Books: Sloane ranger

Warning: reading this book may result in serious pony-buying contemplation. Not the Polo Ralph Lauren type, though. Oh, no. I'm talking My Little Ponies. Don't blame me if you wind up in Kmart toying with the idea of spending $9.95 on said plastic Pony. After deliberating between Stardust, Sweetie Belle, Starsong, Rainbow Dash and Star Catcher (you're erring on the side of Sweetie Belle) and reasoning that you are a child of the 80s, making owning a My Little Pony practically a birthright (okay, maybe when you were 10 – but now you have money! And you can have any Pony you want!), you'll glance at the 'For ages 3 and up' recommendation on the packaging and feel a twinge of embarrassment. What are you doing here? What on earth is possessing you – other than perhaps some suppressed desire to reconnect with your childhood self and a time when things were safe and life was simple – to consider adorning your office space with a Pony?

Sloane Crosley's book of essays I Was Told There'd Be Cake, that's what.

You see, Crosley has a drawer full of toy ponies (in her kitchen), the result of a quip she frequently inserts into everyday speech ("Coffee, tea, a pony?"), which morphed into her standard dating line: "I have something for you," a guy will say on our first date. "Is it a pony?" No. It's usually a movie ticket or his cell phone number or a slobbery tongue kiss. But on our second date, if I ask again, I'm pretty sure I'm getting a pony. And this the pony drawer came to be. It's uncomfortable to admit, but almost every guy I have ever dated has unwittingly made a contribution to the stable."

It's this kind of quirkiness, along with poetic glimpses into her life as a New Yorker/publicist's assistant/museum volunteer/part-time vegetarian/maker of chocolate dessert tarts/girlfriend of a pot smoker/daughter of semi-detached parents/child of the 80s/Jewish girl on Christian camp, that makes her work so endearing and entertaining. She's like a literary Woody Allen trapped in the body of a pretty 29-year-old from the monied side of the block (Westchester, to be precise). The willing display of her flaws (she admits to being insufferably selfish), her social failings, the way her generally good intentions go astray, her vulnerable-girl-child-beneath-smart-girl-exterior quality and her cynical, though sometimes romantic, take on New York life make her extremely likeable as a writer.

I particularly enjoyed 'The Ursula Cookie', her essay on the book publishing boss who turned nasty and methodically depleted her self-esteem to the point where everyday was miserable: "Some people do yoga in the morning; Ursula gave looks so stern I believe she burned calories creating them... I was so petrified of messing up that the fear blocked all my memory pores. It didn't take long for me to become precisely what she thought I was: a lousy assistant." After presenting Ursula with a good-will cookie made in her likeness ("Later I found out that she gave it to her daughter, who ate the whole thing and spontaneously threw up from all the sweetness. After that, Ursula and I stopped speaking altogether."), the chapter concludes with Crosley resigning on the day after 9/11... and you sighing with relief.

All the pop cultural references (The Blair Witch Project; How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days; Ghostbusters; Twin Peaks; Care Bears; Jurassic Park; Belinda Carlisle; Starburst; Crocodile Dundee) will please 80s babies, any girl who's suffered for a bride will love 'You on a stick', and you'll likely get a laugh out of 'Smell This' (think poo on the carpet), while Aussie readers will get an added kick from 'Bastard Out Of Westchester', where she recalls the time when her family was planning to move to Sydney (they didn't):

"I wanted to be an Australian as soon as humanly possible. I went on a self-designed immersion program(me). I started watching tapes of post-Kylie Minogue/pre-Natalie Imbruglia Neighbours, an Australian soap opera popular in the UK for its mind-numbing cliffhanger plots... This sugar-and-spice programming was in peculiar contrast to Australian Vogue, which boasted bare breasts both in the articles and the advertisements. Not to mention the Australian teen magazines. Thanks to a publication called Girlfriend, I know what "pashing" is. Girlfriend was incredibly informative. I found my new Australian best friends to be fun loving, occasionally nude, perpetually tan, devilishly into neon pink thongs, and frank about yeast infections. They were intimidatingly self-actualized."

