Cosmopolitan magazine – Then and Now

Life According to Cosmo

As a teenager, Cosmopolitan was my favorite magazine, my guidebook to womanly secrets. Here’s what I learned when I looked at a recent issue.

Cosmopolitan magazine – Then and Now
America’s guidebook for teenage girls: Cosmopolitan magazine. Photo by Jamelah.

I was at the gym the other day and just before hopping on the exercise bike, I noticed an abandoned Cosmopolitan magazine next to the trash bin. Hmmm … could be an interesting distraction while I peddled. Looking right and left to make sure no one was watching, I picked it up and jumped on the bike, quickly turning the cover so no one would see what I was reading.

Why the embarrassment? Well, aside from cover lines like “What Your Va-Jay-Jay Is Dying to Tell You,” this was a magazine I felt I’d outgrown. For one thing, I’ve learned there are some sexual fantasies best left unfulfilled and for another, I knew for sure my va-jay-jay had nothing to say that we hadn’t already discussed.

Every year when I was a teenager, my never-married aunt would buy my mom a subscription to Cosmo as a Christmas gift. I don’t think my mom ever opened it, but one of my greatest thrills as a hormone-infused 14-year-old was coming home from junior high school and seeing a glossy new issue in the mailbox.

So here at the gym, a few decades later, I was indulging in one of my greatest teenage pleasures: a fresh copy of Cosmopolitan. Here’s what I learned from its 280 pages.

Do you want to know what’s sexy – right now? Dressing like a schoolgirl, tiki bars and action-adventure movie dates are excellent precursors for an extra hot night with your man. Had a recent bad breakup? Well, try a “rapid rebound” with a new guy, even if it lasts only a week. Hey, Cosmo says it’s better than pigging out with Ben & Jerry’s.

Country music star Blake Shelton from NBC’s The Voice tells Cosmo “How He Knows You’re the One.” It sounded familiar because Roger Moore provided the same tips back in his 007 days. In fact, there were quite a few articles that  I’d seen before — just repackaged — like: “Three Ways to Supercharge His Desire,” “Make His Mouth Water” and “Guys Answer Your Sex Questions.”

It was a bit frightening to realize that at one time, my entire education about men came from what I read in Cosmopolitan. Yes, I must confess, there was a time I truly believed that mastering Cosmo’s list of “Ten Ways to Excite Your Man” would guarantee a lifetime of romantic bliss — as long as I also had the right jeans and a tube of mascara that would give me flirty, feathered lashes.

The one thing that has changed since way back when? Dozens of pages devoted to readers’ confessions of their most “shocking stories and steamiest secrets.” If this really does come from readers, then kudos to Cosmo for finding an easy way to fill up the magazine with free content.

What qualifies as worthy of a Cosmo confession? One was having sex in the upper bunk of your boyfriend’s college dorm room and waking up the sleeping roommate below. Another was accidentally showing your boyfriend’s mom the naked photo he took of you with his cell phone. Or how about having your “new guy” finding your neon green vibrator stuffed under your pillow while you’re having sex for the first time?

Okay, so Cosmo is pretty funny, especially when you’re peddling in place for 60 minutes without much else to do. Reading it with some real-life experience under my belt helped me see it for what it is — entertaining fluff. But what concerned me was remembering how, as a teenager, Cosmo was my de facto lifestyle guide — my bible — my key to womanly knowledge. And guess what age group still reads it today? Teenage girls who are just as anxious to grow up as I was.

Yep, Cosmo is still spreading the gospel that the key to a woman’s success lies in knowing the 10 steps to giving a great BJ. Is it any wonder that men often find younger women so entertaining?

If only the secret to true love, success and everlasting happiness was that easy!

Copyright © Kim Calvert/2015 Singular Communications, LLC.

Kim Calvert is the editor of Singular magazine and the founder of the SingularCity social networking community. An outspoken champion of people who are living their lives as a “me” instead of a “we,” Kim oversees the creative direction and editorial content of the magazine and online social networking community. She secures contributors and is responsible for maintaining the fun, upbeat, inspirational and often-humorous tone of Singular, a lifestyle guide for successful single living.

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9 thoughts on “Life According to Cosmo

  1. Cosmo has articles? As a teenager I spent many nights under the covers with flashlight amazed at how beautiful women could be.

  2. Sounds like the new management may have learned their craft at men’s magazines. The reader stories they are publishing sounds just like a description of the Penthouse Forum letters from many years ago. Even with an internet filled with sex for free, sex still sells, and it’s still what is most interesting to most people.

  3. I always have stood up for Helen Gurley Brown, and always will. She wrote “Sex and the Single Girl” in 1962! Women who sneer at her now is a bit like sneering at the Wright Brothers for their primitive aircraft. Duh. Helen was ahead of her time!
    And I liked Cosmopolitan for years. But she is no longer there. This high-powered executive of worldwide publishing was apparently “kicked upstairs” out of her famous publishing position. She worked well into her 80s, I think, not retiring long before she died at 90.
    Cosmopolitan has changed. It seems sensationally slutty. And *not* straightforward. You want straightforward, read the sex guide by Paul Joannides. First time I read one by a man. (*blush*) And boy, is he good.
    I gotta admit, even as a lifelong childfree single, that I would enjoy a good movie, or a Mai Tai at a tiki bar with good company, more than eating yet another pint of ice cream.
    But really: “va-jay-jay”? Reeeeeaalllllly? Feh. Barf.

    1. I agree! Helen Gurley Brown is one of my all-time heroes. She was way ahead of her time as an advocate for women being liberated from the idea that their only choice in life was to marry the richest man they could stomach and start having babies. The idea that you could pursue other options and stay single and even enjoy a great sex life was pretty much unheard of when Brown became the editor of Cosmo and took it to the pinnacle of its glory days.

    1. Hee hee. . . I read it, and would always like the good stuff to come true, but after a while I would read last month’s from the saved magazine. Nothing.
      I even told a roommate at the time who liked it, “Did you ever read last month’s to see if it had anything at all to it?” She said, “I never thought of that.”

      Well, there’s a lot she never thought of.

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