I Found Waldo

This summer, I fulfilled my quota for Random and Unexpected Summer Jobs by working at Cosmo. When I first told my friends, their reactions were all the same: “What? YOU? At Cosmo? Is that a joke?” Their surprise was because I am in no way anyone’s definition of a Cosmo Girl. I don’t own any designer brands, and I couldn’t even list many brand names if you held me at gunpoint and asked me to. I’m kind of a five year old and still don’t really know how to wear clothes. I frequently wear things backwards and inside out without realizing it. I don’t know how to wear makeup or do things with my hair, and I do not walk down the streets of a city in a model-like catwalk strut. My walk is more of a confused stumble-- one day, after I’d already been working there for weeks, I got lost on my way to work. When I told a friend this, she said, “sometimes I don’t know how you function.” Sometimes I don’t know either.

In short, I am about as much of a Cosmo Girl as the average five- year -old boy. So, I was excited for the opportunity to work at a major magazine, but, for numerous reasons, I was a bit apprehensive about my summer job.

In no particular order, here are some things I learned while working at a magazine that often has headlines like “30 ways to style your hair while having sex at the same time!”

1.                    If you are wondering just what the Cosmo office looks like, and specifically, if Cosmo has life-sized cardboard cutouts of Taylor Lautner and Waldo (Waldo as in, the guy with the striped hat and glasses and cane who is always lost in crowds), the answer is yes.

If you’re wondering if those cutouts are in a little side room and if I kept forgetting they were there and almost jumped out of my skin every time I walked in that room and turned on the light, the answer is also yes.

If you’re wondering if there are any cutouts of other guys—maybe a Chris Hemsworth or a Channing Tatum or whoever the other Guys of The Moment are-- the answer is no. Only Taylor and Waldo appeared to have made the cut.

2.                    Say what you want about some of Cosmo’s articles—the feminist implications of the contents; the headlines like “23 things every guy in the world thinks about during sex!” or “53 ways to wear your hair straight!” but putting the magazine together takes a lot of work. For everything in the magazine—from 2-page articles to 2-sentence  blurbs—we had to do hours of research.

Here is a sample of my Google search history from just one day: Obamacare, Pizza-Related Events, Recent Political Sex Scandals, Celebrities Eating Ice Cream, Anti Sodomy Virginia, List of Famous Scorpios, and Affordable Health Care.

I can’t say the job got boring for lack of variety.

Also, if you’re wondering how I remember what my google history was from one day of the summer, my brother had told me to take a screenshot of it because he didn’t believe me.

3.                    If you work at a place like Cosmo, get used to asking all your friends very personal questions. And if you are friends with someone who works at a place like Cosmo, get used to being asked personal questions.

Among the things I had to survey, I had to ask my friends to give me their bad date stories and I had to ask my guy friends to tell me weird things they do when they’re alone. Here is the best answer I got for the “weird things guys do when they’re alone” research (I don’t feel bad about revealing it because I have a wild guess that the magazine will not use it):

One guy said, “I like to walk around naked, on all fours, with my dog, because I think it makes him more comfortable to see someone else in his situation.”

4.                    Finally, this might be kind of sappy and obvious, but one of the most important things I learned is not to judge a book (or magazine) by its cover.

Before I started, I was quite apprehensive about what the workplace environment would be like. In some ways, it was exactly what you’d think – about 90% female; well dressed; predominantly blonde—but in many other ways, it wasn’t what you’d think.

About half the people working there dressed like they had stepped off the pages of the magazine, and half were just regular people like me. My initial apprehension wasn’t just for superficial reasons, either-- quite honestly, I was afraid my co-workers and I would have ideological differences and have absolutely nothing to talk about. But all of them were interesting people who had stories to tell-- stories you wouldn’t guess from their surface appearances.

At first I thought I belonged there about as much as Waldo did, and yet, Waldo was still there (Taylor Lautner too. But more importantly, Waldo). I didn’t stand out as much as I thought I would. Nobody ran up to me and said, “You’ve worn the same pair of shoes all week and your hair is unstyled! YOU’RE CLEARLY NOT ONE OF US! LEAVE!”

I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop—for them to realize they made a mistake in hiring me. But then again, I felt that way for about half my time at Dartmouth too. I think the most important thing I learned was to stop thinking that--to get over feeling like you don’t belong and that whoever chose you must have made a mistake. To adapt to an environment you never thought you’d find yourself in. Not every environment comes tailor-made to fit you; the world isn’t like that. At first glance (or second), Dartmouth may not seem to come tailor-made for you, but if you’re willing to search, you can always find a corner of it that does. Some people’s searches take longer than others, and for some, it’s a continuous process.

So, without getting too preachy or sentimental, if this is your first year and you’re feeling a little lost, that’s okay. If it’s your last year and you’re feeling a little lost, that’s okay. The relationship between a person and their surroundings can be a strange thing, but there are always new ways of changing it and adapting to it. And there are always new ways of changing your own perceptions of the people around you, of the world around you, and of yourself. Don’t be afraid to end up in unexpected settings-- Waldo always gets found eventually. (Are my attempts to relate this back to Waldo getting a bit ridiculous? Possibly. Would ‘Don’t Be Afraid To Be Waldo’ or ‘Find Your Inner Waldo’ make good band names or titles for self-help books? Probably not.) If the ‘Where is Waldo’ books had words in them, I’m sure we’d find that he learns a lot in his wanderings. But maybe it’s for the best that they don’t, because that type of knowledge sinks in best through trial and error. Through stumbling into unexpected places--whether it’s crowds of giants and mermaids or whether it’s offices of magazines that regularly have ten pages dedicated to How To Leave Him Wanting More--and figuring out for yourself how to navigate them.

And remember, if you’re looking for 30 ways to style your hair while having sex at the same time, or 17 weird things guys do when they’re alone, I’m happy to help you out.