I wonder what she will think of Kath & Kim?

Order I Was Told There'd Be Cake online at Order your My Little Pony at

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel (and a My Little Pony)

Girl Talk: Media body obsession

Watching Home and Away with my five-year-old niece this past week, I found myself having to answer a question about 'why the girl is putting food in her bin', as one of the characters (Melody) has an eating disorder (amongst a slew of other psychological problems ostensibly caused by her control-freak mother). Oi vey. Just prior to that episode airing, there was also a story on Today Tonight about celebrity weight-loss techniques (diets are a favoured TT topic, as is cosmetic surgery, supermarket savings and penny-pinching pensioners).

In addition, the new 90210 and its cast of skinny-minis (photographed eating this past week – great PR idea!), Rachel Zoe's new TV show (which clearly shows how undernourishing one's body can cause anxiety issues), Keira Knightley's recent red-carpet appearances and the international fashion shows have put size-0 right back on the agenda, while celebrity mums continue to flaunt their impossibly thin post-natal figures, much to the delight of the gossip mags and disdain of columnist (and new mum) Mia Freedman. Britney's new body (see Who magazine's 'Back In the Zone') also continues to attract press, as do Madonna and Gwyneth for their grueling daily exercise regimes.

The latest issue of gossip mag NW bears the cover lines: 'YOU'RE TOO FAT FOR TV' and 'Jessica Alba's Post-Baby Body', while Famous gives us: 'Celebs' True Weights Exposed!', a four-page feature story that tells us how much Victoria Beckham, Jessica Alba, Taylor Momsen, Jennifer Aniston, Miranda Kerr, Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Britney and Eva Longoria weigh (yes, I'm sure these scales stats have been verified – not), so we can measure ourselves up against them (compare and despair, ladies!).

Over the weekend, body image and its related issues scored a slew of press:
  • "Pre-schoolers as young as four are worried about their bodies – and mother and teachers are to blame," reported Claire Weaver in The Sunday Telegraph. An Australian study published in the European Eating Disorders Review journal says that parents and teachers are unintentionally planting "dangerous ideals about body image into young minds." The research conducted by Professor Marita McCabe of Deakin University found that mothers would cut down a daughter's diet if she were to put on weight, while half the mothers surveyed reported their daughters making comments about body size (those with older sisters were more affected).
  • Vogue Australia editor Kirstie Clements wrote a column for The Sunday Telegraph discussing the dichotomy between underweight models and Australia's obesity epidemic. She writes: "[Queensland Premier Anna Bligh] has introduced a million-dollar incentive for the town that comes up with a solution to combat obesity... On the other end of the scale, we have the issue of underweight models and, as much as the industry tries to make us believe that they are all normal, healthy girls who eat like horses, many are not." Clements says designer sample sizes demand that models adhere to super-skinny standards, while agencies are often neglectful of their girls' health. "There is a very big difference between being a glowing Miranda Kerr or Jennifer Hawkins and some of the skeletal girls you see on the catwalks of Milan or Paris," says Clements, who was happy to see healthier looking models in NYC and food backstage.
  • In response to a Newspoll survey commissioned by Dove, which found that fewer than one in six girls aged 10-14 think they look "good", Julie Thomson of The Butterfly Foundation, which runs the BodyThink program in schools, says it's important for children to be educated in media literacy, particularly about the way in which images are manipulated: "We know that kids are not going to stop reading magazines and watching telly. That is part of pop culture and growing up." In relation to the negative impact of watching shows like Make Me a Supermodel, Thomson says: "There are certainly some young people that may watch those programs and they could contribute to making them feel inadequate and upset about their appearance because they fell as if they cannot match up." (Source: The Sun-Herald)
  • An interesting juxtaposition of agendas in The Sun-Herald's 'S' section this past weekend. While Jonathan Pease (style director on Australia's Next Top Model and 'executive ideas director' for Naked Communications) trumpets the return of Erica Packer and her svelte post-baby figure to the social scene ("I had to check the hospital records to confirm that Erica actually did have baby Indigo only two months ago because all signs of post-baby weight seem to have evaporated. Packer's never looked better..."), Mia Freedman (who's just had her third child) lets loose on celebrity mums, and their gossip mag accomplices, a page over for the impossible standards they set for your average lactating new mum:
"I have not blitzed my baby weight. And apparently, this makes me different to every celebrity mother who has ever drawn breath. That's what the magazines shriek at me week after week and I hate them for it... Somehow, famous women and the mags that chronicle their bodies have turned post-partum weight loss into a spectator sport. And along the way they've recalibrated our idea of What A New Mother Looks Like, one pair of tiny white jeans and one triathlon at a time. Well done! Society now has a totally warped perception of how a female body should look after giving birth."

