How to deal if you're boy crazy

Growing up, my doctor would squeeze my knees while asking if I was boy crazy. (This, somehow, did not seem weird at the time.) I would try very hard not to giggle, but I’d never not be able to. This made me believe that it was true, that he must be right—that I was boy crazy.

I would become certifiably boy crazy years later, when I was an eighth grader. Or maybe I was just bored? But even through high school, and then college, and then after, I would develop crushes that were completely situational (same class, same block, same subway line at the same time every single day) and also all-consuming. Teen magazines always made being boy crazy seem like an affliction or medical condition, like mono. For example, from a 1984 issue of Seventeen:

Lisa thinks about only one thing: boys. She's always either madly in love with someone or miserably—though temporarily—depressed because someone isn’t in love with her. Her life is a never-ending succession of emotional highs and lows, as one boy after another dominates her thoughts. Her friends and family call her "boy crazy," sometimes even "obsessed."

At times, Lisa wishes that she could forget about boys altogether. But she can't.

If this sounds like you or someone you know, don't panic yet. It could be a simple case of "love-itis."

They go on quote a doctor who explains that this is an addiction to love (?) and that it's actually good for teenagers (??). I don't know. I wouldn't keep going to that doctor if he was my doctor. (He's a he, because of course he's a he.) I guess the lesson here is that you should never consult a medical doctor about matters of the heart.

Or Cameron Diaz…

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Let’s fast-forward. The year is 1991. Seventeen is still boy crazy, except this time, instead of enlisting a doctor, they’ve quoted a young Cam. What is ostensibly a swimsuit fashion shoot is actually a dark confession from the model—who was not yet actress, as her breakout role (and first-ever? I think?) in The Mask came four years later—about how she’s boy crazy. And how her best friend, Corey, just doesn’t get her taste in men. Internet, who is Corey?! Anyway, unlike her best friend who is almost certainly no longer her best friend, Cameron doesn’t like dudes who are bad boy James Dean types (ironic, given who she ended up with…) but loves a “homeboy with a wicked sense of humor.” But who doesn’t.

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How to be not ugly

“The reason a beauty is a beauty, and not just another pretty girl, is that she knows how to gild the lily. Not content with an average anything, she has studied, polished and perfected each of the points that add up to beauty: hair, figure, skin, makeup, clothes.” — Seventeen, September 1956

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I’m completely projecting here, but I think feeling deeply unattractive is something that all teenagers go through. To say I went through it isn’t accurate—because sometimes, I’m still not through it.

Of course, teens these days have Kylie lipkits and YouTube contouring tutorials and, when all else fails, FaceTune. We had Bonne Bell chapsticks and our moms’ frosted Clinique eye shadow (or was that just me). Still, adolescence is ugly for a lot of people, and that was painfully true for me. There was a particularly bad year in my life, circa junior high, when I had braces, an adult-size nose on a child-size face, and a giraffe neck (which I would honestly love to have back, why is hindsight so cruel). My hair had just turned curly—thanks, puberty!—and I decided that chopping it into a bob would make it more chic, or at the very least, more manageable. It didn’t make it more manageable, and it certainly didn’t make it more chic; it made it a Roseanne Roseannadanna triangle. That’s probably the first time I internalized feeling truly ugly, though Gilda Radner was impossibly beautiful, and it for sure wasn’t the last.

Girls have been asking teen magazines how they can be less awful looking since way before I was awful looking. You’d probably guess a lot of the advice was “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” style pep talks, and there is that. But there’s also a fair amount of, that’s OK that you’re ugly, which you are, just make sure you have a sparkling personality. Exactly the kind of wisdom that makes young girls grow up apologizing for their less-than looks.

Take it away, Seventeen from the ‘40!

All right, let's face it—you're not beautiful. Your hair is too straight, or too kinky; your mouth is too large, or too small; your nose is to broad, or too sharp. In fact, if you really want to get down to cases and be painfully honest, you're not even pretty. There, you've said it—that crushing phase that right now seems to be the be-all and end-all of your life. And now that you've said it, let's promptly forget it. How can you forget it? Well, temporarily, at least, try thinking of something else. Try thinking, for instance, of the dozens of people who have told you that you do have a very attractive smile, or beautiful hands, or wonderful expressive eyes. Concentrate on this for all it's worth. — Seventeen, June 1945

My, what beautiful hands you have.

