Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Women's Magazine Quizzes: A Digression

It's a code.

Hahaha, right, it's not exactly like the horrible book that became the movie with Tom Hanks and the evil person with albinism (which is a thing, obviously.)

You know what I mean: a) is for women who are dumb in one direction, b) is for women who are dumb in the opposite direction, c) is for women who can count and buy women's magazines and want to feel marginally better about their choices.


When you and your man go out for dinner, who pays the check?

a) I don't think women should touch money, as it discolors their beautiful fingers unless they wear gloves, like Scarlett O'Hara should have when she was trying to shake Rhett down for money when she went to visit him in prison.
b) I always pay, because bloody gender warfare scorched earth last womyn standing we live in communes like Ariel Levy wrote about.
c) Sensible something about who asked who and who makes more money and we take turns.



In the depths of history, as a girl with no disposable income and parents who used Wite-Out to remove the golliwogs from Enid Blyton and banned Barbies, I only had access to two kinds of magazines:

1. The December 1994 issue of Allure, which I bought after finding ten dollars on the floor of the Toronto train station, and read until it fell apart some years later (from memory: juice fasting, Christy Henrich, how to find discontinued perfumes in a pre-eBay world, and what you can use as an eyelash curler if you have an unexpected sleepover – spoon.)

2. Magazines I stole from my prettier cousin Erin. My grandmother liked to tell us that Erin was the pretty one, and I was the smart one, so you can imagine how well both of us did with that little tidbit of information. Erin had every single issue of YM, and had them arranged chronologically in bookshelves that wrapped around the bottom of her bed. I wanted to consume her and absorb her chicness through my esophagus.

And, in one of those delicious, purloined magazines, there was a quiz.

It was about exercise, which, since I was probably eight, was not super relevant to my interests, but the question was something like: "After you exercise, how sweaty are you?"

For which the three available responses were, verbatim:

a) "So dry you don't even need a shower."
b) "Super-sweaty and kinda gross."
c) "Totally sweat-city."

And, I feel like c) is probably the answer they were looking for, but I cannot tell the difference between the weird 1990s jargon of b) and c) to save my life, and have thought about it at least once a week since I read it, and will, perhaps, go to my grave wondering, even though now I subscribe to about eight women's magazines and keep them chronologically arranged in bookshelves in my guest room for my pretty and smart nieces to steal.

Is it better to be super-sweaty and kinda gross, or totally sweat-city?

Can you tell me?

69 Comments / Post A Comment


There actually was a "d) Golliwogs", too, but your parents whited it out.


That first women's magazine is an important moment in our lives. For me, it was when my friend lent me a bunch of old Seventeen magazines. Allegedly I simply HAD TO use clear eyebrow grooming gel. That was the secret to not being an awkward middle schooler.


@TheGenYgirl I remember having a YM that said to shave your legs after you exfoliate (so more of the hair is exposed to your razor instead of being..drowned by dead skin cells?) and a Seventeen that said to shave your legs before you exfoliate, and having that blatant contradiction shock me until I realized that magazines didn't actually know everything.


@TheGenYgirl Clear eyebrow gel! That was one of the items I would own when I became a Real Girl.

Spoiler alert: never even seen it, let alone purchased/used it.

Tragically Ludicrous

@TheGenYgirl My older cousin had like a zillion copies of YM, dating back years I think. When we used to go stay at their place I would sit on the floor and read every "true story" article. I basically do the same thing now, except it involves watching "Disappeared" or "Deadly Women" on late-night TV.


@JessicaLovejoy I have seen "clear lipstick liner" touted and I was like THAT WILL SOLVE ALL MY LIP GLOSS PROBLEMS. There is no such thing. I suspect clear eyebrow gel is the same, because it sounds like it could be wicked useful. And lord knows, we can't have useful things clogging up the make-up aisle.


