Ronda Kaysen: These are the things Jamie Keiles discovered during her last month of high school: Wearing high heels to class is not very practical. It can take a full hour of your morning to get dressed if you do your hair and makeup. Having someone rip hairs from your brow with hot wax is uncomfortable, but doesn't necessarily result in a permanent "surprised" look. And just because the model in the magazine looked nice in a particular outfit doesn't mean you will, too.
Keiles, who graduates from her Pennsylvania high school today, decided to while away her last few weeks of school by following the gospel of Seventeen magazine for 30 days. She recorded her findings in a funny, insightful blog called The Seventeen Magazine Project that included a detailed report of her daily goings-on, including hanging Seventeen-approved posters on her bedroom walls and following Seventeen's prom advice to the letter.
Her conclusion? Seventeen's rules aren't a complete waste of time -- but pretty close to it.
"I'm wasting a huge amount of time on something I don't value very much," Keiles tells momlogic. The 18-year-old describes her regular fashion style as "bookstore employee." For someone who doesn't normally wash her hair every day, following the advice of the June/July issue meant spending a full hour primping each morning.
Keiles got the idea for the project while doing research at her school library. Rather than work on her assignment, she thumbed through back issues of Seventeen. As someone who generally reads men's magazines like GQ and Esquire ("not particularly for the pictures of nearly naked women," she notes sarcastically), she was surprised by the banality of the teen magazine's content.
"I thought, 'This is kind of ridiculous,'" she says. "I wondered what would happen if someone actually did all these tips." Flush with a case of senioritis, Keiles decided to give it a go. "I thought, 'I could actually do this, since I have the time.'"
When Keiles attends the University of Chicago in the fall, she plans to focus on gender studies, among other things. Her blog spends a lot of time pondering why women are encouraged to make themselves look so pretty.
On her site, she breaks prom down to this simple truth: "Ninety percent of getting ready for prom is for the pictures," she writes. "Once you actually get to the prom, it turns out that it's a dark, sweaty room where everyone looks less good within 15 minutes of dancing."
Her project wasn't a total waste of time, though. She did enjoy following the magazine's suggestion to go for a bike ride with a friend. She and a girlfriend played hooky from school (this is the end of their senior year, after all) and rode their bikes through town.
"There are lots of redeeming qualities about the magazine," says Keiles. But for the most part, she found their format and focus on fashion and boys absurd. For example, "They recommend that you wear heels to school," she says. "I don't know where Seventeen people go to school, but at my high school you do a lot walking."
With all the concern about teens sexting each other and little girls being overly sexualized -- think Suri Cruise in heels -- it's refreshing to see a teenager turn such a critical eye to fashion pressures. The response to Keiles' site has been tremendous. The feminist blogosphere has lauded her, and even girls she never spoke to at school have come up to her to comment on her blog.
Granted, Keiles isn't the first teenager to roll her eyes at pop teen magazines. But her approach is just so funny and original, it makes this girl want to toss her mascara in the trash.