to have more sex, how to watch porn to enhance that sex, how to be more confident about sex, and how to anticipate what your man desires during that sex. I’ve learned that a man doesn’t care if your bra matches your panties, but then a few pages later see a sexy lingerie spread displaying beautiful La Pearla and Agent Provacateur thongs that are “sure to make his jaw drop.”

Who cares?

Does it make sense to pay $5.00 to a) feel like shit, and b) learn more about providing happiness to someone else? In a couple hundred pages of glossy ads and “flawless” models, I’m equipped with the proper tools to fix myself up to become more attractive to the world. I’m told how to be a sexier, smarter, better version of me—only that version has nothing to do with cleansing my thoughts and strengthening my spirit. It does, however, have everything to do with embodying a sense of self-hatred that keeps the beauty business booming.

I’m soooooo over it. Giving and sharing are wonderful acts of love, but my main concern right now is sharing the joy from within, not sharing my body simply to keep a man happy and in my bed every night. Sorry. It took me 6 months to realize that this magazine, and so many others, has it all wrong. Red lipstick and sparkly mini-dresses will do nothing to attract this ideal Prince Charming. It’s merely a cover-up, a disguise that hides, confuses, and discourages young women from being themselves. It’s impossible to “work what you got” if you have no idea what you have to begin with. I challenge women around the world, including myself, to look past the flashy covergirls and look within. Corporations can’t tell you how to be beautiful. That exciting job is entirely up to you.

I think I was 26 when I wrote this, and feeling overwhelmed. Bombarded with messages and comments about who I was supposed to be. I’m calmer now, a little more settled, slightly more sure of myself, and comfortable with my version of femininity, but I think this rant captures what many young women feel. Pressure to live up to a standard. This was interesting for me to read yesterday, because Concrete Orchid eventually blossomed out of these frustrations. I wanted a place online where I could celebrate and write about… freedom.

Do you read beauty magazines? How do you celebrate and acknowledge your unique traits?