It’s back to school week and I’m thinking about the August issue of Seventeen Magazine.
When I was a preteen living in a small town, there were no Instagram influencers or Youtube tutorials; there was the magazine rack at the drug store where I would find, every fall, a giant double-thick issue of Seventeen.
It was heavy and gorgeous and glossy and featured cover models like Phoebe Cates and Brooke Shields wearing hot rolled hair pulled back by barrettes, knee socks and clogs, corduroy and plaid.
The fall issue of Seventeen was, obviously, about style, and I have always loved fashion, but it was also about fresh starts, and a whole new school year ready to unfold.
The fall issue of Seventeen was about the potential for reinvention and metamorphosis
At the end of summer, I took my fall issue of Seventeen with me to the pool, sat on my towel and swam around in its pages, while drinking Dr. Pepper and dreaming a new identity for myself.
I imagined that I would enter the first day of school entirely rearranged. The past would be erased from everyone’s memory, the slate wiped clean.
This year I would be beautiful and confident. My hair would be shiny (not frizzy on one side and flat on the other), I would know all the right things to say and how to shave my legs without cutting myself. This year I would find the resolve to actually do my homework.
I would be a major success.
And if it didn’t happen? If seventh grade or eighth grade or even ninth grade proved to be just as difficult, messy, and pain-filled as every other year, and the homework just as intolerable, the fall issue of Seventeen promised me that someday, this shift would happen.
Maybe when I was a senior in high school or maybe when I was a first year college student or maybe when I was a young woman out in the world living on my own going to some sort of job and living in an apartment.
When I was 13, living in an apartment was the coolest thing I could imagine.
I closed my eyes and pictured my feet, in clogs, walking up a set of stairs that led to my second-floor apartment with a window unit air conditioner, shag carpet, and bar stools in the kitchen - maybe even saloon doors. My childhood next door neighbors had saloon doors in their kitchen and I thought that was the height of chic.
At 13, the journey from where I was to that apartment seemed impossible terrain, but the fall issue of Seventeen Magazine told to me it was possible. It could happen. The potential existed for me to use just the right pressure during eyeshadow application, position my knee socks accordingly, and get there.
I never did.
Oh, I got to places. I lived in apartments. I even had a pair clogs, but my real life experiences never quite lived up to my imagination.
Every year at the end of the summer, the images from the fall issue guiding the way, I went shopping for school clothes.
Every year, on the first day of school, I wore my best outfit - chinos, sandals, blouse, necklace, barrettes - carried new clean notebooks of hope - and walked into school certain this was going to be my year.
It never was.
Not sixth grade or seventh or eleventh.
I never did make myself love homework, and I still have a hard time with eyeshadow application.
I wanted, so much I wanted, for high school to feel like a magazine (or a John Hughes movie,) but it never did.
My carefree twenties weren’t.
I was never a Charlies Angel.
I never met Dylan McKay at the Peach Pit.
But I still believe.
Maybe you thought this was going to be a post about mindfulness or acceptance or loving who you are where you are, but nope.
It’s a post about how I still believe in the dream.
I still believe in reinvention. I still believe in an idealized version of myself, and I like this belief. I enjoy it. I don’t feel badly about never measuring up.
I feel energized by the fantasy.
A few days ago, I was at Kroger and I walked down the magazine aisle. The internet, God bless it, has pretty much obliterated magazines, but I hoped that maybe one or two had prevailed. I’d buy a copy of Vogue, I thought, and drift through it while drinking coffee, but when I found it, it was so terribly thin and packed with advertisements. I left it on the shelf.
The urge I feel right now, here in August, back-to-school week, the urge I feel to go to eBay and buy a bunch of Seventeen Magazines from the 70s and 80s is a strong, strong urge. Oh, to move through those pages again and experience the sensation, the August feeling.
I love my fashion blogs and beauty vloggers, but nothing compares to holding a twice-as-heavy-as-usual magazine in your hands, pages filled with dreams of the future.
I have always been restless
I came into this world restless, yearning for something else - some other place, some other face, some other experience than whatever I was experiencing.
I don’t consider this a flaw or something about me that needs correction.
It’s an energy that propels me and lights me up.
Facebook keeps reminding me that I am 50 and that all the people I went to school with are 50. It seems like everything in the whole world turned 50 this year - Woodstock, the Tate LaBianca Murders, the Moon Landing.
Thankfully, time is just an illusion.
There’s still room for my metamorphosis.