Rachel del Valle | Turning a page
Duly Noted | Or how I’ve come to realize that women’s magazines have lost their allure and glamour
October 20, 2013, 7:33 pm · Updated October 20, 2013, 11:31 pm·
Rachel del Valle
I used to really love magazines. I have distinct memories of stealing issues of “Seventeen” and “YM” from my orthodontist’s waiting room. My sister and I would gesture to each other, wordlessly evaluating which ones were worth the risk — a “Teen People” was better than, say, a “Girl’s Life.” On our way out, we’d slip the glossies under our arms or acrylic school sweaters and scurry away, thrilled.
I still have some of those early 2000s issues, with their Katie Holmes and Mandy Moore covers. It’s fun to look back on them now and realize how much of the information in them went over my head. At the time, I read magazines in the way a kid reads a picture book. I’d consider the collages of swimsuits and shoes and pick my favorite.
In high school, my infatuation with the written word on fashion and makeup and all that grew. I started to gravitate towards the more style-minded, less flirting tips sort of publications.
I looked forward to peeling open the newest issue of “Elle” or “Glamour” and would set aside time to do so, cover to cover. One of the main activities among my friends and I was going to the Barnes & Noble down the road from our school, claiming a table and stacking it high with disposable reading material. It was a simple pleasure.
But then something changed. It happened suddenly, and I’m still not really sure why or how it began. I felt myself pulling away, becoming bored with the same old thing. Where was the excitement I’d so adored? The novelty and insight and outfit ideas? It was all gone, and in its place was a stream of stale aphorisms and diet tips. At first I thought, “It’s not you. It’s me.” But now, I’m not so sure.
For a while, I thought I had just outgrown women’s magazines. After all, I’ve been reading them for close to a decade — that’s a lot of beauty advice to accumulate in your long-term memory. There are only so many ways to revamp your closet, perfect your smokey eye and find the best jeans for you.
I thought that maybe my liberal arts education had made me skeptical of a world in which haircut guides and celebrity stylist advice rule. But the truth is, I’d still like to know which haircut is best for my face shape.
I’m smart, but I still like to read mindless things every once in a while.
I think I’d always known that women’s magazines were mostly silly and sponsor-driven, but at least they were entertaining. For me, reading a fresh issue of “Allure” from front to back was the equivalent of watching a Bravo show, or playing FIFA for someone else. Losing the ability to enjoy your guilty pleasure is a weird feeling.
But then I realized that maybe I wasn’t the problem. Maybe magazines — and women’s magazines in particular — really are becoming boring. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think print is dead — that argument is dead enough without me adding to it.
In fact, I’ve started cheating on “Elle” and “Vogue” with “GQ” and “Esquire” — and I’m ashamed to admit how much I like them. Once you get past the bikinis (so many bikinis, even in fall issues), the writing is wittier, the content is more dynamic and the curb appeal from the newsstand speaks for itself.
So how can women’s magazines get better? Lately I’ve been thinking that maybe the better question is, should they even try?
Along with my fix of men’s magazines, I fill the void with self-curated online material — blogs, websites and the online division of certain publications. I can just choose to click what I like on a page — and often, they’re more substantial pieces than what I’d find on magazine racks. With all that, I don’t know if there’s any room left for the traditional, monthly women’s publication.
I never used to understand people who read magazines and then threw them out. Each issue seemed so special to me — dog-eared because of this image or that article.
Now, I get it — nostalgia can keep you attached to something for a while, but eventually, we all find something new.
Rachel del Valle is a College senior from Newark, N.J. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @rachelsdelvalle. “Duly Noted” appears every Tuesday.