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My teens in magazines

More! magazine is closing. I’m mildly sad about this, as I imagine you are too, if you’re a youngish British woman whose sex ed was derived entirely from ‘Position of the Fortnight’. I haven’t read More! in years, but it’s what it represents: yet another nail in the coffin for magazine journalism, and a funeral pyre for lewdly-positioned Barbies.

Most of all, however, it’s a dark day for teenage girls – an Emoji-happy posse who won’t even know what they’re missing. Because speaking as someone whose adolescence was 90% magazine, I just don’t think the digital age can provide an equivalent.

I discovered magazines aged 11, the same year I started taping the Top 40. Prior to this point I’d been forced to read whatever I found round the house – my mum’s Good Housekeeping mostly, which endowed me with a precocious insight into middle-aged marital issues and electric mixers.

But when I started secondary school, magazines became a portal into a whole new way of life. I began with Shout and Mizz, all tutti-frutti colours and curlicue fonts and glossy pull-out posters of Billy from Neighbours. Soon I progressed to Sugar, Bliss and J17 (née Just), my abiding memory of which is the problem pages. It was from magazines that I learnt about DIY face masks, and from magazines that I learnt it was perfectly normal for Chloe, 15, from Loughborough, to have pimples on her bum.

The day a new issue arrived, I’d rush off to the newsagent’s, aglow with the promise of an Adam Rickitt exclusive and a free scrunchie. The tone was friendly yet knowing; frothy yet somewhat bossy. They weren’t exactly like an older sister – I was an older sister myself, and prodigiously uncool with it. But they were a gleeful composite of lifestyle guide and member’s club.

In The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf wrote eloquently about the pull of magazines. She pointed to the darker undertones – the ways that, in their collusion with advertisers, they undermine their supposed message of self-acceptance. But she also highlighted what makes that conflict so powerful: historically speaking, they were deeply interwoven with readers’ lives. They weren’t just something to flick through in a dentist’s waiting room. They were to be trusted implicitly, a sort of subtly didactic surrogate friend.

To be honest, I don’t think this logic applies once you get past the age of about 16 and master the art of the dismissive snort. But it was definitely the case for many of us browsing Bliss on the back of the school bus.

So I’m sad for today’s teenagers – sad that with their up-to-the-minute updates on Harry Styles’ hairstyles they won’t get to experience what we had. They won’t get the thrill of a new issue, or chance to make a collage out of back issues. They won’t even get the free scrunchies, although that one’s probably for the best.

More! magazine is no more, and the next one to fold is anyone’s guess. I might start a teen-oriented Twitter feed entitled ‘Less!’.


Categories: Media fails

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Abi Millar

British freelance journalist living in the Netherlands

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