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There's more to new year than flabby resolutions

"It's not important to be defined/it's only important to use your time."

-- Ani Difranco

New Year's Eve -- a time for parties, Dick Clark, "It's A Wonderful Life," noisemakers, champagne, midnight kisses, optimism, renewal and personal resolve. Or, if you're like me, time for an inevitable existential crisis during which you find it necessary to call your whole being into question, eat nothing but Peanut M&Ms; and, in an act of truly pathetic desperation, waste $5 on a copy of Seventeen magazine.

Yes, I admit it, as New Year's Day approaches, I always find myself poring over articles like "10 Steps to a Cuter You" and "How to Rock the New Year With Style." I indulge myself in the idea that the writers of Seventeen, hip and "with it" as they are, must be able to instill new purpose into my listless soul.

But instead, they do me an even greater journalistic service -- they make me laugh.

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This January's issue imparts plenty of ridiculous advice on becoming the "new you" in 2003. Seventeen's proposed resolutions run the gamut from toning your upper arms, to protecting your hair against the horrible effects of central heating, to updating your wardrobe, to snagging the "hottie" you've been "crushing on." So much for existentialism -- I guess I should be worrying more about hair breakage.

Though I find it hard to believe that many girls lose sleep over their split ends, I can certainly understand the appeal of magazines like Seventeen. They prescribe to us certain ways of speaking, dressing and acting that will supposedly make us as beautiful and well-liked as the airbrushed models in their advertisements. They offer a quick fix for any identity crises we may be going through: Just suck it up and be like everyone else.

But "everyone else" is not Seventeen's ideal girl (or guy, either). We're all works in progress, uniquely individual. We don't all obsess over Justin Timberlake. And we don't all need or want to be told (by a staff comprised of mostly adults) what our goals and aspirations should be.

"The more amazingly interesting you become, the likelier it is you'll attract amazingly interesting guys," a staff writer explains, as if the only reason for caring about life is to make yourself a better candidate for Prince Charming.

Instead of empowering young women, Seventeen tells us we're inadequate. Instead of making us laugh or embrace feminism, it makes being a girl seem like way too much work.

So this year, I'm resolving to make my own resolutions, and hopefully I'll come up with something more challenging than reducing my arm flab. Meanwhile, you ask, should we all boycott Seventeen and burn our old teen mags? Well, nah. They'll always be good for a laugh when we need one.

Katie Assef is a junior at John Marshall High School. To respond to an opinion column, call 252-1111, category TEEN (8336); write Teen Beat, Post-Bulletin, P.O. Box 6118, Rochester, MN 55903-6118 or send e-mail teenbeat@postbulletin.com.

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