‘At last I feel confident!’ chirps Ellie Goulding on the front of this month’s Cosmo, leading me to conclude that she hasn’t been reading the magazine she so beautifully graces the cover of. If there’s one thing Cosmo ain’t gonna leave you with, it’s confidence.
‘Inside his sex brain! Find out exactly what he’s thinking!’ screams the first item on the front, with none of the sub-editors apparently having asked themselves the question ‘What in the name of all that is holy is a “sex brain”?’ No man I’ve ever had relations with has, to my knowledge, had such an organ. But then we all know male organs are Cosmo’s specialty.
Other scintillating items include ‘Hide partied-out skin: no-one need ever know’ (because looking a bit tired after not sleeping much is, of course, unforgivable) and the astonishingly flippant headline ‘I talked a murderer out of killing me’ (who needs the Met Police? Fuck hugging a hoodie when you can have a chat with a murderer instead – they’re sure to come round, and if they didn’t and now you’re dead, it’s because you weren’t persuasive enough).
This is also the issue in which Cosmo celebrates its annual Ultimate Women of the Year Awards – prizes for, as Louise Court tells us in her editor’s letter, “the kind of women who would, by example, help you be the sort of woman you’d be proud to be.” Because of course, we’re all utterly ashamed of the women we are now, and need someone else to set us an example. My own current failings, judging by the awards, include not being an actress, not wearing interesting enough clothes and not appearing on TV. While the awards do do a great job of celebrating awesome campaigners like Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates and anti-‘honour killings’ campaigner Sarbjit Athwal, Scarlett Johansson’s bio appears solely to consist of ‘she has appeared in a lot films’, plus a contender for the Ultimate Vacuous Quote: “The past few years have been such a wonderful period of opportunity and growth for me in this industry that I’ve grown up in. I am very honoured to be receiving this award from Cosmopolitan and hope that I can fulfil this role, not just this year but for many years to come!” Great. That’s inspiration right there, that is.
This month’s ‘reader’s dilemma’, meanwhile, really deals with the big issues. It’s submitted by someone with the inexplicable moniker ‘Bowl of Oranges’, who questions whether she should worry that she hasn’t argued with her boyfriend for a year. (Next month: ‘Should I worry that sometimes in winter, I feel a bit cold?’) Helpfully contradictory answers (‘I think arguing occasionally is healthy’ / ‘I don’t think arguing is healthy’) are given by people with names like Whiskyski and MoogleBear (I’ll put it out there: I’m not 100% sure they exist), while no-one mentions the one bit of the letter that actually is quite concerning (apart from the fact that it was ever written in the first place): ‘If I get annoyed, he laughs and calms me down.’ You get upset and your boyfriend responds with amusement? Love, *that*’s your problem – or it would be anywhere other than in Cosmoland, where we’re all feisty, funny, fun fearless females who never forget that it’s really important never to get annoyed with your man, (ESPECIALLY if he’s slept with a stripper on a stag weekend – boys will be boys, after all).
The inspirational quote on the next page is from Reese Witherspoon – ‘There’s no bad consequence to loving fully. You always gain by giving love’ – unless you’re Anne Boleyn, of course. I flick past it, natch. After full-body-swerving a feature containing pictures of myriad hideously expensive sparkly accessories (£1,745 for a pair of shoes, anyone?), I find myself on Vagenda favourite the Men Vs Fashion page. It’s proud claim that ‘we don’t dress for men, thank God!’ entirely undermined by its very existence, this is the page that asks three apparently ordinary men what they think of various celebrity outfits. George, 23, ‘likes women who are fashionable but not obsessed with the latest trends’ – so I’m not sure he knows what ‘fashionable’ means – while Richard, 30, delivers the bizarre declamation that ‘I’d love women to dress exactly like me!’. However, given that he thinks Rita Ora is ‘way OTT’ in a tartan suit and says he is ‘not a fan’ of trouser-skirts, I rather suspect that cross-dressing women might not please him after all.
