I spent the week at home recently, where my mother came across an old magazine of hers. The magazine was a 1978 issue of Cosmopolitan. We spent our week together discussing all that’s changed – and all that’s stayed the same, in the last 34 years.
Christie Brinkley graces Cosmo’s cover, and interestingly, isn’t given an accompanying article. Headlines read “How to Get a Divorce From Your Parents, ” a timeless piece, no doubt, “Erica Jong Asks Erica Jong Questions Nobody Else Would Dare” and “It’s Back, It Still Works – the Lose-10-Pounds-in-1-Week-Famous-Grapefruit Diet.” Cosmo‘s May 1978 issue, under the watchful eye of Helen Gurley Brown, is different than the Cosmo we know today. The horoscopes are in the front, not the back. The magazine is rife with alcohol and tobacco ads; and one article even states that women, in 1978, are liberated but not when it comes to smoking. The features of the magazine are laid out alongside ads, not story-aiding pictures; instead, cheeky comics accompany the headlines. And yet, Cosmopolitan still does what it does best; offers timeless advice to women.
My mom, and I sat down to discuss these differences and similarities on a crisp day of Indian summer. She is wearing a brown sweater, lots of bohomeian jewelry, and pants. She’s home for lunch from her job in marketing at a local bank.
RT: I noticed there were a lot of cigarette ads in the magazine. That’s not so anymore.
DT: While I was in college at Bowling Green State University of Ohio, in the late 60′s and early 70′s, smoking was something everyone tried out. There weren’t all the health warnings that there are today. Except for our parents asking, “Why are you smoking?” When my mother asked me that question, she revealed to me that she smoked at the same age. So, I continued to smoke for the next 8 years.
RT: Grandma smoked? (My Grandma is 86, and doesn’t go near anything that could bring about her untimely demise. She’s the family watchdog who reports every new disease outbreak, food recall, and harmful product side effects to her local network of family and friends.)
DT: Obviously, you can see why I was surprised.
RT: Fashion has changed a lot since 1978.
DT: It was before 1978 that fashion changed for me personally. When I was in high school, girls weren’t allowed to wear pants, and boys weren’t allowed to wear blue jeans. I started college in the fall of 1969 and at that time, women’s clothing was rather conservative. Think wool plaid culottes, sweater vests, blouses, and knee socks. All that changed in the spring of 1970. On May 4th, at nearby Kent State University, also in Ohio, four students were shot and killed during a protest against the Vietnam War. College campuses across the state became hotbeds of political protest. So much political change brought about changes in fashion. Army jackets and blue jeans for both men and women became the fashion statement of the era. No one wanted to look “conservative.”
RT: Did you see other cultural changes?
DT: The music that was popular back then reflected the revolutionary feeling of the times. “Four Dead in Ohio” by Crosby Stills and Nash was written about the Kent State shootings. “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” by Simon & Garfunkel and “Revolution” by The Beatles are a few of the songs that expressed the turbulent feelings of the time period.
RT: You saw The Beatles in concert, right?
DT: Yes, before college. The first time I saw them was at Cleveland Public Auditorium when I was 14 years old. I was sitting so far back Paul, George, John, and Ringo looked like ants. But it didn’t matter, I was there. The following year, I was lucky enough to see them again, in a concert at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, a football field. My friends and I were sitting in the upper deck, screaming at the “boys” when the British invaders came out on stage, which was located across the playing field. Girls began to storm the stage. My friends and I looked at each other, and without even speaking, we were out there too, climbing over railings in our miniskirts. We even lost one of my friends in the throng of pushing and screaming girls. I got close enough to pull up grass that I’m sure The Beatles walked on, which I kept in my wallet for years…
RT: How do you think feminism has changed between your college years and now?
DT: When I went to college, women took degrees in mainly “female” professions: nursing, teaching, etc. My parents wanted me to be a teacher, but I majored in Journalism and minored in Sociology. Today, women aren’t pigeonholed into certain career paths. Women are more valued in the workplace not just as workers but as equal contributors. I was also the first person in my family to go to college, and thus I was also the first woman in my family to obtain higher education. On top of that, I chose a non-traditonal career path for women. I think that my generation opened doors for subsequent generations.
By Rebecca Temerario & Debra Temerario