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Fashion Mags

From a young age, I have had an obsession with fashion magazines and the models that grace their pages. Obsessive, in my case, meant a closet full of magazines: Vogue, Elle, Bazaar, Allure, and W. Not only did I have every issue of each magazine since 1990; they were alphabetized and placed in chronological order in the back of my closet.

Fashion magazines have helped me grow in various ways since I was thirteen. My first substantial experience was on a warm September afternoon. I was sitting on the deck in my backyard, flipping through the October issue of Bazaar. Halfway through, I came across a spread of six of the fashion industry's (of that time) most beautiful women (Tatjana, Naomi, Christy, Linda, Elaine, and Cindy).

Flipping past the black and white photos of their naked bodies, I realized that fashion wasn't about selling clothes, as much as it was about selling the perfect image. Everything about these photos was planned. These women weren't just sitting there posing in the buff. Tatjana's hands were strategically placed over her breasts and the hairdresser probably worked on Linda's hair for hours to give her that bedroom hair. I realized it wasn't just about looking at pictures of pretty clothes anymore (like I previously thought), I was witnessing perfection, even if it was momentary perfection.

From that day on, fashion images became somewhat voyeuristic for me because I remember thinking that these models exposed themselves for the camera, but after being published, millions of people were seeing more than they would ever see of these women. Fashion made me aware of my womanhood (if a thirteen-year old can be called a woman) and my own sexuality. I was reading an article on the evolution of fashion ads and there was a picture of a Yves Saint Laurent ad from the late 1970's of two women wearing tuxedo pants and blazers. Underneath their jackets, their bare flesh was revealed. The one was wearing a top hat and the other had her hair slicked back. I remember thinking what a sexy picture that was. It had an androgynous motif and that picture alone more than anything else had awakened me to the fact that all people are sexual. It doesn't matter if you are half-naked, fully dressed, or in baggy pajamas, sex cannot be concealed.

During sophomore year study hall in high school, while the girls at my table were talking about the Barbizon scouts coming to our school, my partner-in-crime, Jolinda, and I were reading an article on the new models of 1993 (Kate, Kristen, Amber). "You guys are going to go, right?" asked Lisa the slut. We didn't answer, so she asked us again. Just because the librarian assigned your seats on our table doesn't mean we have to talk to you, I thought to myself. "What are you two? Lesbians? You're always staring at those women's magazines like you guys know anything about fashion," the slut said to us. "I guess Vogue isn't as sophisticated enough like your Seventeen," Jolinda answered her. "Trish and I already know you can't get pregnant off a toilet seat or from making out, you stupid *****!"

My obsession with fashion magazines has evolved into a pastime. When I want to relax, I sit back and read a magazine. Every now and then I will be so impressed by a photograph or a model that I will find use for it somewhere in my life. Like when I was writing a short story for my Fiction class. I had the entire story mapped out in my head. The only thing that was missing was the face of my dominatrix main character. Before having her face in my head, I couldn't begin my story. Then, as I was perusing an issue of Allure, I came across a eight-page spread of Chandra North. Her face, her eyes, her lips spoke to me. I had found the face for my dominatrix. After two weeks, my story was complete. If I had not been so impressed by this model's face, I probably never would have written such a complete story.

Sometimes I pine for those days when fashion was my obsession rather than just a pastime. Last April, after much thought, I decided it was time to dispose of all my magazines. I felt extremely uneasy about dumping them, so I went through and ripped out my favorite pictures. I came across a photo of Marcus Schenkenburg's perfectly sculpted naked body with a pair of jeans clutched tightly in his hand. When I was looking at this picture, I was momentarily transported to the girls' locker room at my high school. The stink of cheap perfume from the lockers two rows down slowly making its way towards me. Jolinda and I were talking about this and other Calvin Klein ads, when Kristen and Mara, asked to see the ad. They both seemed perplexed and the one asked, "How can this be an ad for jeans?" Jolinda and I looked at each other and laughed. We didn't know how to answer such a stupid question.

I called her that night and we laughed about it like we were fifteen again. And then, it hit me; I didn't want to throw these piles of paper away because I was frightened that I would be throwing away a large part of my teen years. Hours later, when I couldn't sleep, I had somewhat of a revelation: just because I was throwing these magazines away, didn't mean that I would forget the person I used to be.

February 1999

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