I was on my own when navigating what being a teenager in the 70s looked like. Well, not exactly on my own. I had Seventeen magazine to guide me. It was my primer for hairstyles, makeup, and teenage fashion. I didn’t have an older sister to teach me how to fix my hair or apply mascara.
The ‘70s was the generation of cool. Cool was defined in television shows like the Monkees and The Partridge Family, and in the pages of the few teen magazines available. In those early days of adolescence, being a cool teenage girl meant wearing skirts a few inches above the knee, bell bottom jeans, and platform shoes. Cool was anything denim. It was the natural look with long hair, brown shades of eyeshadow, and a few sweeps of mascara.
What we didn’t want was to look like our parents. Moms wore knee-length dresses, low heeled pumps, and a scant amount of makeup. Not cool.
My mama’s style was never going to be mine. She chose comfort over fashion where I tried to combine the two—and still do. She had baby fine hair that barely sustained her weekly set from the beauty salon. My hair was thick and coarse and defied her ability to control it. Noxzema kept her skin clear and smooth but did nothing to help my oily complexion. I never saw Mama wear earrings or makeup; everything about her look was minimal. We were alike in spirit but nothing was the same about our preferences in fashion and beauty.
Change brought new styles of fashion and beauty, and the magazines were there to continue guiding my way. When I outgrew Seventeen magazine, Glamour took over with its hair and makeup tips and my favorite “Do’s & Don’ts” column. We had Farrah Fawcett bangs and “feathers” in the ‘70s; Dorothy Hamill’s bob in the ‘80s; and Jennifer Anniston’s haircut from “Friends” in the ‘90s.
I modeled my outward appearance on these go-to guides from my teen years through the early years of motherhood. My jeans were always the right wash, and my skirts were the right length.
What I couldn’t find was the confidence in which to wear me. I could wear the right clothes; my hair could be a fashionable cut. And sometimes that was enough to be the armor needed to cover my insecurities and fears.
Even today, I measure my insufficiencies rather than honoring who God made me. The sag at my jawline bothers me, and perhaps I wouldn’t be opposed to a little “tucking” if I had the resources.
Today’s cover models fool me with their natural looks. I’ve been tricked into patterning myself after them only to discover the moisturizer the ads tout aren’t miracle creams.
I’ve found a better pattern from which to cut my own cloth.
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