You may not realize this—but you and Carrie Bradshaw owe Helen Gurley Brown big time! If it wasn't for Helen, the fearless founder and longtime editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, and author of the earth-shattering bestseller, Sex and the Single Girl, you might well be TRAPPED!
TRAPPED in a world filled with now absurd-seeming ideas. Ideas like: you're a slut if you've had pre-marital sex, or if you've had sex with more than one partner, or if you're not married... by the age of 21.
So thank God for Helen, her once-revolutionary ideas and her bold determination to relentlessly articulate a better, more self-fulfilling life for women, which she did in every issue of Cosmo during her thirty-year tenure.
Now, Helen and her enormous—and for the most part unrecognized—contributions to the sexually and mentally liberated lives that you, Carrie, and your friends enjoy, has finally been recognized for her feminism and more, in a recently published bio Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown, by Jennifer Scanlon.
It's a definite read, if you want some dramatic perspective on just how significantly women's lives have changed in just 60 years. If it wasn't for Helen, who grew up in the female-stifling 1940s and '50s, it's not only Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw who might not exist. There wouldn't be a Michelle Obama either.
Helen, more than any other woman in the world, made it aspirationally OK to be a career woman who could be the equal of any man, including her husband. At a time when most women worked briefly, if at all, before getting hitched and retiring into narrow lives as traditional wives and moms, Helen believed that work in itself was liberating for women.
Liberating because money gave women the financial independence to live their lives on their own terms. And Helen's experiences as a hardworking, ambitious career woman at a time when most working girls were relegated to low-level secretarial positions, and denied promotions and raises—think Mad Men—made her a relentless advocate for other working women throughout her time at Cosmo.
Despite the many roadblocks in her own career path, Helen kept on persevering, breaking through sexist barriers and finally landing a job as one of the first female copywriters in the advertising industry, before becoming a book author and magazine editor-in-chief.
Along the way, she discovered that "nothing is as much fun as achieving." A philosophy that Michelle Obama's been articulating to the female students she's been inviting to visit the White House since her husband's inauguration.
That's not all. Before Helen got her delicate hands on the public consciousness every month with Cosmo, beginning in 1965, single women were truly considered inferior misfits to married women.
"The reigning philosophy at the time was that if you were female and not married by the age of 30, you might as well go to the Grand Canyon and throw yourself in," she has said. "If you were having sex and not married, don't bother with the Grand Canyon, just go to the kitchen, put your head in the oven and turn on the gas."
Helen knew "these ideas were cuckoo" and wholeheartedly believed that single women "were the least understood and most maligned minority group of all time."
She decided to change that perception with Cosmo, which she used to celebrate the lives of fun, fearless females. Now you may not think of Cosmo as being a feminist magazine, but Helen made it an advocate for having a life that you're in charge of—career-wise, man-wise and looks-wise.
I caught up with the still busy Helen Gurley Brown who, at 87, goes into her office every day and works diligently as editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan International.
She's still happy to dole out advice on how to make your life 100 percent happier, so I took your pressing questions to her. Here, the original Cosmo Girl gives YourTango users the answers!
1) QUESTION: I'm curious what advice Helen Gurley Brown would have given her 21-year-old self, career or otherwise, now that's she's older. -
ANSWER: Good things will happen if you get up every day and work at it. It's a lot of trouble to do the best you can. It's the secret of my so-called success. A lot of concentration will bring results eventually. If you aren't getting any recognition after a while, then you probably aren't doing something you could be. Work harder.
2) QUESTION: What do you think of hooking up? -
ANSWER: I think it's OK—do it!
3) QUESTION: In a world where marriages fall apart, how can I make mine stick? -
ANSWER: Treat your husband like a friend. Be reasonably honest, considerate and do things with him that he enjoys doing. Be a good person to him—that's a good recipe. Be polite, kind and be careful of your husband's feelings. And you both need to be responsible for each others' health, well-being and money!
4) QUESTION: What's the best relationship advice you've ever received? -
ANSWER: Don't put up with a jerky man for too long. You need to let go and find someone who is more worthwhile. Being unhappy with a man is about as unhappy as you can get. And I know because we've all been in a situation where we're crazy about someone who is treating us badly. If you're having trouble, break it off—see a shrink. A professional person can help you see your way out of it.