@JessicaLovejoy I owned clear eyebrow gel once! I guess I also read about it in a magazine because I used it when I was about 15. Looked like a mascara brush in clear gel but it didn't actually too all that much. It just looked pretty and useful. And then I threw it out.

Faintly Macabre

@damselfish Maybelline Great Lash comes in clear, and is therefore basically clear eyebrow gel! I used to use it because my eyebrows are dark and a bit curly, so it's a choice between buzz-cutting them and looking like Eugene Levy. It was a tiny bit shiny, but otherwise worked pretty well! And then it dried out and I was too lazy to replace it, so now I just look like Eugene Levy.


@JessicaLovejoy CLEAR EYEBROW GEL. (Thank you for that memory.)

emily eileen

Couldn't vaseline fill that void? Or is it too thick?

Diaphanous Gown

@TheGenYgirl I own/ed both these things! I use clear mascara to keep my eyebrows in check whenever I wear makeup. The clear liner was useless, however. They are both available from the Body Shop.


@Faintly Macabre I had the same stuff when I was 13. My mom bought it for me in place of actual mascara, which she deemed age-inappropriate. So instead of clear mascara/eye brow gel being this magical girl thing, I viewed it as an agent of suppression towards my burgeoning womanhood. Yep.


@JessicaLovejoy SPOILER ALERT: Clear eyebrow gel = clear mascara. NOW YOU MAY SLEEP AT NIGHT.


@TheGenYgirl - Mine was a Seventeen with Hanson on the cover that I stole from the waiting room at my aunt's office.

@mlle.gateau - I have to admit that the fact that they are packaged separately made me worried that there was some inherent difference, like maybe clear mascara is glossier or something weird? Anyway, I solved this problem by buying spooly brushes at Sally's and dipping them into an ENORMOUS bottle of $1 hair gel. This is going to last me for the rest of my life.


@damselfish - what! There is such a thing as clear lip-liner! Mine is by Revlon, which leads me to believe I just bought it at CVS or Target or something.


@mlle.gateau I was about to say this! I had clear mascara when I was younger, and I think I used it on my eyebrows as well.

The Lady of Shalott

What...is the difference between "totally sweaty" and "sweat city?" YM? YM HELP I DON'T UNDERSTAND!!!

Also I had a few clandestine copies of Allure and Seventeen which I read, over and over and over again, and hoarded under my bed. I can't even begin to tell you how many hours I spent trying to flat-iron my curly hair into that dead-straight style that was popular around 2003. I don't think my hair has ever fully forgiven me for that year.


Brings back fond memories of sneaking peeks at Seventeen and YM at the orthodontist's office while my mother was distracted.


@cuminafterall Ditto, beauty salon.


How the fuck do you curl your eyelashes with a spoon?


@ru_ri Why would you even try? Never post-impromptu sleepover or otherwise, have I thought "Everyone is going to notice these straight eyelashes!" If it's that important, wouldn't you just carry a curler in your purse?


@professionalmess For the record, I would try a spoon, just because eyelash curlers scare the shit out of me.


@professionalmess Also, if you're having an impromptu sleepover, congrats! Your eyelashes are good enough to get you laid, or at least not hampering those efforts. No need to bother with weird beauty tricks.


@TheclaAndTheSeals Haha wow - my mind was still in the realm of Seventeen and until I read your comment I thought they meant unexpected girly teen sleepovers. I was wondering if I'd dropped the ball by never curling my eyelashes for all those slumber parties of yore D:


@meetapossum Holy crap, amazing. And terrifying!


@ru_ri She so casually says, "So you don't pinch yourself" and "you might rip a few hairs out, it's not a big deal" and I cannot cope. I use a squeezy eyelash curler thing all the time and I think I would have flung it from me the first time it ripped out a single hair. I NEVER KNEW THIS WAS A POSSIBILITY.


@ru_ri She so casually says, "So you don't pinch yourself" and "you might rip a few hairs out, it's not a big deal" and I cannot cope. I use a squeezy eyelash curler thing all the time and I think I would have flung it from me the first time it ripped out a single hair. I NEVER KNEW THIS WAS A POSSIBILITY.


