Everyone read them. The magazines, I mean. All the girls at school had them. If I was lucky, a friend would let me borrow hers during lunch or maybe, if she was done reading it, give it to me. I’d cut out pictures of Jared Leto and tape them to my wall. I’d pore over every word, from the editor’s letter to the “What’s Your Guy-Snagging Style?” quiz. Thankfully, I always fell into the middle range, neither too forward nor too shy – but only because I cheated.

This is how I got my first copy, in fact. From a friend, I mean. It had already been cut up in a patchwork around Drew Barrymore’s curls and Leonardo DiCaprio’s chubby cheeks, but I didn’t care. I absorbed all the embarrassing period stories and beautifully airbrushed images of skinny, tan girls who looked about five years older than me. They always smiled and splashed in the water in tiny bikinis and looked like the answer to life’s problems was being that beautiful.

Then, I came to the ads in the back. The ones peddling cheap jewelry and t-shirts surely no one ever bought, much less wore. One ad in particular caught my eye.

“Do YOU have trouble finding a boyfriend? Does your crush just walk by without noticing you? Do you sometimes wonder if he even KNOWS YOU’RE ALIVE?”

My heartbeat quickened.

“Valerie-Katie-Brittany had the same problem – before they found OUR SOLUTION.”

Hmm. I read on.

Testimonials of mousey, unpopular girls all of a sudden grabbing their crush’s attention. This solution WORKED FOR THEM!

What’s more, for ONLY $10.95 I too could possess THE SECRET to happiness and a lifetime of PG-rated make-out sessions with my crush. Seeing as I was the tallest girl in the sixth grade and had skin the color of milk-weed, not to mention the crooked teeth and the fact that I always said the wrong thing, I needed to know THE SECRET.

It took a few weeks of shelving the magazine, then pulling it out and flipping through the perfect images back to that ad before I cracked open my piggy bank and sent the money. My mother always told me never to send cash in the mail, but this was an emergency.  I knew she would never write me a check for something like this. She’d say twelve was too young to be interested in boyfriends, just like twelve was too young to be reading the magazines.

When the package came in the mail, I raced it to my room and barricaded the door, brushing off my mother’s questions with unformed white lies.

“Congratulations, Natalie!” the form letter read. “You have taken the first step to becoming a better you. Read our tips from real girls to discover what it takes to be popular with guys and get your crush to notice you.”

I cracked open the book.

Within fifteen minutes, shame crept over my face.

“CONFIDENCE!” the book shouted. “Say hi to your crush. Ask him questions about homework. Be comfortable around him, smiling a lot. Boys like confident girls.”

I snuck the book out to the garbage in the alley, so no one would discover I ever wanted to be popular with boys. If I had confidence, I wouldn’t have bought the stupid book in the first place.

Young Me & Cat

Me reading a magazine with my first cat, Max. I can almost hear him whispering, “Don’t do it!”


– – –


“Get Boys to Like You and Be Popular!” — 49 Comments

  1. Natalie,

    There is so much to love about this post! My favorite line is: “What’s more, for ONLY $10.95 I too could possess THE SECRET to happiness and a lifetime of PG-rated make-out sessions with my crush.”

    It’s so cute that you sent cash, and they actually sent you the book instead of pocketing your money. I also really like that the message of the book was about having confidence (even though that’s not what 12 year old you wanted to hear 😉
    Karen recently posted…SometimesMy Profile

  2. This was fun…a nice change of tone, blog. You capture moments, even age old memories, so well. I bet you could write young adult stories…

    As for the content, wow, we boys have a completely different version of this secret magazine story; and our magazines were recommending a whole lot more than PG making out. I kind of wish my friends hadn’t exposed me to adult magazines, as it created such unreal expectations…oh, sorry, this isn’t an Oversharing October thread, is it?
    Chris plumb recently posted…A Woman’s Success is Not Simply a Spoil of the “Gender War.”My Profile

  3. I’m older than you, so my magazines were filled with Rick Springfield and Leif Garrett, but I remember the cheesy advice articles so well. I bought into every single one of them, until I figured out there was no magic trick to popularity. Thanks for making me smile today. I loved the way you told this.
    Mamarific recently posted…Food for ThoughtMy Profile


    I’m actually awfully glad you bought THE SECRET because I always wanted to know what a person got when they bought those things but I had no money to find out. Also, when I did have money, I had much more pressing needs. Like crazy-colored shoelaces or Jelly Bellies.

    And I’d have to argue with the advice anyhow. I was full of confidence and it didn’t help me one lick. I think I’ll start a scam like that, only when kids get my book, it will say, “Dude! Seriously! You have bigger things to worry about. The boy doesn’t have to like you and you can’t make him. Learn this now, get over it, and go out and have fun with your friends because those are the things that will matter more in the long run.”
    That will be thrown in the trash, too, but I’ll be rich so it won’t matter!
    Erica O recently posted…My favorite traditionMy Profile

  5. Be confident…what kinda crap is that?! I think I sent for the same book and any of the girls you mentioned Valerie-Katie-Brittany knew it wasn’t a big secret just a state of mind… I really did order some book and I too sent it to the trash but I dropped it in someone elses on the way to school one day

  6. I always wondered what the secret was, but never (thankfully, now) had the money. Mine always went to purchase way too much mascara than should be allowed on a 12-year-old face. Again, that search for confidence…

  7. Pingback: yeah write #130 weekly writing challenge winners: crowd favorite + top row five | yeah writeyeah write

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