Here’s a confession I need to make: I read Cosmopolitan. And by read, I don’t mean browsing through the pictures in the dentist’s waiting room, and shaking my head with mild disapproval. No, I actually go out of my way to spend a precious 2 pounds (or 3.50, depending on the gift) on an issue of Cosmo every single month. Embarassing, I know. I usually buy it along with New Statesman, just to save my face in front of the pretty guys working at WH Smith.
My first encounter with Cosmo came about when I was 11. I found a couple of them in my friend’s mom’s drawder (long story) and was instantly hooked. At that time, the magazine acted as my much-needed source of sex ed, one of the very few I had while growing up in conservative Poland, in a devout catholic family, and without a computer of my own. And it doubled as my wank material, alongside The Sims (installed on my brother’s PC) and Anne of Green Gables (don’t ask.)
As I grew up and gained access to more and more sources of information and titillation, I had to come up with new excuses for reading Cosmo. Advice, I thought. The glossy might be stupid, but at least it gave me some invaluable tips on how to throw legendary parties, when to wear to attract men, and, well, what to do with them when they’re already very closely attracted. Of course, I had no chance to use any of them back then, as a socially anxious junior high student who wore prescription glasses before hipsters were invented, but at least I would have all the knowledge to make me an expert as soon as I’m grown up and cool again.
Now I’m technically an adult, I’m over my fear of both people and contact lenses, I live alone, and there’s nothing to stop me from putting all that Cosmo theory into practice. But I quickly realized that all I’ve read throughout the years brought be no closer to knowing how to put on eyeliner, shine on parties and please a man (not to mention a woman – I’m something around a Kinsey 2.) I guess these things are like riding a bike: a minute of practice is worth more than hours of studying instructions.
My current excuse is market research, but I’m not even trying to believe in this one (just like the one about ice-cream helping you lose weight.) I could call Cosmopoltan my guilty pleasure, but it still wouldn’t explain why I devour it like a can of Ben & Jerry’s, while feeling sick after any contact with Grazia and Hello. My theory is this: I read Cosmo as an aspirational magazine.
It’s no news that most subscribers of Vogue can hardly afford a pair of gloves featured in it, not to mention a wardrobe full of it-bags and must-have dresses. They know it all too well, but keep reading the glossy to fuel their dreams. In a similar fashion, Cosmopolitan helps me imagine living a different lifestyle: you know, going on a wild shopping spree with BFFs before the massive party where I’m about to hook up with that new colleague who looks a bit like Ryan Gosling.
Sure, I could do that, if it weren’t for the facts that: a) I don’t have a pack of wealthy, fashion-crazed BFFS; b) I avoid cheap high street chains on principle, c) I don’t have colleagues, and the few male CSM students bear no resemblance to Ryan (not to mention most are gay) and d) I. Totally. Hate. Hangovers. And drunken one-night stands don’t seem to be my thing either.
So I keep playing the academic nerd who spends most evenings deconstructing Derrida and contemplating Constable. Except when a new issue of Cosmo comes out. Then, you can find me in my bed reading the wild party sex advice that I’m not planning to try out anytime soon. And I’m fine with that. Because no one ever got a hangover or an STD from reading and dreaming.