Fashion director Shelly Vella doesn’t agree with him on the trouser-skirt: “If anyone can get away with this number it’s Jennifer [Lawrence], with her va-va-voom body and clear confidence.” Hear that, you bunch of munters out there? No way can you ‘get away’ with this look (even though it appears to be nothing more controversial than a pair of very wide-legged trousers, which is, as anyone who lived through the nineties will tell you, technically NOT a trouserskirt, this is
) if you don’t have Jennifer Lawrence’s body or lack confidence in any way (a near-inevitability after constantly being told by Cosmo that you’re not as attractive as the celebrity of the moment). Stick to jumpers and jeans, there’s a good Cosmo girl now.
Just in case, while taking a break from feeling bad about your lack of va-va-voom body, you had the audacity to look forward to the festive season, Cosmo has provided a handy guide to ‘defusing New Year’s Eve drama’, as apparently ‘New Year’s Eve can bring out the worst in everybody’. Forget war or natural disasters; in a Cosmo girl’s world things really are at their worst on December 31. But you don’t need to worry about such permanently traumatising experiences as being chatted up by a ‘lechy’ guy, or heaven forbid, being denied entry to a nightclub (nooooo!), thanks to such profound tips as ‘don’t give the guy your number’ (no shit, Sherlock), ‘don’t be aggressive with bouncers’ (cos that’s always going to end well) or, if your best friend’s being bossy over arrangements, ‘Say that she’s being OTT telling people what to do. Gently hold her hand and explain that it’s important that everybody’s opinions are considered.’ Personally, not only could I never be so patronising and insensitive to my best friend by GENTLY HOLDING HER HAND (lol), but if I ever were, she’d remind me of the time I embarrassed myself in the men’s toilets on the school French exchange when I was 16 and that would be that.
Then we have the fascinating ‘Inside Men’s Minds’ section, needed when you’re a Cosmo girl because men are, like, a foreign species, and also because if you spend all your time reading this shit it’s not surprising that your brain is addled to the point where you can’t think properly anymore. First we have a feature called ‘Bradley Cooper’s love life in numbers’, in which we learn that, earth-shatteringly, he’s dated BOTH brunettes and blondes (BUT WHAT ABOUT THE GINGERS?) and is, like, really profound: “I think a relationship works best when there’s a level of harmony that goes beyond physical attraction.” So a long-term relationship can’t be just a shag-fest and needs to be based on, like, personality and stuff? The deepness is deep with this one. B-Coop (as I know call him) is then followed by a ’20 men who’ve been cheated upon’ feature, in which men describe the experience of being cheated on with sentences like ‘Being cheated on was not a nice experience’ and ‘Being cheated on made me feel inadequate’. It’s a revelation.
Any sense of having finally seen the light about What’s Really Inside Men’s Minds is, however, swiftly quashed by a piece by Jimmy McGhie, a stand-up comedian (at least according to his website). Not only did I not laugh once at his piece, I didn’t understand what he was trying to say beyond the fact that he went to a wedding hoping to pull and, er, didn’t. Sadly, I think Jimmy’s stinky chat might have made his way onto the page as well, because if it truly reflects his conversational abilities then frankly it’s a no-go.
After flicking through some pictures of more horrifically expensive consumer items, though this time they’re clothes (£2,500 for a jacket? That’s FIVE MONTHS’ RENT! And it looks a bit like a curtain), we’re onto the How Do I Wear? section. This is for people who are too stupid to dress themselves, obvs. This month it’s ‘How Do I Wear Party Sequins?’ Sadly, the answer isn’t as simple as ‘By putting on some clothes that have sequins on them innit’ just doesn’t cut it; Cosmo girls need perspicacious tips like ‘A skirt is a great alternative to a party dress’ (how about a swimsuit?) and ‘don’t go too oversized’ (buy clothes that fit? I’d never thought of that.) The ‘Catwalk To Curvy’ page (over a size 10? Don’t worry! You can STILL WEAR CLOTHES) makes a similarly complicated business out of buying boots. Writer Laura Puddy tells us, ‘The same questions crop up: can I wear knee-high boots when I have curvy calves? Can I try an over-the-knee style?’ I can’t believe that people really write in with these questions, or that the answer isn’t ‘IF YOU HAVE LEGS AND FEET, THEN YOU CAN WEAR BOOTS,’ but hey, this is Cosmo.
