Sunday morning was a nice morning, if you were situated under the right bit of sky. I happened to be, and, in the spirit of making the most of the day, was subjected to breakfast in the garden. As croissant-crumb flying and paper flapping ensued, it became clear fairly quickly that the only things destined to actually make the most of a day like this were large wind turbines. Still, Vitamin D was pouring into the pores of selected lucky Britons, and, if you squinted carefully, life looked a little bit like The OC.
Things got even better when, peering past a mug-cum-paperweight and clinging onto my skirt, now a loyal servant to the God of Exhibitonism,, I read the Why We’re Watching column in the Observer Magazine. This featured Kitty Drake and Sadhbh O’Sullivan, the creators of Ladybeard, a fledgling feminist magazine currently fundraising on Kickstarter to bring out a first issue to “fight fire with fire”, offering a beautiful and interesting alternative to women’s lifestyle magazines currently found on the shelves.
I have read said women’s magazines, and their teenage equivalents, since I was relatively young. I liked the convivial atmosphere generated by Mizz, some curious friends and a packet of onion rings after school. The problem pages were dutifully dissected, along with the latest brace-wrenching-out-shining-adolescent-teeth delight of the “cringe section”. It became customary for us to refer to the endlessly mysterious and marginally gross opposite sex as whichever term was in, vogue with our Vogue of the time. The term “lads”, the favourite of Shout, was generally the most popular.
No doubt these magazines inflicted small amounts of psychological bruising to my delicate sensibilities. I don’t think I’d have been as aware of weight had I not devoured so many glossies bulging with pictures of women wearing shoes miraculously wider than every visible section of their leg. Nevertheless, I will always thank these mags for their provision of health, puberty and contraception advice. I don’t think the dawn of periods would have been quite as easy to navigate had not a Tampax-promotion-disguised-as-feature reached out a comforting hand. Similarly, given that sex education in girls’ schools seemed to be nothing more than a few shifty sessions in which it became clear that another one of your classmates’ cherries had popped, those helpful descriptions of contraception methods were a godsend.
Now, a little older, and less centred on finding instructive photographs of a curvy girl (someone just like me!) on the beach wearing her prescribed print tankini, I have longed for a magazine to pass around among my friends in the same way. Cosmopolitan was a friend for some time, until I realised that the crab, starfish and rocking cowboy were all basically the same position and I no longer needed to pay for new issues. This overkill really does extend to questionable places; after reading Cosmo’s advice to place a mushy banana, um, there, I was suddenly filled with the irrepressible urge to read Good Housekeeping at high speed, where bananas are used only with granola, breakfast yoghurt, or in the treatment of veruccas.
Elsewhere, I covet Stylist on a weekly basis, but as a non-London dweller, clicking on links on a website and duly sharing them on Facebook doesn’t have quite the excitement of that past onion ring daze. I am considering a relocation based on this principle, but would quite like something to flick through for the time being.
Ladybeard has similar drawbacks — still in its early stages, the production team are be investigating university towns in which the magazine could be distributed. Still, the first issue will be print only, which ensures that it has the right sort of allure: you can read it with wet hands in the bath, actually follow the recipe on the page without the fear of whipping cream splattering across a laptop and, best of all, you can physically swop it with your friends. Amazing. Swopping is far better than sharing on Facebook, no matter what the 21st century says. Hopefully at some stage, it will make it somewhere near me. And you, if you’re interested.
Thinking back, I liked teen magazines because they told me what to do. Growing up was a complex mission of trying to do the acceptable whilst elders glowered down and called it unacceptable. Numbered guides to leg waxing, eye brow shaping, and “lad”ensnaring offered a seductive glimpse of the adult world. Now supposedly adult(ish), I feel far more interested in breaking the rules than I really ever did in my teens. Sort of like Hermione Granger when she becomes rebellious after everybody else. I’d like to read pages of suggestion rather than instruction, and tousle with that great question: how to be a woman. Now if anyone wanted to provide an illustrated, step-by-step guide to that (complete with free gift), I would be immensely grateful.