This is not real life: Magazines publish ridiculous relationship advice

By Caroline Young |
Photographs by Phillip C. Sunkel IV

Flashback to 10 years ago — I was 12 and succumbing to preteen ignorance. I constantly purchased and read articles about how to, basically, have a boyfriend — as if I really needed a boyfriend at 12-years-old. “How to get him to fall head over heels,” “What does his posture mean about his feelings?” and “How to flirt with your hottie” are the titles of some articles I remember trashing my brain with.

In my opinion, these articles are quick page-fillers for a magazine to stuff their readers’ minds with the unrealistic “normal” ways to have relationships. What exactly is that, anyways? To me, there is no true definition of the right relationship.

Is it just me or does every girl feel like she is told how to have a relationship from the first time she picks up her first Seventeen magazine? Perhaps guys feel the same way when they log on to sites with how-to-have-a-relationship stories popping up everywhere.

Yahoo! has one titled, “5 signs she’s into you.” The first sign makes me chuckle: “She touches herself up;” It says that if a woman goes to the bathroom between courses on a dinner date, it is not because she has a “weak bladder,” but she is freshening up to impress the man. However, whenever I go to the bathroom at dinner, it is definitely because I have to pee, especially if I am drinking wine. Please, people, come up with something more interesting to write about.

And Cosmopolitan, the classic raunchy sex and dating advice magazine, loves to tell us how to, well, have sex and date — the right way. Have we really come to the point where we have forgotten how to figure out how to enjoy these pleasures on our own? Do people really read Cosmo’s current “77 sex positions in 77 days” and pursue this ridiculous endeavor? How uncreative of us.

I’ll never forget a story, or a list rather, I read several years ago on how to get a guy to like you. I remember being completely appalled when I read I should start become educated in professional football so I can hang with the guys. Honestly, wouldn’t that just make me “one of the guys?” Not to mention, I could give two shits about football. And what happened to being who you are? Even if someone is a little awkward on a date, if the other person actually likes he or she for who they are, that is all that matters in the end. These articles are not celebrating the fact that we are all one-of-a-kind.

I have learned, especially in my current relationship, if you want it to work out, you must compromise, give-and-take and let go of your ego from time to time. But this is different from me pretending to like something I truly could never care about, like football. An opposing view may argue it is helpful to have similar interests and I agree. But it is equally important for two people to have different interests and other parts of his or life in order to not drive each other to complete insanity.

And I came across an article displaying a grouping of the “perfect boyfriends” with one of them writing an entire poetry book about his girlfriend which I find to be quite over-the-top. Another one stole his girlfriend’s hair tie the first time they met. Honestly, to me, this is definitely the definition of a creepy guy and if I were his girlfriend…well, actually, I wouldn’t have become his girlfriend.

Who exactly is judging these so-called flawless men? How is this even possible to judge when we are all looking for different traits in different people? My wise mother, who is still married to my father, told me years ago, “There is no perfect man, so stop thinking there is one.” This is probably one of the most single valuable pieces of advice I will obtain in my lifetime. So, the fact that these magazines are publishing articles about achieving perfection is simply unrealistic.

Despite my obvious bitterness toward the relationship-advice articles polluting magazine publications, I believe relationships, both romantic and platonic, are probably the most important aspect of our lives. But if magazines and newspapers really need to include articles with dating advice, there has got to be a better way for them to go about it without making every person in a relationship feel like they are doing something wrong. There is no one relationship the same as another and the generalized blanketed lists of do’s, don’ts and how-to’s are not going to cut it.

Flashback to 10 years ago: I most likely thought reading Seventeen’s how-to-have-the-perfect-relationship articles would make me some kind of unstoppable and flawless dating master. The thought of that sounds appealing at first but it’s not real life. No matter how many relationships a woman has in her lifetime, she has to learn from each one, and figure out what she

does and does not want out of her significant other.

Fortunately, I learned throughout the past several years to go to my mother or girlfriends for advice if I truly cannot figure out a predicament or issue in a relationship. Although they may not be able to relate to the situation, at least the person knows my life a hell of a lot better than some staff writer at Cosmo.

Contrary to my idealistic 12-year-old mind, the mistakes we make in our relationships, flaws and all, are what teach us how to relish in our love lives. And our answers will not be found within the pages of a magazine or newspaper.

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