Read Mia's hilarious-because-it's-true column here.

As someone who's personally suffered from disorderly eating issues (in part fuelled by the over-consumption of magazines – a girl suffers for her art), I find this persistent focus on body image unsettling. Yes, it's good we're talking about it. Like depression, which was once a taboo social topic, eating disorders – whether they be anorexia, bulimia, overeating, anorexia athletica or orthorexia – should be discussed (in the right environment – gossip mags add no value to the debate), but is all this coverage having the negative effect of legitimising and normalising warped eating and exercising behaviours, as well as super-slim physiques? And what effect does this filter-down effect have on young girls, like my five-year-old niece?

Obviously, as Mia also suggests, we choose to consume media – I don't have to buy the gossip mags or fashion magazines or tune into Today Tonight or 90210. And a woman of a certain age and intellect must certainly derive her sense of self from other inner stores, making her immune to the whims of a media obsessed with bodies. Surely.

It's typically a combination of factors which leads a woman down the wrong mental path (for model Imogen Bailey, it was her modelling career, an unfaithful boyfriend and being surrounded by other anorexics which caused her anorexia) but constant reinforcement of certain media images (Kate Moss in her skinny jeans; models backstage with collar bones on display; Britney's slimmed down physique; Jessica Alba in a white bikini just weeks after giving birth) has to take a toll.

While there is much good being done to equip young women with media literacy skills, through programs like BodyThink, there seems to be no media, or magazine, 'safehouse' where they can go for positive reinforcement (at a stretch, I'd say Frankie magazine is doing good things in this department, by refusing to cover health/nutrition/diet, though the models used in fashion shoots are often thin).

I truly believe that if we were to switch off the media machine (or, at least, edit our 'diet' of magazines, blogs and TV shows down to those which don't deflate our self-esteem), and take refuge in a good book or long walk in the park, we'd all feel much more contented with the bodies we have and people we were created to be. But will this vicious cycle of media-instigated self-flaggelation come to an end? How many models will perish before the fashion industry deems sub-zero models are 'out'? How many young women will rigidly follow the personality-sapping diet and exercise regimes recommended by magazines or restrict their food intake to look like Rachel Zoe before we say 'enough's enough!'?

Imagine a world where media laws were enforced to protect the interests of women – where publishing trashy celebrity diet stories and pictures of the uber-thin became the equivalent of smoking in a restaurant or drink driving. Or where discussing the weight of a female celebrity/co-worker/family member was tainted with the same pariah stick as admitting you refuse to recycle/vote/shower. Where women were celebrated more for their achievements and contributions – at work and home – than their ability to drop weight. I'd buy a first-class ticket.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Mags: Madison's me-me-me thrisis

One moment Madison is giving me an existential heart attack, the next I’m having an epiphany or crushing on George Clooney and cute spring fashion. What a mercurial reflection on womanhood this magazine weaves!

The cover… Anne Hathaway is an interesting cover proposition, which makes more sense when you consider that she is the face of Lancome’s new fragrance, Magnifique – advertised inside! In fact, it’s Madison’s beauty director, Stephanie Darling, who is sent to interview the starlet for the four-page cover story, which appears in the beauty section and covers such territory as: ‘what was your first fragrance?’ (Love’s Baby Soft by Dana), ‘who do you think the fragrance will appeal to?’ (women and men folk) and ‘what beauty products would you want on a desert island?’ (“anything with SPF60… a self-tanner… Smith’s Rosebud Salve”).

