Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover. But a Magazine…

Cosmo May 2018 -The Beautiful.


“I found this contest in Cosmo, and I think I’m going to do it.”
“I just read this book about modern love. It’s by the psychologist who writes for Cosmo.”

“Wow”, my friend responds, “I never would have taken you for someone who reads Cosmo”

“I……. Wait.”

Not a Cosmo Reader

I didn’t think I was a Cosmo reader either. Months ago as my parents transitioned their domicile to mine, I saw an uptick in magazines. Two copies of National Geographic -one of their own, the other for my sister who also listed me as her permanent place of residence. Consumer Reports, Better Homes and Gardens and Cosmopolitan¬†addressed to my mother. I had a good laugh at the idea of my mom getting Cosmo, but stored it anyway to peruse during my weekend ritual of coffee and magazines on the porch.

After a while, Cosmo crept into the rotation -a potato chip to lighten me up after the tomes I read elsewhere (I’m looking at you Vanity Fair. Mostly workout, makeup, and fashion tips, but not that ridiculous “57 and 1/2 Ways To Please a Man In Bed” I remembered which had steered me clear of Cosmo in the past. Where had that Cosmo gone?

A New Cosmo

It was only after my friend mentioned it, I got curious. Had Cosmo changed? Then I noticed the covers. The Cosmo I remembered was glammy. Bold colors, boobs, bras, babes, brazen. All of those “In Your Face” sexy aspects that made me cringe. The cover of my Cosmo was, I hesitate to say, feminine. It was soft colors, muted tones, vulnerable poses. And not a word on the cover about sex tips and tricks.

But what about on the inside? By the time I noticed the difference, my Cosmo copy was out of date. I’d have to wait to see how similar they were. The running theory was that demographic information available at the office gave the tapered version to older women, maybe those 30 and beyond, while the flashy version went to the 20-somethings and stocked the shelves. The ads would probably be different, targeting different items for different people.


Walking by the magazine counter at Target, it seemed like a sure thing. I’d just received my new copy of the September 2018 Issue, again with more concealed, friendly poses. Sex this time, but for deep sex, not just kinky moves. The store copy? Same feature articles listed on the front, but the cover? No comparison. This was glitz.

But it wasn’t. A page by page turnover revealed the only difference between the two copies was that, as a dutiful subscriber, I got a couple of coupons. Yippee! Other than that -same ads, same articles. What gives?

Don’t Judge a Book by It’s Cover. But a Magazine?

I’m still not sure what gives. I reached out to Cosmo to ask about the difference, but my email is still dying in an Inbox somewhere. So here I sit, wondering. Why the different cover? Why the glammy, sexy copies in the store? Why the contemplative pieces at home? Why any difference at all if it’s the same magazine, especially such an obvious difference? If Cosmo had looked like this before, would I have subscribed on purpose? And how long have they been doing this anyway?

The answer I’d offer Cosmo, if this is indeed some marketing experiment to see which Cosmo I prefer, is- I prefer mine. I prefer the relaxed and simple poses of Mila Kunis in overalls and the straightforward, pained portrait of Kesha. Your magazine is funny and far more down to earth than high fashion Vogue attempting to sell me Balenciaga. (Puh-lease).¬†You’re more in touch with who I am rather than making me want to be Bella Hadid. Your personal stories show girls of all shapes and sizes and colors. And even your sexy stuff isn’t horrible and outrageous like I believed it was. It’s practical and realistic and you give good advice, the kind I think the modern girls need.

It’s not that bold and glammy is bad. And it’s not like which copy of Cosmo you read will solve world peace. It’s about subtly shifting what we view and what we see, and I like the direction the new route’s taking. If a picture is worth a thousand words, that heartfelt gaze tells me a better story than those busting boobs.

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