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Tall, gorgeous and sexy” – and still only a child. A new book aims to put girls straight about looking good, writes Natasha Hughes.
Think back to your school days when your hair was too flat or unblonde, your legs never quite brown or long enough and a pimple had the power to rule your every thought and movement for the length of time it reared its ugly head. Most of the time, teenage girls feel they look pretty hideous. The irony is that the rest of womanhood is frantically trying to look like teenagers: they’re so fresh and firm.
But you can’t tell them that. Teenage girls are obsessive about their looks. And they’re getting a heavier message than we ever did. “They feel like they have to be tall, gorgeous and sexy at 11,” says Melbourne writer and cartoonist Kaz Cooke. “They get hit by so many messages all saying, ‘You’re not good enough,’ but, of course, they are. People do tend to dismiss the concerns of girls as trivial, but today they don’t just need to be pretty, they need to be sexual. It’s quite scary.”
Cooke’s book Girl Stuff (Viking, $39.95), is aimed, she says, at countering the hard-sell girls receive.
“The only information they really get about beauty comes from magazines, but I say, if you do what the magazines tell you to do, you’ll spend $300 and look like a mad vampire. Have fun with it instead – play with make-up. If you want.”
Cooke says suggest anything put on the face has to be corrective. “They list the ‘eight essentials’ when there are no essentials for teenagers except perhaps and a lip balm. Most girls see advertising as a source of information. On TV they don’t see anyone without make-up.”
The book, which covers other issues such as work and friends, quotes from girls who responded to Cooke’s website survey.
The book also takes a strong line that experienced make-up users may question. “Primer is invented simply to sell more make-up. A waste of time and money,” writes Cooke. But we’re not her target readership, though, as Cooke sees it, we’ll be the ones buying it to give at Christmas.
Regardless of whether we do, teenage girls will continue to disregard facts such as smoking and sun exposure causing wrinkles. But, maybe at 30, they won’t lament, as we feel we’re entitled to, that “no one told me”.

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