@onthesideofmyface And now I am watching waxing videos oh help me pleeeease.


@onthesideofmyface I only made it to that first spoon-tug, then I was out of there! Waxing videos would do me in...

emily eileen

That video is SEVEN MINUTES LONG! on curling eyelashes!


In your heart you already know the answer. It is always c).


Take me down to the total-sweat city
Where your pits are gross and the magazines shitty


I sometimes skipped the quizzes and just read the results--I was always the middle/moderate one anyway.


@SarahP Who am I kidding, I totally read all the quizzes anyway, in case they mentioned kissing or sex.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@SarahP Hahaha, yeah duh. Kissing!

Ham Snadwich

I read my roommate's girlfriend's Seventeens when I was in college. The only thing I remember is the column that should have been called Awkward Menstruation Stories. Every story was like "I was wearing white pants on a date with a boy I like, then I got my period, then some additional ridiculousness happened. Fin."

Oliver St. John Mollusc

@Ham Snadwich Yes! Or "I was blowdrying my hair with a round brush and it got stuck and we had to cut it out of my hair! Oh the humanity!"


@Ham Snadwich : There should have been a complementary column for boys called, "Never Pull a White Thread from a Girl's Jean Shorts*, Ever, Because, Surprise, It's a Tampon String."

(Yes, I read these magazines in the '90s.)


@Ham Snadwich Ugh, I remember these too! Especially all the: "This cue guy asked me for a thing [eraser, pencil, breath mint], and I reached into my purse and handed him a tampon by mistake!!!"


@nowwhat cuTe, that is.

If he were holding cue cards, that would have made the situation even more embarrassing.

Beatrix Kiddo

@Ham Snadwich I should never have read those magazines pre-puberty, because I was convinced this would happen to me and I was terrified of getting my period. 18 years later and I (and everyone I know) has avoided this mishap.


@Ham Snadwich Oh man, those stories made me squirm with shared embarrassment because I, too, had an Awkward Menstruation Story. They have the same stories in the adult analogs to Seventeen/YM only they involve cum as well as menstrual blood.

emily eileen

@Ham Snadwich
Someone in college was still reading Seventeen? I'm certain that magazine is geared towards the 12-16 age range, no?


I misread the first time and thought it said "a) women who are dumb for One Direction." Which, on that subject, why are some women dumb for One Direction? They are like four years old.


@frigwiggin Seriously, looking at them and yelling "THEY ARE FETUSES TURN IT OFF BEFORE THE COPS BREAK THE DOOR DOWN" was a real "whelp, you're a grownup now, I guess" moment for me.


I used to pore over the charts in the back of any copy of The Economist I could get my hands on. The correct answer was always "Denmark."

(Who am I kidding, in The Economist the correct answer is always "not whatever France is doing.")


@stuffisthings I used to do geography quizzes on Sporcle all the time to try to get smarter over my lunch breaks. It was fun until I figured out that the answer to all the hard questions was always "Kyrgyzstan."


@travelmugs Kyrgyzstan is the best -stan, though.


Oh! I know this one. "Super-sweaty and kinda gross" is when you're covered in sweat. "Totally sweat-city" is when you are so sweaty you've covered everyone in a 12 block radius in sweat.

So, 'depends on your goals, I guess?


MY PARENTS BANNED BARBIES TOO!! I thought I was the only one.


@Beericle Me too! I didn't watch a disney movie either until I was about 13.

Lily Rowan

@Beericle Oh yeah, no Barbies in my house!

But somehow, I was allowed to subscribe to Seventeen. I need to ask my mother about this.


@Beericle Nope, mine too! I got one for a gift when I turned 8, while my mother fumed in the corner.


