Questionable Things I Learned About My Appearance Via Ladymags

photo: Shutterstock

photo: Shutterstock

I have been a ladymag obsessive from the tender age of ten or eleven. In the late nineties and early aughts with teenybopper subscriptions (RIP, All About You and CosmoGIRL), moving on to Seventeen and then to Nylon, and Elle, and Vogue. I hid Cosmo in my closet because I totally thought it was porn until I realized much of the suggested advice was not what my friends were actually doing in bed. For example, has anyone ever tried the thong ponytail? Where you remove your undies pre bang session and then use them as a hair elastic? No? I am intrigued, honestly. But, gross. Any and all glossies I could get my hands on stacked up in my bedroom, first next to stuffed animals and clear lipgloss and then later next to piles of hair serums, MAC blush, and countless other cosmetic purchases I couldn’t resist purchasing after seeing them spilled out across the pages of countless issues. I have amassed a wealth of knowledge over the years.

Some advice is good (wear lipstick!) and some advice is bad (stop trying to make self-tanner and Robert Pattinson happen. They’ve had their moment.). And some advice seems terrible at the outset, but is actually pretty solid life advice that is forever burned in my brain.

Countless Ways to Obsess Over My Face Shape

I have a heart shaped face. Apparently, this is what you call it when you have a normal-to-wide forehead, girlish full cheeks, and a narrow chin that can cut glass. Think Victoria Beckham and Reese Witherspoon. Through various women’s magazines, I’ve learned that I should never get a chin length bob (it draws attention to the aforementioned dagger chin) or wear cateye glasses (they draw the eye up and out, not what you want if you already have a disproportionately wide forehead). Years of reading the same damn suggestions has clearly given me a complex (literally the only thing I see in photos is DAGGER CHIN), but this has turned out to be sound advice. Eyeglass selection is one of the times you should absolutely listen to “what not to wear” advice. If I had obeyed, I would not have a pair of glasses squirreled away in a drawer that makes my face look like an acute triangle. When choosing a bang/fringe style or frames, listen to your mags.

pointy chins unite. photo: Getty

pointy chins unite. photo: Getty

More seriously, I’ve learned that faces with “feminine” characteristics are more likely to be seen by the opposite sex as flings and lovers rather than relationship material. Feminine facial markers include full round cheeks, a narrow chin, and fuller lips. Check, check, and check. Thanks, Women’s Health, for letting me and the rest of the heart shaped face crew know we’ll be alone forever.

Lean Protein is the Answer to Everything. Also, Yogurt.

Lean protein is to ladymags what coconut oil is to health nuts. “Bikini body” diet plans, muscle building diet plans, vegan recipes, “Eat and Stay Slim!” guides, and “What to Eat While You Honeymoon In Bali So You Don’t Come Back A Huge Fatty” menus can all agree on one and only one thing: lean protein is where it’s at. If you listen to ladymags, the only thing we should ever be eating is lean protein. Skinless, boneless chicken breasts make me gag, so I strive to get creative with tofu (low cal and cruelty-free!) and dairy. And millions of hot wings, because protein.


photo: Shutterstock

Other foods ladies love: yogurt, avocado, and crostini. Ladymags have told me to put avocado and yogurt in everything from my hair to my pasta and I WILL NEVER STOP. Dry skin? Yogurt. Bloated? Yogurt. And if you can find me a “10 Snacks to Impress at Your Next Party” round-up that doesn’t include crostini, I will buy you a subscription to the mag of your choice.

Men Care A Whole Lot About the Way You Look, Smell, Talk, and Dress

Did you know men are irresistibly attracted to the smell of strawberries? And vanilla. And citrus scents. And white musk. And fresh laundry. Basically, all of the scents. I have also been led to believe they find red cocktail dresses sexually appealing, and that tight jeans and a white tee shirt are the sexiest thing to 56% of men, and that they like you to wear their shirt. Men, so difficult to please!

srsly, they don’t care. via

Ladymags are full of all the hairstyles and sexual positions men love. Taken individually, you may lose heart and think you have to be a sexual acrobat with perfect highlights to get a man’s interest. This is despite all evidence to the contrary. Beauty tips to catch a man all contradict themselves because men do not care. We make ourselves crazy for no reason. Once a man is into you, no amount of red nail polish or obvious disinterest in grilling or a losing sports team is going to put him off.

Trends are Lies

I am a trend lover. If you tell me matte fuchsia lipstick is in, I will buy some. Blunt bangs happened, I chopped mine off over the bathroom sink after a glass of wine. But I have learned that 1940s inspired waves are not a trend. They are a timeless hairstyle that has been popping up on red carpets since it debuted in the forties. Ditto, messy buns. And smoky eyes. And glitter eyeliner from December through New Year’s Eve. If there is an outlandish beauty look you want to try, chances are it is already on trend or will be within a year. You can look at the constant influx of trends to try as impossible to keep up with OR as possibilities to wear brown lipstick and a high gladiator ponytail whenever you feel the urge. It’s all about perspective.

Revlon Rum Raisin. It's back.

Revlon Rum Raisin. It’s back.

I have to defend ladymags. At their best, they taught me what it is to be a certain kind of woman.  I was a pudgy country girl that wanted desperately to be fancy, and learned about power dressing, dinner parties, and the confidence that only comes from finding your perfect red lip long before I could drive myself to Sephora. And at their worst, they’re entertaining. Who among us can actually resist a headline like “The Single Best Hair Cut for Every Face Shape?” (Elle).

Love them or hate them, what weird ladymag advice have you internalized forever?

You can reach this post's author, Mandie Williams, on twitter.
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    • Lindsey Conklin

      hahaha lady mags are always recommending yogurt!!!!!!

    • Colleen

      Revlon Rum Raisin is back?! I loved that shade. I HATE that lipsticks seem to change colours each season and you can never get that perfect shade again…after trying 20 goddamn samples to find that perfect shade in the first place. Ugh to lipstick companies!

    • Colleen

      Also, the only thing you need to do to impress your man is be naked once in awhile in front of him. Seriously.

    • claire

      strident feminism is the single most unattractive thing a guy can find in you *rolls eyes*

    • claire

      also that frozen yoghurt is always the way to go when you’re craving ice cream, you can never ever go wrong with matte red lipstick and an LBD, and, when in doubt, it’s always better to be OVERDRESSED rather than UNDERDRESSED

    • I Like Pizza

      So much beauty crap I do is because of ladymags’ burning their “tips” into my brain forever: dunking fresh mani in ice water to make it dry faster, “directional” blow-drying, heating the eyelash curler before use… and I bet almost none of it is effective.

      • I Like Pizza

        P.S. Years ago I read a tip in “Redbook” to give a guy oral outside of his underwear. I tried that once and got dumped.

    • OhOk

      Wait, what?

      It sounds like at their worst they’re body-shaming, face-shaming, love-shaming, money-draining piles of shit. I read your whole article faintly smiling to myself, finally understanding why my parents tried to keep me away from them at all costs (because you are describing some pretty heartbreaking shit in there, e.g., men associate feminine features with one night stands and will never truly love you if you look a certain way; if you just had the willpower to stick with lean protein you would look like Adriana Lima, you fatty) and then I got to the end and…what? That’s all pretty damaging to then conclude that at their worst they’re “entertaining.” No, at their worst it sounds like they made you feel totally inadequate about your natural face and body as well as your clothing and make up choices/collection (because as soon as you think you’re good enough, all of that is soooo last year and it takes quite a bit of money to restock different items and shades every year). Like the idea of “keeping up with the Joneses” is even worse; it’s really “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and the only thing we can do is fail.