Ditch the rules for a hot summer body | life and style
Jhe concept of a “hot girls summer” lives to see another June. We tried ! We gave it a good try, tried our hardest dead skin and peeling in an attempt to release the hot girl underneath. “Save me!” came her voice, muffled as if it came from the bottom of a well. But despite our best efforts, for most of us, a Hot Girl summer just wasn’t realistic. Instead, we’re headed for a summer of Blobfish, floating very low to the ground with low density flesh. A naked mole-rat summer, mindlessly digging into our own subconscious, rosy, cold-blooded, unable (or unwilling) to feel pain. Our summer identities are unfortunately only an inch away from our winter identities, the main difference being the sleeves.
It’s that time of year that I start thinking about the lessons I learned from teen magazines growing up. Every June, a new version of the old pursuit of a “bikini body” arrives. And with it, feel memories that are hard to shake. My education in the hands of Just Seventeen, After!, Sugar and their sisters remain etched in the hardest part of my brain like initials on a tree. As age has caused it to scar and knot, the lessons — always put on a white t-shirt before getting off a plane, wash your hair with cold water before getting out of the shower — are now part of of me. More than any little math or science I learned in school, I realize as summer approaches, these are my foundations.
So it’s a shame, in hindsight, that so many of those lessons, greedily swallowed by girls like me, desperate for a rulebook for navigating this cold, sticky world, were based on shame. Not only was dietary advice the norm, it was the kind of advice that today would cause an online scandal. Chew each bite 100 times, they said. If you’re hungry, drink a big glass of water, they said. The primary role of fashion (I learned when I was 12) was to help control and create the illusion of a compact body, rather than the sculpture of flesh that formed around us as we slept. They would give us a problem (cellulite, muffin tops) and then come up with ways to solve it, a project that was meant to last a lifetime. Each month, we were entitled to a flowchart where we discovered which fruit our figure looked the most like and which jeans to buy to disguise it. The rules for neutralizing our bodies and faces were complex and witchy – . When I asked Twitter what lessons they had left behind, one of the first women to respond told me, “Dig a hole under your beach towel, to look slimmer while sunbathing.” A shallow grave for your teenage shame, with room to dig deeper when cancer strikes.
Although sex was a distant fantasy for my friends and I, we all knew how to spice up our love lives when we were 13. Rather than learning about, say, pleasure and consent, every British girl of my generation could describe how to alternate between a sip of tea and ice cubes to give our “buddies” an unforgettable blowjob. We spent a lot of time adapting our lives, our postures and our bodies to the boys in the magazines. On Twitter, my friend Sophie recalled: “A boy in a ‘What do boys really want?’ quiz said girls in London have less shapely legs because they don’t climb hills as much. My friend and I became obsessed with “Sheffield Legs”.
Flirting was an art. A woman was taught to “put things flirtatiously against her lips and in her mouth to imply she was ‘ready for it'”, but never wear bold lipstick because it scared off boys. I loved: “Smile brightly the first two times he looks at you, then the third time looks very sad, so he can come and ask you what’s wrong.” I think about it a lot now, the nightclub girls doing a happy, happy, sad dance with their shiny mouths. No wonder so many boys find girls so confusing; no wonder the perplexity continues in adult relationships with similar rules roughly drawn in the sand.
Much of my magazine training was on international travel, which had little relevance to an audience more likely to go camping in Wales than the long-haul flights on which we have to splash cold water on our faces every three hours. Likewise, their anti-aging tips (apply moisturizer in upward strokes!) were just as helpful as After!‘s “fortnight position”, but on a summer day I can unroll everyone on command.
These flakes of knowledge rise to the surface as time turns: the smell of cut grass, the desire for Orangina, the fact that you can make a boy fall in love with you by synchronizing your breathing with hers. And nothing more than the importance of “getting sexy for the summer”, using little wisdoms we’ve internalized – avoid overeating by pouring salt on your food after half a plate, a “healthy nutritious shake “For lunch, suck in your stomach anytime. This year, rather than sinking once more into this abyss of mismatch, I want to uproot those lessons, inspect their powers in the light, see how they have adapted over time, and figure out how to unlearn them to avoid transferring their strange poisons to my children. Aside from rinsing your hair with cold water. It’s not going anywhere.