Thursday, October 27, 2005

Cosmo in Prague

I have not been feeling too well, so will resort to something on the lighter side. Some of you will already have read this in its e-mail form, but for those who have not… One of the accoutrements of my Prague apartment proves to be a generous collection of issues of Cosmopolitan, a magazine I seem to have last examined in high school when it featured a sex quiz (which, I now gather, it usually does). Well, there are also a few random magazines--Canadian Living was the first thing I had to investigate since it claimed to have an article on psychic pets (very disappointing)--and a British gossip rag with numerous photos of Charles & Camilla in full royal gear, which was instructive as regards British hats. It also had many pictures of Gianni Versace’s sister and her remarkably ugly abode. (As they always say, money can’t buy taste, but it is alarming to see that the head of a fashion empire decorates with an abundance of what can only be called a sort of nouveau-riche kitsch aesthetic.)
Cosmo has proved to have its own unique style, which is rather different than I recall, although the underlying tone is similar. The vocabulary has certainly taken some getting used to. However, one must brave many things when one has anthropological interests, and subcultural lingo should never deter the investigator (especially one who is trying to revive her spoken Czech at the same time).
The following is a bit tame by Cosmo standards, but struck me as typical in the magazine's journalistic limitations (I have pruned the verbiage just slightly):

hair is: men perceive:
long & straight "ultimate sex kitten" (!)
long & curly "up for anything"
medium length "brainy and very good-natured"
"short and shaggy" "superconfident party girl"

Cosmo does not tell us anything at all about (for example) short and spiky, short and Harpo-Marx-like, limp hair of any length, or about color effects like striped hair or multiple colors inexpertly (or even expertly) applied. Could these be perceived by the male population in a less positive fashion, as in "amazingly frigid," "sleeps all day until prodded with fork," or "dumber than dirt and very whiny"? After all, many women will never fit Cosmo's descriptions, so presumably their hair does not either.
I'm not sure whether my own hair qualifies as long or medium (this is relative, after all) but I am certain that no one other than my mother has ever thought I was a "superconfident party girl."
The more I read of such things (and of more explicit ones, which dominate), the more convinced I am that part of my mission in the Czech Republic must be to write a nice parody, filled with terms like "convo," "vaycay," "PDA," "nooky," "manly," "bod," "undies," and of course "booty" and its many derivatives. The only difficulty is that it does tend to parody itself already, as in suggestions to "sport his Skivvies" and thus share a hot sexual connection all day long. (I realize that almost everything under the sun is a turn-on for someone, somewhere, but surely this one is not high on most people's lists? especially when the items are referred to as skivvies, which somehow always suggests to me that they are tattered and filthy, whereas "undies" merely sound appallingly cutesy.)
More research will have to be done on the magazine's descriptions of how to pick up total strangers, and what its readers claim to have done when they realized they had spent the night with someone 1) toothless 2) elderly 3) underage 4) insufficiently muscular.
It occurs to me that I have not yet noticed an article explaining how to choose men by their hair or furniture, but my sample has been rather limited thus far.
My friend Jane, in her great wisdom, has pointed out that what with Intelligent Design and all, it is clearly no accident that the supply of Cosmo was left in the apartment for me.
Here we can see the magazine basket with one of my own (non-Cosmo) additions. And now off to the archive.

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