During a conversation about Atoosa Rubenstein (the best kind of conversation tbh), a fellow teen mag obsessive said to me, “Remember the time someone told her she looked like a goose?”
I’m ashamed to admit that I did not remember the time. So I looked through all of my remaining CosmoGirl!s (exclamation theirs) in hopes of finding this particular editor’s letter. It was nowhere! I was bereft.
But the internet is magic; I found it, and it was so much better than I imagined.
This isn't it, I just liked this pic of her, sorry. Below, the letter in full, because abbreviating Atoosa’s words would be a crime...and Cosmogirl! no longer exists, so hopefully reprinting this isn’t a crime?!
So, the other day, I was going through my e-mails from you when I came across this one: "Hello, Atoosa. You look like a goose, so why do you insist on having your picture in CosmoGIRL! every month? No one cares about your stories. Also, learn how to cross your is on your signature!" I was like, Huh??? A goose? It had never really occurred to me before. But then I thought, Wait a second...She meant that to be mean! (I know—I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed sometimes.) I genuinely thought it was hilarious (and I'm not just saying that). But I'm not sure I would always have seen the humor in a dig.
When I first started junior high school, there were these older boys who decided I was going to be their target. I have no idea why—I was in seventh grade. They were in eleventh (which, P.S., as far as I was concerned, they may as well have been 30! They were huge!). Anyway...Every time I'd walk by them in the hall, these guys would start yelling stuff at me—stuff that I didn't even understand (it must have been some inside joke). The one thing I could tell was that it had to do with my looks. And every time I'd see them coming, my heart would, like, clench up—how were they going to humiliate me now? When I think about that girl, my heart breaks for her. She was sort of defenseless, and those guys were bullies. Meatheads, really. Why else would they poke fun at a little kid?
Remembering those days is what makes me realize how much I've changed. No one can make me cower in a corner anymore. (That reminds me of that line in the movie Dirty Dancing—"Nobody puts Baby in a corner!" Ha ha. I know, I'm a dork.) Not because I think I'm so great or anything but because I have my own set of values that I judge myself against that have nothing to do with what I look like: I want to have integrity. Make the people around me feel good about themselves. And impact my community. As long as I'm doing those things? There isn't a picture the face of the earth—no matter how ridiculous—that would mind printing in a national magazine. There isn't insult thrown at me (ahem, Goose Lady!) that I'm too ashamed to tell you about.
Why? Because no matter what I look like—goose-ish or otherwise—my looks aren't in anyway representative of who I am. Who I am is what kind of girl I am. And remember that for you too. CosmoGIRL!s have no problem with themselves. That's the power of us. And that's my legacy to you. So will you send me your pictures? (You too, Goose Lady!) Your most hilarious ones. Among girlfriends, we don't need to put on airs. We need to put on laughs. You know where I am, 24/7, as always:email@example.com.
I hate—HATE!—the rah-rah girl-powered brand of self-help (see: Rachel Hollis), but I loved this then and I love it now. We don't need to put on airs. We need to put on laughs. Reading it feels like self-care, without splurging on anything at all.
Sadly, firstname.lastname@example.org is no longer around—I tried it, obviously—but Atoosa is. I had the (extreme!!!!) honor of meeting her IRL last week, and she is still overflowing with wisdom and coolness and enviable hair.
She’s also now on Instagram, so you don’t have to just take my word for it. Follow her! But please don’t tell her she looks like a goose. She doesn't.