Wednesday, June 21, 2006

She was just Seventeen, you know what I mean.

Was it really so long ago that fashion magazines were fun sources of inspiration to me (Not to mention endless sources of perfume strips to slip under the driver’s seat to push out the smell of dog)?

I’m not saying I would page through Vogue, see an especially stylish Helmut Lang suit and call my personal shopper at Barney’s. But I would look through the editorial section and think “…Hmm, I should try my riding boots with my knee-length skirt, see how it looks…” or “…Aubergine! I should try aubergine lip gloss! No, wait. Aubergine is purple. But I could wear that color on my toes…” , or “….Carolina Herrera is right. There really is nothing prettier than a clean, crisp white shirt. Pity I get pizza stains on my clothing even when I haven’t eaten pizza in three weeks…”.

In short, fashion magazines inspired me. They amused me. My relationship with Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle was shallow, but affectionate; it was the same relationship you want to have with your hairdresser.

Trying to recall where this relationship began, I would have to point a vaguely embarrassed finger at Seventeen Magazine. I adored Seventeen. Towards the end of every month, the twelve and thirteen year-old Quinn would start to twitch; the new issue of Seventeen was somewhere out there.

Would it come today? No!

Would it come today? No!

It’s on the newsstands, but I must not open it, because I will find one in my mailbox today…? NO!

(Looking back, it’s possible I needed a hobby)

And then, when I could bear it no longer, it would arrive! Seventeen Magazine, cheerfully promising me dating tips, lip gloss secrets, hints for highlighting your hair at home. It mattered not that I wasn’t allowed to date until sixteen (not a big loss: the boys I knew spent every Saturday at someone’s bar mitzvah party doing obscene things with napkin swans), and wasn’t allowed to wear lip gloss or color my hair.

What mattered was, this was my future! Within four years, I would be seventeen, and the magazine had promised me that I would be one of those cover models with the straight shiny hair tumbling down my effortlessly thin back, skin like Egyptian cotton and teeth which veritably screamed “I had an extremely competent orthodontist, but I haven’t had to see him in two years. I eat taffy all the time now!”

The future was so bright, I had to wear shades and, thanks to Seventeen, I knew exactly what shape I should wear for my face, if only I could settle on what shaped face I had (hexagon was never offered as an option).

If I had to pick a favorite magazine month, though, it has to be September. All the way back to Seventeen, that was the issue around which you could structure a weekend. First of all, it was so hefty, which gives a person that satisfying feeling of having gotten some bang (or, “How to cut your own bangs”) for the buck. Also, for me, fall clothing is so much more attractive.

As an adult, I have finally made my peace with the idea that if I am very good and virtuous in this life, perhaps next time I will come back and be able to wear shorts without worrying that my legs are being confused for wee little marble Doric columns. But, as a child, I still had hope, and for several summers, I attempted to tan.

I attempted even though all that ever happened was that I would end up with red stripes on the tops of my calves and thighs, and a really itchy sand flea bite someplace too personal to scratch in public.

By the end of August, I would be lying in our backyard, poking at my milky thigh and gloomily deciding that not only had I not tanned, I had actually paled since June, when lo and behold, I would hear the sound of Remembrance of Things Past being dropped in our mailbox and I would think, Seventeen! Fall fashions! I would peel myself off the lounge chair and head towards my destiny.

And what a fall it would be. I would stare enraptured at the pictures of shiny, smiling girls walking around unnamed East Coast colleges in corduroy pants, kicking multicolored leaves with penny-loafered feet as smiling, shiny boys looked on approvingly. “That’s just like ME!” I would think happily, ignoring how I lived in a city where the summer doesn’t really break until October; how I went to a school where Dolphin shorts and Dr. Scholls were the mark of the true society dame; how corduroy pants make me look like an upright carpet roll.

The strange thing is that I loved Seventeen even though, to the best of my recollection, I never found a single wearable outfit for me in there; I seem to remember instructions for how to make yourself a top out of a pillowcase, a look that even I understood would make me appear insane. It was hope with an address label, and some part of my instinctively understood, Don’t poke hope too hard.

But long before I actually was seventeen, I moved beyond Seventeen to Mademoiselle, a brief flirtation with Jane, and into a long-term relationship with Elle, and with each I was illogically happy. I knew I wasn’t gorgeous, tall, or underfed, or the child of a famous person (which would have magically rendered me all of the above) but I was optimistic.

This time, purple mascara the magazine said would bring out my green eyes wasn’t going to make me look as if I had conjunctivitis.

This time, a charcoal gray sweater would make me look moody like the model they situated posing prettily over an espresso in a café in Paris, instead of making me look as if I had sold half my blood to buy heroin.

This time, a calf-length skirt wouldn’t make me look a fat Amish woman!

With each public misstep, I would develop a little more cynicism towards my friends the fashion and beauty editors.

Maybe, just maybe, a group of people who do an editorial piece on what to wear on Valentino’s yacht might not have my lifestyle in mind.

Maybe I should note the fifteen-page spread that Yves Saint Laurent’s make-up company has bought in the magazine before I believe the beauty editor’s assertion that I need their green lipstick and yellow blush.

Maybe I need to have read about the musings of Lindsay Lohan’s stylist for the last freaking time. It’s possible that if I read about one more daughter of a media titan who has created a jewelry line she’s selling “To a few dear friends”, I might become a Communist.