I know she is everywhere right now (she looks le smoking hot on the cover of Entertainment Weekly), thanks in part to her film releases but mostly because of her ex-boyfriend, but her face to me is quite generic: as in, who is this pretty ‘smart’ girl-next-door? She could be Sandra Bullock or Emmy Rossum or Hilary Swank or Jennifer Garner or even Liv Tyler – a close-up shot like this does little to distinguish the brunette beauty from her contemporaries. She is a gorgeous, articulate girl, respectable role model and has mastered the art of self-deprecation (the antithesis of Paris Hilton), yet she still fails to elicit any more than a passing interest in me (and this is the star of The Devil Wears Prada – sacrilege!).

The cover colours are also a little autumnal for my liking – hello, spring has sprung! Anne’s photograph was taken by the same photographer (Craig McDean) who shot Rachel Weisz (another brunette Anne-a-like!) for October US Vogue.

The ed. says… Paula opens up about her ‘thrisis’ (i.e. the 30-something crisis referred to on the cover), a neologism created to describe the existential dilemmas of women in their 30s who don’t qualify for a teen, quarter-life or mid-life. It seems everyone is experiencing some sort of crisis (why is it so – methinks we are lacking harmony: mind, body, spirit, while many women are also torn between traditional feminine roles and post-feminist expectations). Paula is always prepared to share her own experiences with readers – if this woman, a shining example of glossy perfectionism has experienced adversity, we can rest assured we are not alone in our angst: “I was trying to figure out how to be a mother, wife and editor without feeling utterly guilty about how badly I was handling each role,” she writes, “like a power board with too many plugs in it, I overloaded and one day the power just turned off.”

The story lineup:
• Male columnist Dan Rookwood is M.I.A this month. Perhaps his own existential crisis got the better of him?

• I am skipping over the trashy crime ‘who dunnit?’ report, ‘Dead Calm’ and ‘Nip-tuck Nuptials’ (wives as human billboards for their husband’s surgical work!), for the same reason I avoid the horror and porn sections in the DVD store. Life is too short. What value do these stories add to our lives? If only we could edit out the parts of magazines we don’t enjoy like TiVo.

• David Smiedt is a clever writer plugged into the Zeitgeist who always offers concise and well-rounded insights into socio-cultural trends. This month he tackles the ‘me’ generation in ‘It’s all about you: has the me culture gone too far?’. Of course, the answer is yes. As a blogger, I find I’m quite sensitive to stories that lump all web-based writers into the same narcissistic basket (I’m no Tila Tequila and use Facebook reluctantly), but found myself nodding in agreement with many of Smiedt’s assertions. He writes: “the desire to have one’s name and face recognised by the maximum number of people seems to drive a startlingly large proportion of the affluent Western world… those who not only believe their views are important enough to share with the world but also maintain that they will find an audience of eager consumers”.

In addition to this ego-centricity, I believe Aussies also have an inherent issue with queue jumpers, which is what many reality TV stars, YouTubers and bloggers are, essentially – like Paris Hilton, they are skipping the hard yards and gaining fame (or infamy) via Google searches or sheer luck (often blindingly unaware of the repercussions – there is no Going Public For Egotistic Dummies book). Forget futile attempts at having your book published, having your screenplay rejected, attending umpteen studio auditions, working your way up the media ranks or working the club/pub circuit in the hope that someone, somewhere will hear your music and offer you a record deal: fast-tracking your career trajectory via the internet express is where it’s at. Of course, lacking in credibility, experience and, arguably, brains, most will get their 15 minutes then disappear into obscurity when the next big thing comes along. In this culture, people are as disposable as nappies.

