What Happened When I Lived According To “Seventeen” Magazine

Okay, time for a confession: I’ve been an avid reader of Seventeen since my (now ex) stepmother tossed a free copy in the trash when I was about fifteen, proclaiming it “not suitable for any good girl” and punctuating the declaration with an eye roll.

Almost six years later, I am still grateful for my moment of teenage rebellion (sneaking the condemned magazine out of the garbage can and reading it on the bus ride to school), but as I approach the “twenty-something” label, I couldn’t help but wonder if this “teen” magazine had anything to offer to me still.

It seems that magazines (especially those falling in the young women’s interest category) are classified as mostly frivolous reading material, without anything beyond outfit and beauty inspiration. Of course, there are many voices who say otherwise (like Lauren Duca, of Teen Vogue fame), but the question still remained in my mind: what can this magazine offer for me, who has moved past milestones like her first period and is on to her third year in college?

To that end, I constructed an experiment for this weekend:

  • I was going to take at least one piece of advice from the magazine each day, be it lifestyle, fashion, or health-related.
  • No pre-picking articles were allowed– I had to see if Seventeen advice was applicable in the moment I needed some help.
  • All magazine issues had to be from at least the past year, so as to have up to date opinions/advice.

With those guidelines in mind, I headed into my first day with guarded hopes and crossed fingers.

Day One: Friday

For me, as a college girl, Friday is the “get things done” day of my weekend. I know my way around a washing machine, but there are some finer points of “adulting” and grown-up chores/skills that I certainly could brush up on. Thus, I found myself flipping through one of my many magazines at 9:00 am, and I came across this little gem:

"Adulting 101" with kittens, no less.
“Adulting 101” with kittens, no less.

Even though Seventeen probably didn’t write this article a twenty-year-old in mind (maybe a college freshman), the advice was helpful, to say the least. For instance, on the first page of the article (“#2: Get Ready in Five Minutes”), I found something that I’ll definitely be saving for a busy morning.

The rest of the article was important (with advice ranging from eating healthy to taking care of yourself when you’re sick), but not for the expected reason of being handed life hacks in guilty pleasure reading. Nope. Seventeen knows what’s up, a fact that was affirmed by the inclusion of “Know Your Sexual Boundaries”, “[How to] Handle a Drunk Friend”, and “Love Your Body” on the list.

Maybe it was because I hadn’t had coffee yet, but my mind was officially blown. When I was first starting off with the magazine years ago, even talking about periods in a teen girl magazine was a thing to gawk at, let alone discussing more, quote on quote, “grown-up” topics like drinking, sex and the like.

Even though I know there’s still parents out there who’d freak out over a magazine writing about anything but abstinence and traditional behavior, it was exciting knowing that there are younger girls out there with the same magazine who are getting empowered to be responsible and in control of their bodies. (So much yes, Seventeen!)

In short: it’s only day one, and I already have found winning practical advice. This experiment was looking up.

Day Two: Saturday

Today, I had a busy day ahead of me. Between two different work shifts, I also had to screen a new candidate for my editor-in-chief role for another site, and I was a bit more flustered than I anticipated. (Pro-tip to anyone nervous about an interview: the interviewer is probably just as nervous as you are. No one is perfect, okay?)

Inspiration was needed in big doses today, and while I did find several tips sprinkled throughout a few issues, I found myself coming back to this particular article:

"Being a Real Boss", a la Seventeen
“Being a Real Boss”, a la Seventeen

Even though it had more of an entrepreneur in mind than an editor, some things still apply. For instance, “The HBIC Playbook”? The most important reading I’ve done about being a leader in quite a while. There are some things that you figure out on your own as a working woman, but some things are worth learning. (Or reminding yourself of again, like not being afraid of mistakes and finding some inspiring figures to look up to.)

At the end of the day, I had one of my more productive days in some time, so I’ll call it a win.

Day Three: Sunday

Sundays are my writing days, and so they’re usually very laidback by definition. (As a journalism major with an English minor, let’s just say that writing is a bit of a second nature at this point.) Since I had time today, and a little self-care doesn’t ever hurt, I took a moment to browse for some little things to do, and well, I found a whole feature about happiness and the formula that goes into it in the newest issue!

Seventeen's Formula: "Bx(M+F+A)+ATT2=Happiness"
Seventeen’s Formula: “Bx(M+F+A)+ATT2=Happiness”

As someone with depression, I will be the first to tell you that there is no cure-all in terms of happiness: but this article certainly didn’t hurt. It was nice to just take a moment to fill out the quiz and see what things I could improve on to help my mood on those in-between days, and just seeing Seventeen take a moment to talk about self-care and to call out false perceptions of happiness was mind-blowing all on its own. Consider this girl impressed.

Final thoughts:

While I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t do something “fun,” like test out an outfit or a makeup look, I am very pleased with the experiment. Even though I found more reminders than learning moments in my advice gleaning, the fact that certain material was in the magazine, to begin with? Amazing, inspiring, beautiful! It made me want to go out and read articles aloud to the women in my life.

Just because it’s a teen magazine (or a women’s magazine in general), it definitely doesn’t mean that it’s frivolous or that you shouldn’t be reading it. As the years go by, and as the social needs change, reading materials change and grow up too.

Via this experiment, I proved to myself that, if anything, women’s magazines are so much more important than what they are credited with. It’s not just about sex tips, or dieting, or crushes, or prom dresses. Girls and women today are discussing politics, mental health, body image, and responsibility, and almost no one realizes because of the package the information comes in.

And that, friends, is why this adult will keep reading the likes of Seventeen without shame.

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