The editor of "Cosmopolitan" gives advice on dealing with men and women, sex, marriage, career success, becoming more attractive, making money, and staying healthy with frank accounts of her own experiences in those areas.
Helen Gurley Brown was the founder of Cosmopolitan magazine in the format we know today. There was a version of the magazine in existence, owned by Hearst Corporation, prior to Brown coming on board, but she explains here that the content and layout of the publication was notably different. When the magazine in its original form started financially failing, Brown was hired on to turn things around and revamped it into the format recognizable in grocery store aisles to this day (Chapter 2... man, all I could think of was the movie Working Girl lol). *Well, actually... let's give credit where credit is due --- HGB points out that it was her husband who often wrote the cover blurbs, designed the layout, and more often than not, it was the stories HE liked that ended up being the ones they ran with.
Brown never bothered with college, instead starting her professional life in her 20s, working her way up the ranks first as a secretary and later script girl for the Abbott & Costello radio show. She also wrote script copy for radio commercials of the day. Raised by a mother threatened by a prettier sister, Helen Gurley Brown rarely ever heard the word "pretty" tossed in her direction. As a young woman, she becomes obsessive about her looks so later heading up a women's beauty magazine seemed like a natural fit. Some may be shocked to read just how honest HGB is about the work she had done to attain that "pretty" so often withheld from her in her early years: eye lifts, rhinoplasty, dermabrasion, years-long treatments of silicone injections around her nose and mouth.. just to name a bit of it... but at least she also does advocate the regular use of sunscreen! She also describes details on lax post-op care, at one point opting to sneak out to see Frank Sinatra at Carnegie Hall.
Also not surprising, HGB was clearly consumed with designer labels and makes sly knocks on those with more tomboy style. Additionally, there was one little two page section where she talks about brains being more important than looks but then later goes on to further knock "non-pretties" in a rather patronizing tone, stating that "thoughts and deeds do absolutely nothing for a forgettable face... but a little helping out, ie. makeup or plastic surgery, can." WOW.
Her discussions on sex get a little weird, y'all. She gets into some probably better left unsaid details of her bed life with husband David Brown (David Brown co-operated a production company with Richard Zanuck, son of Daryl Zanuck, once-president of 20th Century Fox. Brown/Zanuck's company produced films such as Jaws 1 & 2 and The Sting. Apparently, life with David taught her that "men don't want to know about you masturbating." K... noted... WTF. She also spends many pages frequently rhapsodizing about mens' down belows and even offers readers a step by step instructional on fellatio. NOT. EVEN. KIDDING. (Here we go, this book -- originally published in 1982 -- will now show an odd resurgence in sales LOL). She closes with a quaint "swallowing is a sign of affection." Que one of those Bob Belcher OMGs.
Then there's the recommendation about occasionally murmuring "would you mind" during sex. LOL. No. Just no. Oh, the laughs this section provides though!
Except, not a laughing matter... what is this bit about nonchalantly referencing incest with her uncle when she was 9?! Seriously, some parts in this book had me wondering if this woman had a wire or four loose the casual way she brought up certain topics.
Her advice on finding men and later marriage success is perhaps questionable though. Where to find men? HGB suggests maybe checking out Alcoholics Anonymous or Tiffany's at Christmas. Already married? HGB totally cool with extra-marital affairs, because, in her mind, people only remain faithful if they don't require romance. Furthermore, she says to not tell others if you are involved in an affair because "you owe it to your husband's honor." JFC. But actually... about on par for Cosmo advice, I guess!
If you get through all that, there are portions of actual advice scattered throughout.... much of it dated, most of it laughable, but a small percentage of it still remains surprisingly helpful. Some of the ones that stood out to me (good or bad):
* On finding men: HGB says women need to aspire to amazing high-level jobs with lots of pay and power, because really hot men won't find you if you're just the entry-level or even SAH sort.
* keeping a man: a woman stands a better chance "if you love something other than him"
* HGB also offers some tips on married life -- how to navigate hurdles such as a spouse losing a job -- that are not entirely unhelpful.
* Hone in on what your specialty skills are and pursue work in that direction, make your overall personality open and welcoming and be sure to have or develop a sense of humor about the journey!
* Learn to be "quietly aggressive" -- keep eagle eyes on what needs to be done and just get it done
* Make confident, solid decisions, learn not to dwell on rejection. Remember that powerful people can still be vulnerable but use moments of hurt to fuel you further in your work.
* Problems don't magically disappear once you're at the top, you just have better resources to handle them. Also, once you reach the top, don't forget to help people behind you still trying to get there.
Re: Personal Growth
* HGB encourages readers to take up charity / volunteer work. Not only is it good to help but it develops useful multi-tasking skills
* Embracing alone time plays a key factor in personal emotional growth.
* HGB gives you some ideas on how to strengthen friendships and / or how to handle frenemies
* This woman is going to harp on and on about this term she came up with called "mouseburgering": when you start out feeling low about yourself but quietly gain confidence over time until you eventually rise to the top. Brace yourself. She's gonna bring it up A. LOT. It's not the concept I have an issue with. It's just a stupid f-in word.
In addition to all that, Brown also dishes out some hilariously (though sometimes borderline dangerous) 1980s style health tips. She promotes the idea of semi-starvation to keep a trim figure -- her personal plan being starvation for breakfast up until dinner where one is allowed one big meal and then later a pre-bed snack. At least she admits to the dangers of bulimia (she doesn't actually use the term but that is essentially what she describes). She also encourages 36 hour fasts after binges and notes that the use of saccharine (aka Equal) is her "guilty cheat food".
"As I write this, a new artificial sweetener, aspartame, is being test-marketed. I've used it and it's sensational. Put out by G.D. Searle & Co under the brand name Equal, it should be available for all of us soon."
Brown continues on to offer her stance on the whole "are models too thin?" argument, to which she firmly replies, "Models are not cadaverous, they look great." Remember, this was in the 80s and this debate is STILL going on in the fashion industry. There's also a story here where she knocks singer Peggy Lee for struggling with dieting, "zooming back up to 150".
So, yeah, take HGB's diet advice with a HARDCORE grain of salt. This woman clearly had issues with unhealthy body image that she foisted onto vulnerable young readers. Her sex advice, have a good laugh with it like you would any Cosmo issue today. The tone is definitely geared towards a female audience, but there is still plenty of take-away advice for the men as well. But again, use your own discretion as to what you would actually take to heart.
Also keep in mind that this will read dated as hell -- eg. "We'll see how Princess Diana makes it (as far as her HEA as a princess)..." eeehhh --- but the dated references are actually part of what still make this thing readable in today's world... the historical look back, the ridiculousness of some of the passages. The actual advice, not so much. Also, the continuous unnecessary transitions will drive you batty: "More in a moment", "more on that later", "now let's talk about"... c'mon girl, you were the head honcho at a major magazine!