5) QUESTION: What do you think of an open marriage or relationship? -
ANSWER: It doesn't work: When someone isn't faithful to you, it creates jealousy and insecurity. And if you're getting married, it means you're going to devote yourself to someone—that's the point.
6) QUESTION: Is it wrong that sleeping with married men turns me on? I had an affair with a married friend not long ago and it was hotter than hell. -
ANSWER: It isn't wrong to be turned on by anybody—if that's how you feel, that's how you feel. You have to make up your own mind about what you're comfortable with. I don't think it's such a bad thing. I had friendships with men who were married. What's a bad girl? Having sex with lots of men you're not married to, doesn't make you a bad girl, just an experienced girl.
7) QUESTION: How often should I see a guy I'm dating during the week? I don't want to smother him. -
ANSWER: It's different for each couple—you have to work at it. But if you like him a lot, see him. I assume if a guy feels smothered, he'll let you know.
8) QUESTION: I've come to the decision that my marriage is doomed and I want to end it. But I have no idea of how to break it to my husband. He'll be devastated. How should I do it? -
ANSWER: You need to sit down with your husband and let him know that your relationship isn't that good and that you need to decide together what you should do. If you don't love or like your husband anymore, you can't stay in a bad relationship just because you feel guilty—you'll be too unhappy. You may need to go together to get some professional help—i.e. a marriage therapist—to help you through it.
9) QUESTION: Should I start a relationship with a guy at work? There is this guy at work that I have amazing chemistry with, but is it wrong to follow through on it? -
ANSWER: You can have a serious relationship at work. I have done that, and I know many people who have done that successfully. Watch: Office Dating Rules You May Not Know
10) QUESTION: I'm 45 and my boyfriend is 21. We have a great relationship and we've been dating for over 8 months. Any advice on how I can get him to move in? -
ANSWER: My personal opinion is that there is too much of a difference in your ages. I wouldn't recommend him moving in with you. I don't think it will end up working out well. You're a woman and he's a boy!
11) QUESTION: I'm 29, I'm sweet, caring and attractive. But why can't I find a nice guy who wants to become a family man? -
ANSWER: You should be able to find one. But you may have to be a little pushy. If there's a guy you've seen who's a friend of a friend, you need to suggest that your friend fix you up by having a small dinner party so you can meet that man. That's what I did when I wanted to meet the man who is now my husband of almost 50 years. You may also have to call up a guy and be honest. Just say—I wanted to see if you wanted to have lunch one day. Give him a time and place and tell him that you think he SHOULD do it.
12) QUESTION: Can you be friends with benefits and not develop feelings for the guy? -
ANSWER: Yes, I think that's possible for some women—we're all different—but I think it's hard to do because sex is so important, exciting and thrilling. Most women do get involved with a man they're having sex with and can't really maintain that type of relationship. Personally, I only had sex with men I cared deeply about.
13) QUESTION: What work advice would you give a woman who's just starting out today in this lousy economic environment? -
ANSWER: Try to get a tolerable job at something you're good at—get in there and get paid to do it. You may not find the perfect job right now. But keep whatever job you have for as long as you can, for income and experience, while you look for something else.
14) QUESTION: Can you fall in love more than once? - anonymous
ANSWER: You should have several relationships before you settle down. I started dating in junior high school. I personally believe that being in love with someone is so wonderful, you should do it more than once. You can fall out of love with people, too—you might as well have different experiences as you go along. I can tell you that I was in love when I was 16, and I'm in love now!
15) QUESTION: Why won't my wife tell me her fantasies? I have great sex fantasies and I'd like to be able to share them with her and have her tell me hers. But she says she doesn't have any. -
ANSWER: You should keep encouraging her to be open with you. Tell her one or two of yours, and then maybe you can talk her into sharing one or two of hers. If she still refuses, you may need to encourage her to get professional help—I've found that has worked well.
Follow Bonnie Fuller on Twitter: twitter.com/bonniefuller
Image of Helen Gurley Brown at Woodbury College. Courtesy of: Helen Gurley Brown, Copyright Bad Girls Go Everywhere, Oxford University Press 2009.