By now my lust for life, never mind any man, is dead in the water, but since another essential part of being a Cosmo girl is having an unstoppable sex life, I force myself to read on into the Sex section. First fact: ‘Kinky between the sheets? Studies have shown that you might be psychologically healthier than those who opt for vanilla sex.’ That’s right: get the handcuffs out or you’ll be consumed by depression faster than you can say ‘but what if he loses the key?’ However, it’s all a bit confusing because on the next page we’re warned that ‘coming on like a porn queen’ could ‘scare off’ a new man. So it’s your choice, ladies: swing from the chandeliers and you could save your sanity, but you’ll also die a cat lady. And, again, aren’t we lucky to have Cosmo to tell us how to have sex with a new person because our silly lady brains have forgotten what goes where?
THIS IS THE BEST BIT: apparently ‘if sex is disappointing the first time around, it’s most likely just a sign that he likes you’. I’m struggling to see this one, tbh, and I’m also laughing my ass off, because, just in case you couldn’t tell the difference between fiction and reality and were labouring under the illusion that sex should be *exactly* like a porn film, Cosmo has some words of comfort. ‘All the men we grilled say all-out porn-style antics are a little intimidating’. Intimidating the hell out of all prospective sexual partners vs mental illness: it’s your monthly Sophie’s Choice, ladies.
Just when you were maybe thinking that, hey, perhaps it was all okay and you could relax and be yourself, there’s a helpful list from Andrew, 33, telling us exactly what we should and shouldn’t do in bed. Which is kissing he neck, duh.
Strangely, no-one on the problem page is asking whether it’s actually all right to kiss someone’s neck – questions include ‘Are one-night stands harmless?’, to which I would have thought the answer was ‘Probably, as long as you use a condom, are doing it because you want to and not for your self esteem, and don’t do it with David Cameron’. According to sex psychotherapist Rachel Morris, however, they’re no good for comfort eaters (so most of us, then), because ‘you’re especially vulnerable to picking up new and dangerous impulses’. So don’t have meaningless sex because it will make you feel bad about yourself and don’t comfort eat chocolate because it will make you feel bad about yourself … and presumably don’t comfort eat *while* having meaningless sex cos it will make you feel like the worst person in the world. ESPECIALLY if you’re reading Cosmo at the same time, you big vanilla sex-having moose.
Last but by no means least, we come to ‘Are you on the same sex page?’, a handy test (no, really) to see if you and your boyfriend are sexually compatible. Because RATHER THAN JUST ASKING EACH OTHER WHAT YOU WANT, which would be too simple, you can each go through Cosmo’s list of ‘controversial’ sexual activities (for ‘controversial’ read things like ‘having sex more than once a day’ or ‘giving oral sex’) and tick the ones you’re interested in. Obviously this is far more straightforward and far less cringeworthy than just having a conversation. 31 and 32 on the list are left blank, which gave me the urge to scrawl ‘Have an orgy with 63 other people’ and ‘Use a carrot’ in the space, and then put the magazine back in the shop.
And to help with contorting yourself into a position suitable for giving oral sex – if you’ve actually managed to agree on doing it – there’s a feature called ‘Nuke those glutes!’ a few pages later. I don’t really understand the title, but I think it’s to do with exercise because there are pictures of a woman with about 50 limbs wearing trainers while she twists herself into various physically impossible positions. I’m sure if I tried it I’d nuke some part of my body permanently, though it might not be my glutes.
At the bottom of this page Cosmo informs me that there might be E. coli in my handbag (cos I’m, like, so gross) and that I shouldn’t eat stray sweets I find in the bottom of it. The prospect of E. coli now looking rather inviting compared with reading any more Cosmo, so this was exactly what I did. Until next time, ladybros.