Tween hygiene is a strange and changeable thing. They may fight the idea of showering, but then once they're in the stall, you can't get them out again. Time stands still and North America's water levels drop precipitously. The same is true for other grooming rituals. Hair is brushed one thousand strokes but teeth are forgotten. Or an inordinate amount of time is spent covering nearly invisible blemishes while tangles are left uncombed.
We had already returned from our fourth and final trip to Vermont when I realized my daughter hadn't bathed all weekend. "Honey," I told her, "Go shower."
"I wanna wait until after dinner," she replied, eyes never leaving her iPhone with its half-dozen concurrent text conversations.
"But, your hair looks dirty," I insist.
She shrugged. "Do we have any baking soda?"
"Baking soda? You can comb it through your hair when you're in a hurry, and it makes it look clean. It's in Seventeen."
Ah. The gospel according to Seventeen. I remember it well.
I think it was the summer after seventh grade that I started devouring that magazine. It influenced everything: my haircut (Dorothy Hamill wedge, and if that doesn't date me nothing will), my shampoos ("Short & Sassy," "Herbal Essence" and "Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific"), my sandals (Famolare with their distinctive wave sole), my sundresses (Gunny Sack), my boots (Frye), my lip balm (Bonne Bell Dr. Pepper).
Now that I think about it, clearly the ads were more influential than the articles.
But, I did read each issue cover to cover. Stories talked about friendships, pop music, activities like sewing projects, teens in other countries. And, how to let a boy know you liked him. I filed these away for future use — my junior high had just gone co-ed after a century as an all-girls school. Actual boys were few and far between.
Compare these with some of the content in a random sampling of my daughter's issues. Oh sure, there are still plenty of fashion spreads and beauty tips. But the editorial has — shall we say — "evolved."
"I Faked my Pregnancy"
"Your 2012 Hot-Body Plan"
"Mind-Blowing Makeouts: How to be a Better Kisser"
And, an entire issue devoted to the annual: "Hot Guy Special!" which promises to teach you how to "Have Him Ask You Out!" and "Flirt The Right Way!" and "Be His Best Hookup!"
Okay, I am old and I am definitely not as cool as I once was. But, the last time I checked, a "hookup" (as in "Be His Best ...") is what we used to call a "one-night stand." Except I didn't call it that when I was reading Seventeen, because I didn't know that there was such a thing. I certainly wasn't ready to be anyone's hookup, let alone their best one.
And neither is my daughter. But, since she didn't feel the need to bring me the magazine and question its content, I have to assume she knows all of this and more. Now, my head hurts.
Seventeen magazine's media kit claims that the median age of its readers is 16.5 years old. But, nearly 2 million readers are between 12 and 15. (In my experience, girls drop it many months before they hit the magazine's eponymous age.) I don't think these girls should be getting tips on hooking up quite yet? Do you? And, if your response is "Just don't let your tween daughter read it," you, my friend, clearly don't have a tween daughter.
My mind is made up. With all the envelope-pushing going on, I think I need to read my daughter's Seventeen magazines when they get here every month before I let her have them. It's clearly the only responsible thing to do. I'll just have to suffer through the pretty pictures, latest gossip and beauty features myself. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it.
Now, if I can just get my hands on a can of Tab ...