• Poor Jennifer Aniston is the poster girl for just about any Gen-X/female shortcoming we can think of. Former Cosmopolitan editor Sarah Wilson also delves into existentialism via ‘Help, I’m having a thrisis’, using her own experience as her starting point. Wilson writes: “I was diagnosed with a web of auto-immune conditions best summed up by my specialist, who said, ‘You’ve been driving at 130km an hour in first gear’… And so I quit my job and spent the next six months on a bumpy road to wellness… I’d never felt so free.’ Wilson believes the thrisis is unique to the women of Gen X – a generation that has led accelerated lives: “Speaking to many thirty-somethings for this story, I observed a generation hankering for these less complicated, more organic times.” There is hope in Wilson’s story – she has found women who have found a better life for themselves after reaching crisis point. If only we didn’t have to arrive at that place first! Flip over a page and you’ll find an Olay ad declaring “Fight what ages you most”. I’d suggest that would be angst!

• This month’s ‘Eye Candy’ is George Clooney, interviewed by A.J. Jacobs. Jacobs has gone for an interesting angle, surfing the internet with Clooney to get his opinion on what’s said about him (“a sort of This Is Your Virtual Life”). This technique lends itself to a candid profile piece – the ideal way to covey Clooney’s style of boy-humour on the page. First stop is Wikipedia, followed by IMDb, Facebook, celebrity sites, newspaper sites and The girlfriend checklist is particularly interesting – did he date Renee Zellweger? “A little bit”.

• Chloe Quigley and Daniel Pollock’s fashion and weather-obsessed alter ego Michi Girl and her new book lead into the Entertainment section (as it does in Vogue): “a distinctly Australian eye to the concept of personal style,” writes Madison. Wendy Squires writes ‘When crass was king’, in reference to the ‘Ozploitation’ genre of Australian cinema (think blood, violence and sex).

• The travel section gives us ‘Eat, Stay, Love’ via Bangkok, Stockholm and London, while psychologist Sarah Gibson is given a page to rant about her single-girl status in ‘Sex and the Pity’.

• You won’t be feeling self-pity after you read the three breast cancer stories in ‘What I know now…’. (Key to happiness = appreciate what you have right now; get some perspective!)

I have just has an existential epiphany – I narcissistically gravitate towards stories from which I can learn something about myself – even if gleaned through the experience of others! Typical Gen Y-er. I’m such a cliché!

The superficial:

Madison fashion is this month advocating prints, thick straps with square/asymmetrical necklines, playsuits, safari style, boho glamour, gladiator sandals, chic leisure wear, tie-dye pieces and flattering underwear.

• Chanel’s Susie Stenmark’s style is up for examination, as also in Vogue.

• The ‘dress for your shape’ workshop covers the pregnant, tall, petite, curvy and athletic to nice effect. All the women are, of course, in proportion, which makes them ideal 'models': no stumpy legs/big tums; huge boobs/stick legs; flat chest/enormous butt, etc.

• The main fashion spreads include ‘The Starlet’, featuring Pania Rose in ‘60s-style dresses and floral prints; ‘Great Lengths’ (a gorgeous tribute to the maxi dress featuring model Elyse Taylor); ‘Spring Essentials’ (I’m a fan of the Cheap Chic spreads and this one doesn’t disappoint – labels include Dotti, Don’t Ask Amanda, Ben Sherman, Lacoste, Sambag, Something, French Connection, Industries, Diva, One Teaspoon, Sportscraft, Nine West, Country Road, Gorman and Charlie Brown).

• The profile piece on model/TV host Kristy Hinze culminates in a breakout box on the production of the Sportscraft Kristy bag.

• Beauty gives us tanning moisturizers; fat-blasting, cellulite-destroying, thigh-toning products; ‘Can a tan make you look thinner?’; ‘High speed beauty’; and products for your glovebox.

• Loving the Beach Shack ‘Living’ spread, not least because it features Madison’s deputy art director, Carly Townsend, who is gorgeous and girl-crush worthy (she has worked her way from Total Girl to Shop Til You Drop to Madison).

