Yep, it’s Helen Gurley Brown, baby. That legendary Cosmo lady who has been considered the best friend of every woman over the age of consent. Potent in her frank, offbeat trademark, the best-selling dame of the advisory genre from the 1960s to the 1990s shed appreciable light on the ups and downs of the single girl who juggles life, career, and love all at the same time. Her books – plus the Cosmo magazine which she headed as Chief Editor for decades – have served as my compass in my dealings with men for the longest time. As a consequence, even if I have not always been successful in handling my friendships, romantic liaisons, business undertakings with them -mind you- I have had wonderful times in their company on the whole and still love love love men as a species in general.
In my 20s to early 30s, I got to be a fan of the HBO megahit “Sex and The City” – in spite of its oft ridiculous storylines. I thought then the show owed its success big time to Ms Helen Gurley Brown, who pioneered the serial concept of Sex and the Whatever. The HBO series, by the way, which I followed from beginning to end had Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte forming the NY quartet struggling through their demographics in the many areas of love, sex, gorgeous clothes and pricey shoes. I can say I am a cross between all of these quirky gals – minus their expensive wardrobe and Samantha’s long list of bed partners. (Take note: I might have been amazed by Samantha’s incredible libido [gasp] but I could only slam her for most of the yucky men she slept with. Why couldn’t she have been more picky?!)
When my aunt migrated to the U.S., she left us big boxes full of stuff she couldn’t bring with her anymore. In one of them I found an old, tattered paperback copy of Sex and the Office – a guide to the intricacies of the workplace jungle. I was soon to start college, majoring in Accounting, so I thought I’d need the book for my future reference as an office gal. How I got hooked reading her book and from then on became a life-long fan of the celebrated editor of Cosmopolitan magazine. My collection of HGB books expanded to Sex and the Single Girl, Having It All, Outrageous Opinions, and The Last Show.
In an era when feminism was yet to snowball, Ms Brown was able to transmit categorical codes to the female species about how ok it was to yearn for love and lust, whichever would come first; to feel normal being “out of control” concerning the affairs of the heart even (just no telling the men, please); and how alright it is to delight in men as the opposite gender – them being friends, lovers, family members, business associates, colleagues at work, not to mention your favourite cleaning man or delivery boy.
While my dear parents took turns imparting time-honored modes of thinking and morality, HGB was also infusing me with new directions of thought and conduct. Honestly, the proverbial good girl is what I’ve been most of my life even though I confess to have gone astray a few times on my way to “maturity.” In what manner, you ask? Er, let me get back to you with that in another post.
As my elder sister was the fragile, graceful princess of the family in our growing up years, I was the shy tomboy who played basketball, ran around with the boys in the neighbourhood, went biking all day with my brother and who’d proudly do a perfect somersault well into my teenage years to impress my friends and playmates. I was also the shy tomboy who liked boys – as buddies and playmates. And who would nevertheless feel giddy around the gallant, masculine, good-looking ones.
Sort of the rebel daughter – that was me, too. It had been difficult to totally commit myself within the shackles of my parent’s Good Girl paradigm – as they would repeatedly insinuate the very importance of being pure on your wedding night. Secretly, I was thinking, “You two must be kidding. I can’t wait that long!” I questioned deep down the necessity of saving a girl’s virginity for her future husband. That resulted in my losing “it” at the age of twenty with my first serious boyfriend. Foolishly – in retrospect.
Now I think my parents were absolutely right all along. tsk-tsk…
HGB might have overlooked several factors in her books – especially with regards to marriage. She dished out counsel and viewpoints as though all men are qualified or would end up to be good husbands to their wives, and vice versa. That once you’re able to snag a guy, that’s it. The path is set for connubial paradise. You could only die happy being married to some guy. That’s where she got things dead wrong I believe.
Don’t get the mistaken idea. I love and adore Ms Brown. For the major reason she taught me the value of work and how crucial it is for every woman to stay financially independent.
There are actually substantial things many single women, like me, don’t take seriously and fail to feel grateful for. A fine case in point: I may not have found the man of my dreams, but the consolations Life has provided me aren’t godawful. I still receive a pay check every month; my good health is intact; my independence is something I prize eminently, and the possibilities to savour my life are boundless. These are the blessings a single girl tends to forget time and again – all because of the constant need for “male attention” she’s been encouraged and programmed to seek her whole life.
A question you might ask: Have I learned my lesson well? Not to the max. Unfortunately. Probably because I am a woman. I possess a delicate female heart, which is no different from every female heart inhabiting this planet. A heart that up to now periodically longs to be attended by the power of the masculine realm.
Oh well, your suspicions are right. I just may be a bundle of contradictions. But at least, it’s something I got to write about here. To shake me to my senses somehow.
But the one question remains still which might never have an absolute answer until the end of my days is: Have I been a good girl – or a bad girl my entire life?
Perhaps only Helen Gurley Brown could have helped me answer that.