I was an avid reader of Seventeen and Cosmo Girl. These publications taught me “simple” up-dos and what the shape of my lipstick said about me. Though I was young at the time, I internalized everything I saw in those magazines, though that is not quite where this is going.
This time, it was less about the looks of the models, but more about the sophistication of them. I was 10, and they were more than double my age. They were older than I ever thought I’d be.
As every young person, I was in a hurry to grow up. Becoming more like the women I saw in the magazines would help me achieve such a goal.
I was enthused one day to find a coupon in Seventeen explaining that I could walk into Victoria’s Secret and get a pair of underwear for free, no strings attached. I’m assuming this is how they caught the attention of most girls my age.
Of course, going in the first time was harmless. I got my free plain white or black underwear and got out. Then, I noticed all of the comments and criticisms surrounding the store whose models I idolized. Victoria’s Secret was somehow synonymous with thongs and garments I was uncomfortable even thinking about. However, I was embracing my new found sophisticated femininity and ignored all the voices.
Each month, I got my new issues of teen magazines, therefore I got the opportunity to get a new free pair of underwear. I think I still have the pair I got the first time the coupon allowed me to get a plain pink pair. That was revolutionary for my fifth-grade self.
The more I frequented the store, the more convinced both my mother and I were that this was a place we should patronize. Next came the 5 for $25 deal. 5 pairs of underwear for only 25 dollars?! And they could be any style or print I wanted?
What I thought was a rare sale turned out to be a bi-monthly occurrence. Then came the mints and lip glosses. Oh, good old beauty rush. I couldn’t go to the mall without buying a “creme femme” or cupcake-scented sparkly lip gloss. Right next to those glosses, near the register were the tiny tins of mints. These lip-shaped treats were special because I cold bring them to school, hinting to everyone that I was secretly a grown woman who shopped at Victoria’s Secret.
Oh, and don’t get me started about those little stuffed dogs. When PINK became the thing, those little dogs were introduced: a free gift with purchase. Each season, there would be a new dog doused in cute fabric, perhaps wearing a scarf, life preserver, or backpack to symbolize the time of year the store was taking advantage of.
You know, we even had the store credit card.
Soon later, online shopping entered my world. On the occasions that VS would have an online semi-annual sale, my mother would privilege me by allowing me to order $100 worth of merchandise, for the free shipping of course.
I would scour the virtual bins of sale items, picking exactly what I wanted and what would make me feel the most special at the time. Though I criticize now, this is how I found my favorite perfume ever: Dolly Girl by Anna Sui and I still have a tote bag that I use all the time.
The rest of my middle school caught on, but I’d like to think I was the pioneer. Victoria’s Secret and PINK have become something terrifyingly unstoppable, but they meant so much to my 10-year-old self.
Buying fifty pairs of underwear somehow helped me transition into young adulthood (while simultaneously giving me body image issues). I look back on that time fondly, but I wish the guidance of my growing up came from more than a coveted bi-annual catalogue.