Thursday, September 1, 2016

Take Cover

Even before I became a mother, I hoped for boys. I couldn't explain why I felt the way I did, other than the vague idea that "boys are easier to raise". I'd been a girl, after all. A girl who grew up in a house with a brother and lived next door to three male cousins. I spend my youth climbing trees, riding bikes, roller skating, drawing comic strips, burning bugs on the sidewalk with my magnifying glass, putting weird things under my microscope to see what they were, collecting stamps and coins and playing baseball, kickball and manhunt. 

In other words, I was a regular kid. Not a tomboy, though that's what they called it back then. I was a kid enjoying and experiencing my world. Having fun and learning stuff were my priorities. Easy.

Until I became a teenager. Then things got weird. Why? Why was everyone suddenly acting so strangely? My friends at school, male and female, changed. Not just physically, but in thought process. Suddenly it seemed like I was supposed to care about Jordache jeans and Adidas sneakers and Izod shirts and feathered hair and the right bands and the right lip gloss and the right way to kiss a boy.

Not only was I left WAY behind in all physical aspects of the high school changelings around me (another post for another day), I also felt like the only kid in school who didn't get the "how to be cool" memo. 

Suddenly the fact that I liked climbing trees, reading J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and going fishing felt like something I shouldn't talk about. And it sucked.

Of course, back then I felt like the one who was losing out. The things other girls were interested in never interested me, and I didn't read magazines like Teen Beat to try to get the scoop. I just retreated into books. It's only now, when I look back, that I see I was actually doing OK and the kids trying to keep up with the popular crowd were the ones losing out. When you try to keep up, there's always something you're not doing that "everyone else is" doing. Drinking, drugs, sex, whatever was rumored to be the "in" thing was what it took to stay cool and ahead of the crowd.

Now I have two sons. One's a boy scout, and he gets Boys' Life magazine every month. Above is the cover that arrived this week. In case you can't read the main story description, here it is:

EXPLORE YOUR FUTURE: Astronaut? Artist? Firefighter? Chef? Here's How to Be What You Want To Be

The issue also includes articles on traversing glaciers on a hike, combating food waste with easy recipes, true stories of scouts in action who saved others' lives, a drawing lesson, a rock climbing lesson, a twig picture frame building lesson, comics, jokes and more.

All I know of the Girls' Life magazine are the cover stories I see listed:

-Fall Fashion You'll Love
-Wake Up Pretty
-Your Dream Hair
-My First Kiss
-Quiz: Are you ready for a boyfriend?

Can I just say, now and as a teen, I would rather read the Boys' Life? There are SO MANY INTERESTING THINGS to read about! My curiosity is piqued by every article. And just think of all the things I'd have to talk about at the lunch table tomorrow!

I admit I'm still glad I have boys, especially because this type of publication is available and marketed to them. But I'm also really sad that in the thirty-some-odd years since I was a teen, girls' magazines have clearly progressed not at all. What are we telling girls is important? Worth reading about? Talking about? Caring about? Spending money on? Nothing of substance. Nothing that will make them interested in their world, curious about possibilities for their futures or that will feed their souls. 

By selling magazines to girls that perpetuate the idea that the superficial is what matters, our society is doing girls and boys a disservice. Girls will have nothing worthwhile to think, talk or dream about and boys will find it difficult to relate to them on any real level.

It's 2016, for crying out loud. Parents, can we please push back on this type of thing and force publishers and marketers to get with the times? Write letters! Get on Twitter and voice your opinion! Boycott these "fluff" publications and explain to your daughters and sons why their content is useless!

And while you're at the store bashing the trash, pick up a copy of Boys' Life for your favorite girl. She'll love you for it. Maybe not today, but down the road.

Just a guess.