As a child, I loved my weekly comics and magazines. It all started with Twinkle “the picture paper specially for little girls,” and that was as twee as it sounds. Then I discovered Jack & Jill with its cutesy talking animals. Thank heavens I soon moved on to The Beano – sheer anarchy for kids.
But through my friends, I discovered the joy of girls’ comics with Judy, Tammy, Mandy and Bunty. These were populated with put-upon orphans and nasty stepmothers. I lived in fear of family tragedy from the ages of six to eleven. But the good always got their rewards and the bad their comeuppance.
The next stage was the young teen mags, with My Guy, Patches, Blue Jeans and the queen of the genre, Jackie. This one had it all: photo stories, fashion, make-up, how to get and keep a boyfriend, along with many warnings of the perils of going too far. Even kissing could lead to dissing and once you lost your reputation, life was over.
Then came Just Seventeen “everything a girl could ask for.” This blew my mind; the eternal quest for a boyfriend was laughed off the page and put in its proper place. It was goodbye to fluttering hearts, and hello to reality, career choices, and the real you.
Being nice to a boy meant no longer pretending to be a girly ditz who didn’t understand the offside rule in football. This came as a relief to me and my girlfriends, and probably the boys in our lives as well.
Just Seventeen gave you the facts of life, with no euphemistic crap creeping in. I swear the first time I saw the word penis in print outside of a textbook was in this magazine.
The moralising was toned down. With expert, but never patronising, advice given about everything from contraception to money management to dealing with bullies and angry parents. It even covered topical news issues!
Poor old Janis Ian’s protagonist in At Seventeen, imagine how her life would have been if only she had access to magazines not obsessed with notions of turning teenaged girls into beauty queens.