@Beericle Absolutely no Barbies for me. I got a fake Barbie as a birthday present -- she was like a Native American Barbie? Or something? Anyway -- and I had been so conditioned against them that I didn't really play with her that often. I was way more into stuffed animals and books and Legos than fashion dolls, honestly.

Blackwatch Plaid

@Beericle I had no Barbies, but I did have two Ken dolls. They were married.


@Blackwatch Plaid I had two Barbies who got married; I wanted a Ken doll! And shoes for the Barbies. I can understand why my mom was adamant about no more shoes, but come on, my brother's Hercules action figure was short and stumpy :( All his action figures were. It's like they agreed on it beforehand so boy's sisters couldn't comandeer a power ranger into a forced marriage or something.


@Beericle No barbies for me, either, which I felt was a tragedy at the time. My mom asked me recently if she thought she had made the right choice; looking back, I think so.


@RationalHatter My mother abhorred sex symbols and Marilyn Monroe and Barbies and such, so no Barbies for me. BUT, she did get me a Barbie knockoff called Mrs. Kensington. She was a Working Mom, and she had two outfits: a business suit (with shoulder pads!) and then a pink dress with a yellow waterproof apron that she used at home to wash her baby (included). She also had the frosted hair that was popular back in the 80s.

Yes, everyone, my mother was/is amazing.


@wee_ramekin !


@Beericle My mom is very chill about everything except 3 things: no Barbies, no cheerleading, and no beauty pageants. The word, "feminist" has never crossed my mom's lips, but she was adamant about those 3 things. Also, my dad's a veteran and there were no guns allowed in the house:no water guns that looked like guns, no gun toys, no violent video games. We were all told he would break our knees if any of us tried to join the army.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

When I caught my first glimpses of the sex tips in Cosmo when I was maybe 13, I remember being appalled/curious/sort-of-ashamed. I can't imagine what it's like growing up with the Internet and the availability of so much porn and crazy shit.

Marquise de Morville

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose You could try growing up in Germany. The teen magazines there (Bravo and the like) there featured stories about "My first time" and soft-porn-like photo stories about sex. I was always too embarrassed to buy them, but of course got issues somewhere. Pretty educational and sex positive (especially with respect to safe sex). Worst thing: Middle-aged biology hippie teacher lady thought it was a good idea to read/discuss an issue in class.


D) "The band is soaking! "


It's obviously C! If you answer A, you either didn't work hard enough to sweat or you did and you're 100% dehydrated and dying right now; B means you have body image issues because you just worked out and are grossed out by your own grossness.

C, on the other hand, is you owning it. Giiiirrrrlllll, yeah! You sweat it out! Sweat city! Totally! High-five! The other girls are so jealous of your confidence and you're so laid back, but cute too, and you're kind of like one of the guys, but in the "right" way, like you're hot and flirty but still feminine, you know? C!

(Also once when I was like 12 I was reading Cosmo on a plane and realized the middle-aged dude next to me was reading it over my shoulder and I got soooo embarassed. I was also listening to the Alanis Morrisette CD on that flight, and she song where she says "fuck" made me feel like such a badass. Ah, youth!)


Bless, bless, bless my junior high librarian, who had a subscription to both YM and Seventeen for the school library.

I remember taking a quiz in grade 8 called "Do You Play Mind Games?" and being totally shocked to learn that yes, I did play mind games. (Really I just had troubling talking about my feelings and asking for what I wanted in a direct way, but that was the first inkling I had that that was not an okay way to communicate.) That was the first and only one of those quizzes I ever learned anything about myself from.


Sometimes the amount of brainspace I must devote to magazines I read in my teens concerns me. For instance, I still remember one feature in a magazine where they suggested names for various socially-embarrassing things: "bap slap", which is when your breasts itch in public and you surreptitiously hit them to make up for not being able to scratch, and "wing sting", when you get a pubic hair caught in the adhesive on a sanitary pad. I have never (until now) used either of these terms. Why does my brain helpfully hang onto them for me?

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