• The issue rounds out with five celebrity-inspired ‘Shopping’ pages and Rachel Ward’s words of wisdom: “I don’t feel comfortable unless I am giving something back”.

The score:
Overall excitement factor: 6/7
Feel-good factor: 5
Eye-candy rating: 4

The stats:
Issue: October 2008
Book size: 292 pages
Cover price: $8.20
FOB ads: Chanel Chance, Dior Iconic mascara, Tiffany & Co., Calvin Klein Jeans, Covergirl Lash Blast, Clinique, Chanel Exceptionnel mascara, Dior Rouge...
Editor: Paula Joye
Publisher: ACP Magazines/PBL Media

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Mags: Girlfriend retro issue

What was Girlfriend talking about 15 years ago? GWAS takes a look inside a treasured back-issue to find out. Giggles, gasps and OMG-are-they-kiddings? ensue...

November 1993
Cover price: $3.20
Book size: 148 pages
Cover models: Krissy and Niki Taylor. You could pretty much bet on one of the Taylor sisters appearing on the cover of Girlfriend or Dolly in the early 90s. Like younger versions of supermodel Elle Macpherson, their smiley, "sunkissed" LA-girl looks were what Aussie girls aspired to. When Krissy died from a reported asthma attack in 1995, aged 17 (later her death was linked to cardiac disease), it was major news and majorly disappointing. I may have cried. Inside, there's a DPS feature dedicated to the girls with a bunch of black and white beach snaps. They are too beautiful. No wonder I felt so inadequate as a teen!

Cover lines: 'Cossies that make you look slim' and 'Stars who starve themselves': in addition to Taylor sister perfection, the message is clear and simple: thin + beautiful is in.

Of note:
  • In the tradition of Sassy, the features writers tend to use their own life experience (eg. "When I was in Yera 10 I had to move to a new school...") to create relationship and understanding with the reader. This doesn't happen as much with features now – the editor blogs (fash, ent., beauty), reader blogs and columns tend to be the reserve for the first-person, while features use second or third, giving them a more credible, if clinical, air. That said, teen writers would be remiss to use an "all-knowing" voice – young people are far too cynical to fall for that! A trend across the magazine spectrum these days, particularly in women's mags, sees writers using a mix of first and third person voices.
  • No sealed section: the 'Body Clinic' and 'Love & Life' pages are open for all to read. No Q&As for family or friend issues, as there are now – plus, no Michael Carr-Gregg (who is a genius – Dr. Phil ain't got nothing on MCG).
  • There are two fiction pieces – one being a column by 'C.C. O'Brien', who has decided to throw her first dinner party.
The ed. says: Kathryn Brown is "suffering Beverly Hills withdrawl symptoms... life isn't the same without Luke and Jason."

Celeb roll call: The 'Famous Faces' section gives us Edward Furlong, Marky Mark, Jeremy Jordan, Kate Moss and Michael Hutchence, while Christian Slater, Sandra Bernhard and Joey Lawrence make the 'Global Gossip' cut.

Regular pages: How Embarrassment (it never fails to amuse); This Month (we learn about Supermodel TV and casting love spells); in 'How to...' we're shown how to make a candle and a cool drink; Earth Alert – Eco Update (we cared about the environment back then, too – then it fell of the radar!); the 'This month's models' column profiles, you guessed it, the models featured in this issue (they have personalities and interests, you know); Horoscopes and Dream Doctor precede 'Global Gossip', a DPS of entertainment news ("Recently Sara Gilbert, who plays Darlene Connor on Roseanne, announced she was leaving the comedy series which is based in LA to attend Yale University in Connecticut"; "America's biggest heartthrob is Joey Lawrence who appears in the TV soap Blossom"; "Alex Demitriades and Melissa Tkautz were caught having a snog-up in a Sydney nightclub"), and the issue rounds off with 'Awkward Moments', a comic page.

