Betty Cornel wrote Teenage Popularity Guide in 1951, which focused on becoming popular, wearing the right clothes and makeup, and how to be good hostess. 60 – something years later, can any of what she wrote still be useful? Maya Van Wagenen, a teenager struggling to get through middle and high school (and also an aspiring writer) thought she might put this book to good use. As a teenager, all I wanted was to be popular, or at least accepted, – and honestly, nothing else really mattered. I’m not sure if this book would’ve been helpful – but Ms Maya puts it to the test:
“It was written by a former teen model who promised that, with a little hard work, poise, polish, and popularity were easily attainable for anyone.
I almost laughed.
That was when my mom had the idea – an amazing, terrifying, once-in-a-lifetime idea. ‘Maya, you should follow the advice this year, in 8th grade, and write about what happens.’”
So she accepts her Mom’s challenge. Each month during her 8th grade year, she would take on a new challenge. These challenges were taken from Cornel’s chapters, including her advice on hair, skin, makeup, clothes, earning money, positive attitude, being a good hostess, and modeling tricks. They’re all equally ambitious, taking Maya out of her comfort zone. She’s brave for taking on this project, for sharing her experience, and most importantly daring herself to do this.
In this year-long project, she learned lessons about herself, and in writing about her experiences she is honest and daring. Trying new things can be scary and intimidating, but also fun. In the process of trying all of Betty’s advice, she made many more new friends, and even at the end of the year when she found out she might be changing schools she continued to make an effort at making new friends – and spending time with the others. She tries new styles, colors, makeup, and every day makes an effort. Making an effort – not only with her appearance, but with friends and people.
I’m not in high school anymore – and thank God for that! But there’s advice that Betty and Maya give that I think I can benefit from. I enjoyed reading about her experiences, and took the advice to heart about making an effort. Even if you’re as beyond the teenage years as I am, this is still a good read. If only I could be as brave as Maya!