Do I still buy magazines? Sure. Not often, but sometimes I just need the laughs. I sit cross-legged on the bed and have whole conversations with myself.

(It’s possible I still need a hobby)

“…Leggings; because they were so flattering the first time around? And they’re showing them with a cropped jacket, which is over a long cowl-necked sweater and ankle-high booties. Apparently, the look for fall is Bank Teller, circa 1983.”

“…Evening…shorts? With heels? Not unless I plan to earn the money to pay for dinner in the alley behind the restaurant.”

“Well, now. A mouse-colored Empire-waist dress with a bubble skirt; because what woman doesn’t want to look unwell, flat-chested and hippy? And those cunning vixens, they put black opaque tights and white shiny pumps with it. Is this some sort of cry for attention? Did readers not send enough mail when dresses were flattering…?”

I just noticed something. For under five dollars, I am happy for an entire evening. And the car still smells pleasantly of Marc Jacobs Rain, and not Slightly Incontinent Dog.

I’m in love again.

9 Comments:

Blogger torontopearl said...

Quinn, thanks for this post. I, too, had my love affair with Seventeen, reading and rereading issues,going over to friends' homes and not interacting with the friends, but sitting and reading their issues of Seventeen that I didn't have.

I was about fourteen when I started buying the magazine. So for a good three years, the owner of the corner variety store would laugh and ask me, "SO? Are you seventeen yet?" And when I was finally seventeen, yes, I decided to move on to Vogue, Glamour and Self. Besides, Seventeen never published any of my poetry I'd sent them, so they became "THE ENEMY."
I'm now 44, and fashion magazines no longer thrill me. I'd rather look at lifestyle, home improvement and cooking magazines. Does that mean I'm no longer seventeen?

9:22 PM  
Anonymous Karen said...

Although I never indulged in the teen fashion magazines, I had a happy relationshiop with 16 magazine in my pre-teen days. I couldn't wait to flip through the pages and see Bobby Sherman, Donny Osmond, Michael Cole and Sajid Khan looking dreamily at me through long, thick eyelashes. *sigh*



I read the articles about how to kiss Davy Jones and later David Cassidy -- but, you know, I never practiced...really. I swear!

From time to time these days, I scan the fashion magazines. It's either funny (to realize this is who the couture think 'real' American women should be) or sad (to realize that this is who the couture think 'real' American women should be). After about a half hour, I'm ready for a sandwich...extra mayo.

7:09 AM  
Blogger Vikki said...

I used to read Seventeen which is absolutely laughable to me now. I tried to think I was like those girls but it was a joke...especially since I turned out to be a fairly androgynous lesbian.

As for Magazines now...I read The Smithsonian and US. I read US primarily to read the Fashion Police critique outfits of the rich and famous. So much fun...

7:40 AM  
Anonymous Carol said...

Just hilarious!

I love the part about the evening shorts with heels - what's that about anyway?

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

Sajid Khan - Karen, what a blast from the past! I was in LOVE with Sajid Khan, and all the boys in Tiger Beat, when I was around 12. Now I can't even remember what TV show or movie he was in - but I do remember squeezing lemon juice on my hair and sitting in the sun because Seventeen assured me it would give me that California surfer girl sun-streaked hair that, like Quinn, I was forbidden to achieve artificially. Turns out it gives you sticky straw - but I still bought the image and the dream.

11:41 AM  
Blogger Kingery Family Blog said...

Too funny! I did my own "fashion" post back in January.
My last act of slavery to fashion was the pretty shoes I wore to my stepson's wedding. I wore them all day and late into the evening. I walked, I stood, I mingled, I danced. It took a month for my bloodied toes to heal.

8:18 PM  
Anonymous Christine said...

I have always dreamed of being "cool" and at the peak of fashion-I'm 48, is it too late yet?

Off subject question: Will be in LA for 12 hours in July-arrive at noon, fly out at midnight-what is one must do/see for me, hubby and 3 teen sons? Thanks for all the laughs and throught provoking blogs. Christine

8:34 AM  
Blogger Quinn Cummings said...

Christine-
A couple of options. If you are coming into LAX, you are just about a half-hour away from Venice Beach, where you should get a nice cross-section of freaks, gangsters, and girls in small bikinis. You can then get back into the rental car and go up Pacific Coast Highway and see Malibu, land of the insanely wealthy and the highly enhanced.
Or, you can drive to mid-town, which will take less than 45 minutes, and go to the LA County Museum of Art for a bit, the Peterson Auto Museum (if the boys are car-mad) across the street for a bit, and then drive up Fairfax to the Grove, which is an outdoor mall. Why in the name of God am I sending you to a mall? Because it's the most likely place to spot a celebrity, usually someone your kids will recognize. It's also next to the Farmer's Market, which has an excellent Mexican food stand called La Loteria. I mean, they have lots of good food stands, but La Loteria is great.
Either way, arrange to have a drink on the porch at Shutter in Santa Monica before heading back to the airport; the hotel is charming, you're overlooking the beach, and it feels completely LA.

Hope this helps.

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Rachelanne said...

Rachelanne's new body/healthy glow:
1 part self tanner
74 parts newly single status.

i reccomend the first part.

1:21 PM  

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