You're going to be around 13 years-old, strolling down the magazine aisle as your mom is grocery shopping. You know that your mom takes forever and a half to get everything so you decide to flip through a magazine. You pick up a bright, glossy one with a photo of a pretty teen celeb you recognize. You scan over the headlines and see things like "9 Ways to Make Him Fall for You" or "How to Get a Guy by Summer" or "Beauty Looks He Loves." You decide to check the article out. And this is how it starts.
For years after this first encounter, you'll continue to read those same magazines. Each issue tells you how to dress in a way that guys like and how to develop interests similar to those of your crush and how to get a boyfriend by the end of the week. And maybe there will also be a little piece on being single. A generic article on how to have a girls' night: a sleepover, romantic comedies and junk food. Because we all know that's all that single girls are capable of doing. Ironically enough, these magazines apparently have the goal to empower teenage girls and build stronger, more independent women. But you don't notice this irony for quite some time.
Though it may seem like those articles are harmless, they have an affect on you. And a meaningful one at that. You start feeling kind of lame for not having a boyfriend. I mean, according to this teen mag, boyfriends happen in a week. Maybe 30 days at the most. Maybe you'll just have to do your hair in loose waves because it's guys' favorite hairstyle. You'll also throw on a tank top since you read an article on how guys like girls who wear tank tops.
You get into a rut where you feel like you have to have a boyfriend. You've been taught and told and force-fed countless articles and advice columns on how to get the guy and why you need to do so. You're taught how to turn that cute guy in your calculus class into a full-blown crush. Turn that crush into a hook-up. Then turn that hook-up into a date -- and that date into a boyfriend. You're taught to consistently have boys on your mind and to think that being single is less enjoyable than being in a relationship. But this is okay, right? Because these magazines tell you how to "fix" your "problem" of being single.
But about six years after your first encounter, you'll finally put down those glossy teen magazines. You might even pick up a real book from time to time. You'll almost laugh to yourself when you see an article is titled "Scientifically Proven Ways to Make Him Yours" or "What Guys Really Think of Your Hair." Because it really is funny that magazines treat you like your only goal in life is to meet a nice young man and settle down with him. And it's even funnier to think that these magazines teach you that you need to get a boyfriend; this advice is archaic and outdated. And it might even be just downright hysterical that these are the magazines that claim to be written with the goal of boosting girls' self-esteem and independence. Six years later after that first encounter, I am unlearning what I spent almost all of my teenage years believing: I need to have a boyfriend (or at least a potential one) in my life.
I'll own up to my own faults in this situation. Technically, I did have the power to put down those magazines at any time and so does any other reader. But almost every magazine targeting teenage girls and young women sends the message that you need a guy in your life -- which is a lesson that can take years to unlearn.