Major features:
  • 'How to get that boy to notice you' (writer Ally Oliver imparts her first-hand knowledge of boy attraction tactics - don't avoid him, flirt, be confident, get him alone, be bold, make him laugh and send him a mystery gift). There's a positive message about not changing yourself to get his attention and having something to say.
  • In 'Is shyness ruining your life?', writer Ella McIntyre relates her own shy-girl behaviour before offering up her best advice via 'The art of conversation', 'How to make yourself speak out' and '8 ways to beat shyness'.
  • 'Do you have to be thin to be famous?' gives us a bunch of celebrity before-and-after shots (Dannii Minogue, Madonna, Tracey Gold, Roseanne Arnold, Demi Moore, Melissa Tkautz, Cindy Crawford), with commentary about their weight loss ("how the stars keep their wobbly bits under control"), which is rather scary, as it gets quite specific:
"Tracey started struggling with anorexia when she was cast as Carol Seaver is the sitcom Growing Pains. The actress starved herself from 60kg down to less than 40kg after a casting agent told her she'd never get work unless she lost weight"; and "After giving birth to two children, Demi felt her fleshy frame was hindering her movie career. Funnily enough, after she hired a personal trainer she was immediately cast in Ghost and her career has gone from strength to strength ever since."

Essentially, for all the stars featured, their weight loss has been equated with success. What kind of message is this to be sending girls? The introductory editorial reads: "If you listen to the stars talking about their careers, it's always divided into two distinct sections – before they met their personal trainer and chef and after... when they won an Academy Award. Annoying, isn't it?". Yes, annoying, isn't it? This would never fly on the pages of GF now.

Fashion & Beauty: 'Beauty Bazaar' gives us 'supermodel secrets' (i.e. use this product and look like Helena/Niki/Naomi/Claudia/Cindy); Hair Buzz gives us the lowdown on Goldwell's Design Curl perming product; the 'House of Style' page starring Jennie Garth is sponsored by Sportsgirl (a store that teens still love but is marketed to older girls); 'White Heat' is the first fashion spread - think crochet, cheese cloth, shell necklaces, lace and white denim shorts. Hot!; a random page of 'Bargain Buys' gives us fashion priced from $10 to $72; the 'Style Council' page uses illustrations, rather than photos of real girls, to show us which swimsuits to choose to flatter our body shapes (big boobs; no waist and tummy bulges; small boobs; petite; too skinny; pear shape).

The 'Formal Special' contains a fashion spread called 'Enchanted Evening' – think long, floral frocks, dresses in shades of emerald and burgundy, ugly shoes word with sheer black tights and chokers (ew!) – a beauty story on the art of subtle makeup application, 'Late night locks', 'More dash than cash' (cheap dresses by Johnny Dexter, Room Two, PTO and Dangerfield) and another fashion spread pairing Nathan Harvey with models (clearly the male model is where it's at).

Health: We're given info on breast checks, fresh juices and cystitis and a 'Body Clinic' page (have I got genital warts? could I get breast cancer? I make myself sick...). There's a sport and fitness DPS called 'Good Sports' (how the Girlfriend team stay in shape) and a quiz which asks, 'Do you know enough about sex?'.

Boys & Entertainment: Nathan Harvey is on almost every page (a friend of my step-bros, I know he's now working at Sea World on the Gold Coast); Kelly Slater rates a few mentions; Keanu Reeves scores a DPS; 'male supermodels' get a four-page spread; music gives us Kim Wilde ("That pout! Those hits!), Pet Shop Boys, Kris Kross (jump, jump!), Ugly Kid Joe and Four Non Blondes. There's an ad for the Janet Jackson film Poetic Justice - and a film review; and a box on 'stars and their bad habits' (Tom Crusie = miming to songs; Sharon Stone = wearing no knickers). There's an interview with a guy named Justin King, who was a Girlfriend model but has his own band, Chill Factor. 'Loud Americans' profiles Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Rage Against the Machine (learn all the facts about your fave band!).

Advertisers: Coca-Cola, Yardley Oatmeal skin products (modelled by the band Girlfriend!), Bodypaint, Jenkins shoes, Hound Dog, Andrea hair removal products, Voodoo Dolls, Nair, Schwarzkopf Napro LIVE, Carefree...

