I’m a writer in New York who is…not a teen. But I've been obsessed with teen magazines for 20 years. And I still don't know how to tell if a boy has a crush on me.
I grew up without a sister or the internet. I'm from a small town, one that's properly rural, not suburb-small. My period talk was just a box of pads and a copy of What's Happening to My Body Book For Girls, which was first published in 1972 and had a cover showing a mother and young daughter, both of whom were wearing prairie skirts. I knew nothing.
And then I discovered my friend's older sisters' boxes of YMs. I felt an entire world open up that I didn't know existed. One where boys were worshiped and wooed, where landing a boyfriend was a gold star, an achievement that, at least socially, was even more important than straight As. One where you reinvented your wardrobe—and yourself—every single back-to-school season. One where you used glitter eyeshadow and fake lashes and brilliantly shiny lip gloss. Real lip gloss, too, not just Bonne Bell Cherry Cola. But also learned a lot of important stuff, too!
It’s a fascinating (depressing? soul-crushing?) time for media, particularly teen media, if that even exists anymore. Teen Vogue discontinued print; Seventeen did, too. Elle Girl is long cone, and so is CosmoGirl. Even Rookie, the last man standing, just announced plans to fold.
This is an attempt to find meaning in the state of teen media, both past and present (while, fiiiine, also finding an understanding of myself).