Girls with oversized noses or undersized bosoms or other physical imperfections (and most people have some) get boy friends the way anyone else does—by being more interested in the other person's good qualities than in their own defects. If you take a good look around you, you'll notice that the girl with classical features isn't always the most popular. And opening your eyes to all the married people you know can't help but convince you that love must be blind! — Seventeen, May 1968

Well, at least love is blind.

The biggest beauty secret of them all: People who seem the most attractive on the outside are just radiating who they are on the inside. Ever noticed how when you're in a great mood—feeling brilliant, witty and cute—people (including guys) are attracted to you? So how do you overcome feeling so plain? Not by looking to outside sources (boys, your mom, classmates) to affirm your worth. The only one who can make you feel like the gorgeous creature you are is you. — Seventeen, October 1997

So if you’re ugly on the outside, you must be ugly on the inside.

At my school, you had to look a certain way to be considered pretty. Since I did not look that way, I don't think I was told even once that I was pretty. So I assumed I was ugly. Wrong! The second I stepped out into the real world, I realized I'd been living in a sheltered (think white and blonde) community. My first week in college, I got compliments I'd never thought I'd get. "Great hair!" (What? My frizz bomb?) "Great eyebrows!" (You can't be talking about my monobrow!) You need to see your beauty to appreciate being beautiful (which, P.S., you are!). So you're not cookie cutter—that's a good thing! It means you're unique...I've met so many people who had plastic surgery to change themselves into what they thought would be pretty—and they still weren't happy. That feeling comes from inside. We're all beautiful—some of us just don't realize it. But you're going to start today, right? — Cosmo Girl, August 2001

This advice, courtesy from our namesake, Atoosa Rubenstein, is actually great and came in very clutch when I was 14. Honestly, still does.

How to find your soul mate

“In high school, I always used to wonder who he was, where he was, and how my life would be different with him in it. I'd close my eyes and imagine myself sitting on his lap, laughing just because we were together.” Cosmo Girl, August 2001

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I think the concept of a soul mate is—sorry, mom—bullshit. And you know what? Maybe I’m just saying that because I haven’t found “the one,” which is another concept I reject because there are literally five billion people* on the planet, and you’re telling me only one of them is right for me?

*not literally, I actually have no idea how many people are on the planet, which I’m embarrassed about. That’s something I should know, but also something I’m not going to take the time to Google because I’ll never remember the number anyway.

I feel about soul mates like I feel about ghosts. I don’t believe in them, and I don’t believe people who say they’ve seen them, though I believe the people believe it. We tell ourselves stories, etc.

A 2001 issue of Cosmo Girl has a story about soul mates that’s so convincing in its argument that the subhed is, literally, “Don't worry! He's out there. Here's how to spot him.”

Heteronormativeness aside, there’s so much wrong with publishing this in a magazine for teenage girls who grew up watching Disney fairytales, loyally babying their American Girl dolls, and “playing house.”

“Your soul mate,”—who is obviously out there, the article implies, but uh, if he’s because of course he’s a he is MIA, your life is incomplete, so just keep searching?—“thinks the way you do. It's like you have this secret, unique communication. You laugh at the same stuff and can sense a change in each other's moods, no matter how subtle.” Speaking of subtle! It’s hard for me to even articulate why this makes me so mad *because* it makes me so mad.

“Everybody has a "type" they tend to go for. Maybe you like tall and athletic blond guys or something. But when you meet your soul mate, that won't matter anymore. You're connected with his spirit, not his fashion sense—or his ethnic background, religion, or anything else surface-y. You just see him.”

His spirit!

Back before I had such strong feeling about, or against, soul mates, back when I shopped at Abercrombie and faithfully listened to LFO, with whom I was in love, I would have told you that athletic blond guys were my type. Nevermind that I’d never dated one; nevermind that I haven’t since.

“So really, you're not alone even when you feel alone. There is someone out there for you. Maybe he's sitting in math class three towns away, mowing the lawn for his dad in another country, or just reading a book next door. He's going about his life, like you. But one day, you will be drawn together, and from then on your life will never be the same. It's your destiny.”

Who can blame us for growing up believing that we were not enough if we were alone, and, worse, that when we finally found someone we thought was our soul mate, they were our One Shot at happiness? That’s why there are so many bad relationships and rich divorce lawyers out there. The thing is, I don’t want someone to finish my sentences. I can finish them just fine on my own, thank you.

How to figure out your type

“He’s fine and available. But does he match the requirements for your perfect love match?” (?????) — Seventeen, April 1999

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When I was 12-but-almost-13, I believed a magazine quiz could tell me everything I needed to know about myself—perfect lipstick, dream job, ideal date, you name it. (And you name it, there was a teen magazine quiz for it.)