There's not a lot of girl-empowerment going on between these pages, but there are a whole bunch of models, skinny celebrities and ads featuring bikini models. There's more interest in male celebrities than female celebs (who are gossiped about), with no feature stories devoted to girls on TV/film, though there are, of course, those two pages of the Taylor sisters ("the luckiest schoolgirls in the world"). Not a lot of looks/body/aspiration diversity going on here – even the staffers are trying to lose weight for summer in the health feature. I feel bad for my thirteen-year-old self (and worse still for the pimple-faced, frizzy-haired, braces-wearing, puppy-fat-cushioned 15-year-old she became!).

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Mags: Happy birthday, Girlfriend!

My love affair with Girlfriend magazine started when I was 13, culminating in three years of editorial service in my 20s. And while other magazines of the teen/young adult's genre (Sassy, Jane, Chik, ELLEGirl – sob) have met unfortunate fates, languishing in Glossy Heaven for ever more, the GF brand rocks on, edging ever close to Dolly in circulation but still playing the girl-next-door underdog.

So, I'm pleased to be celebrating 20 years of Girlfriend today by flicking through a new issue featuring former Home and Away actress Indiana Evans on the cover and giving props to an editorial team who are deeply passionate about all things pop culture, pink and teen.

I'll be back later with scans from my magazine archives – yes, I still have some of my original Girlfriends from the '90s!

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Pop: There goes the girlhood

Warning: I feel compelled to rant. My concern? We don't seem to be making any progress in terms of women's representations in the pop culture sphere. In fact, I think things are getting worse. Any young girl watching Make Me a Supermodel, tuning into MTV or glimpsing the covers in a newsagent would be forgiven for thinking sexy, vacuous, skinny or angry are the ultimate aspiration.

Exhibit A: Blender magazine.

I admit, The Pussycat Dolls are an easy target. But posing in 'wife-beaters'? It's not even ironic. Below are some of the lyrics from the Dolls' new single, "When I Grow Up", which 12-year-old girls across the world are singing in classrooms right now, just as we chanted "Hit me, baby, one more time". They can also check out the Dolls, in all their busty glory, on Video Hits at 10am on a Saturday morning, right after watching the more wholesome Miley Cyrus and her daddy in Hannah Montana, who, admittedly, displays anger management issues in the film clip for her "7 Things" single, just as Pink does in "So What" – angry girls or sexy girls, I'm not sure what's worse? Take it away PCD...

"When I grow up; I wanna be famous;
I wanna be a star; I wanna be in movies
When I grow up; I wanna see the world
Drive nice cars; I wanna have groupies
When I grow up; Be on TV
People know me; Be on magazines
When I grow up; Fresh and clean
Number one chick when I step out on the scene..."

Exhibit B: Rolling Stone magazine.

Kate Perry reminds me of Zooey Deschanel. I saw her perform her single, "I Kissed A Girl", on So You Think You Can Dance. She's cute. But along with LiLo's foray into lesbianism via her 'friendship' with Sam Ronson, I do worry that curious 10-year-olds might start swapping Lip Smackers with their little friends to be cool like Kate.

The chorus from Kate Perry's pop song, "I kissed a girl"...

"I kissed a girl and I liked it;
The taste of her cherry chap stick;
I kissed a girl just to try it;
I hope my boyfriend don't mind it;
It felt so wrong; It felt so right
Don't mean I'm in love tonight
I kissed a girl and I liked it; I liked it"

Kissing pop stars, angry pop stars, power lesbians... bring back the Spice Girls, I say!

And don't even get me started on the disturbingly super-fugly Miss Piggy-inspired 'heelarious' baby heels!

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

P.S. Meanwhile, the boys aren't doing any better. Kanye West has reportedly been arrested for bashing up a photographer, while Aussie polly Matt Brown lost his job over a pants-dropping scandal. Great role modelling, guys! At least I can rest assured some things are right in the world - Anna Wintour has vehemently denied she will be featuring Britney Spears in Vogue.