If you had asked me then what my “type” was, I would have been ready with an answer, because that’s something 12-but-almost-13 year old girls talk about constantly. I would have told you, confidently, that my type was blond athletes. To this day, I’ve never dated a blond athlete. I have to think really, really hard to remember if I’ve ever even spoken to a blond athlete. It’s possible, because at 12, there are a lot more male blondes than at 30.

Since blond athlete wasn’t an option in Seventeen’s holy-grail type quiz, I wanted to be part Pretty Boy, part Nature Boy. It was aspirational of me. (But so was blond athlete.) Attractive and excellently dressed, but could also build a fire at a moment's notice? Ideal. Plus, I liked a guy in plaid when I was in the sixth grade. (Still do, though I prefer now that it doesn’t have the Tommy Hilfiger flag logo that I always searched for on guys’ chests back then.)

I wish I could say I was into The Intellectual when I was young, but the smart guys where I grew up did not dress like...this. They still wore puff paint dinosaur t-shirts in junior high (they’re all married now, don’t worry).

I was also never into The Artist, though there weren’t many (any?) in my small rural hometown. Regardless, both then and now, I'd be mortified if a guy wrote a sonnet for me at 2AM (Did things like that actually happen in '99? Because the only 2AM writing dudes do now happens in the DM.)

I don't believe in having a type anymore. I once went on at least 10 consecutive first dates with writers—all varying degrees of success and insufferableness—and for a second I thought my type might be “writer who is broke but went to a fancy liberal arts school which means he’s broke and his parents are inevitably paying for these drinks I’m consuming.” (And that’s if he picked up the tab…)

One of those guys once made fun of me, in a way that was cruel, not cute, because there’s a difference, when I mixed up Walt Whitman for Whit Stillman. It was mortifying and made me second-guess my own state school education. That Whit Stillman Adam Brody movie was about to come out. So sue me! If a guy can't forgive a little O.C.-adjacent confusion, we're not meant to be anyway.

I just took this quiz again, and FWIW, I got equal parts The Intellectual with Nature Guy. I think that means I've evolved since I was 13? Or that I'm still just really good at gaming quizzes.

How to be a good flirt

“The good flirts of the world seem to convey that the impression that they like other people very much—probably because they really do.” — Seventeen, Nov 1956

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In high school, I remember drafting up strategies for flirting with my crushes like I was working on trigonometry homework. In the end, I failed both. I would try to place myself in my crushes—there were always multiple—in the hallway, only to get flustered. And when I was young* getting flustered meant that my face would turn cherry red immediately.

*This actually still might be the case. Can someone confirm?

When you're in high school and your face turns red, the entire hallway knows you're embarrassed and can figure out precisely who you have a crush on. That means the dude you have a crush on immediately knows you have a crush on him, too. Being cool is the best way to attract someone, especially when you're 16 and awkward. Whatever it is that I was doing is the opposite of that.

I was shy and unsure of myself, and had some lingering self-esteem issues that resulted from cutting my very curly hair short as a young teen. Instead of the chic bob I envisioned, I ended up with a very poufy triangle of frizz. At least they matched the aesthetic of my braces and glasses. I came across the only remaining photographic evidence of this unfortunate life stage recently, and I am not exaggerating when I say I looked like a Kristen Wiig parody of an awkward teenage girl on SNL. But…worse?

I'm still not great at flirting, but without the glasses, braces, or triangle of hair, I at least feel a little more self-assured and can look a guy in the eye without turning beet red and/or dissolving into a pile on the floor. Still, I'm not great.

I came across a column in a 1956 issue of Seventeen called, "How to be a good flirt."

If you find [flirting] difficult, look into yourself for hidden reasons: Are you, perhaps, a little scornful of boys—secretly.

Well, yes.

Many a girl may have an attitude like this without knowing it and through no fault of her own.

Oh, I know it!

Or might you be unsure of your attraction for boys?

Well, no, but very progressive for a circa-1956 Seventeen...

This can happen—perhaps from natural modesty; perhaps through having had too high standards set for you by extra-loving and so overcritical parents, or by too demanding teachers; even by loss of esteem through the teasing of rude boys.

Okay, not where I thought this was going.

If it is a question of not liking boys enough, you can simply refuse to be a victim of the past.

???

If it's not liking yourself enough, you can buck up your self-esteem by the simple logic that you do attract boys. You may find it rather easy to become a good flirt—especially if you keep reminding yourself that to get the boy you want, you must want the boy you get.

Thank u, next.