dolly_aprilI think Dolly may be improving (if only it would drop the model search!)

Forty eight pages into Dolly’s April issue and I was beginning to wonder if there was anything worth commenting on. Yes there was a promotion of the Dolly model search, but I’d already gone to town on that in the last review, 20 pages straight on fashion and ads, behind the scenes at X-factor, music predictions, then something I could talk about ‘My body tells a story: Three beautiful girls, three different stories about dealing with major body changes.’

In something of a contrast to the opening model search promo, Taylor, 19, writes about the impact of two spinal operations to correct a curved spine which leaves her with an “enormous scar” down the entire length of her back. After struggling to accept the scar and the reminder it brings of significant pain, she now sees it as a sign of what she has overcome and the strength required to go through the two operations. “I just hope that by sharing my story I can somehow help girls love their bodies, scars and all, and celebrate their uniqueness and the strength they may not realise they have themselves,” she says. Aimee, 18, has had 100 surgeries after developing a flesh-eating skin disease which caused her to be put on life support due to organ failure. Her leg swelled to twice its size and needed to be cut open to reduce the pressure. She was in a coma for a week. It was thought the leg may need to be amputated. Then followed surgery every second day for six months to try to control the bacteria eating her body. After recovering enough to go home and back to school she is bullied because of the scars. But now she just feels fortunate her leg was saved. Erin 16, shares her story of losing her hair – which was once half way down her back – as a result of chemo required to treat Hodgkin’s lymphoma last year. The chemo makes her feel very ill. But she is staying confident and surrounding herself with positive people. Inspiring stuff.

After that the heart-crushed reader is offered advice on ‘how to get over him in a month’ which includes not constantly checking for messages, how to avoid him in public, hide him on line (“If your prone to online stalking, delete all social media apps for now”), put everything he gave you into a box and give it to a friend if you’re not quite ready to chuck it, meet new people and do things you can enjoy as a single person. ‘How to blow your trumpet’ is about “talking yourself up” in the right way because people who know how to do this “get want they want”. According to Tina Plavsic from Radiance, “Confident people get noticed and tend to get ahead more than wallflowers.” This can help with job interviews, first dates or public performances. The article encourages girls to be “proud but not in a narcissistic way.” Avoid cringe-worthy status updates or high-fiving yourself in public. Perhaps this issue should be read by some adults as well.

‘The Big friendship workout’ is about helping girls talk about issues in a friendship. It quotes Sharon Witt, author of Teen Talk: Girl Talk who says: “Rather than bottling up your feelings and letting them fester, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. Having regular friendship tune-ups will help tackle small issues before they become big dramas.” Practical advice is given on dealing with jealousy, when you like the same guy, when she imitates your style, when she spends more time with her boyfriend than you, when she runs late or bails out, and when she’s clingy.

‘Has your celebrity obsession gone too far?’ is about dealing with a celebrity fixation that is stopping you from sleeping, eating or concentrating in real life. “When you start obsessively thinking about meeting him, or plotting how you’re going to break up his relationship, then you’ve crossed a line”. This is rather amusing, given the predominance of “hot celebs!” in girl’s magazines. In the ‘Getting over him’ feature mentioned above, the advice for days 24-26 reads: “We’re not expecting you to move on completely just yet, but it’s OK to find a new person to think about before you fall asleep – even if your love affair might be a little far-fetched. Our pick? Harry ‘So Dreamy’ Styles. Sweet dreams”. And a few pages later we’re told why Jeremy Irvine (who stars in ‘Great Expectations’ is “hot”, “modest” and “a catch”. In the last issue, entire bands were identified as “Hottest Future Husbands.” (And the March issue of Girlfriend gave a competition winner the very special prize of a night in a hotel room with a cardboard cut out of Justin Bieber!)

Back to the real world, ‘Reality Reads’ includes a lengthy piece by Georgia, 17, who tells what it’s like having a mum who was a glamour model underwent multiple cosmetic surgery procedures (including 14 breast surgeries from the age of 17). Alicia Douvali even asked her daughter to miss a Year 12 photography exam to travel to the US for cosmetic surgery. “I kept telling her how vital it was, but she just said that what she was having done was more important and there was no other time she could do it.” Georgia missed the exam and dropped the subject. While protective of her mum, George is open about the problems she feels her mum had, including negative relationships and low self-esteem. Their beauty product business then gets a pitch.

‘Cool things your nan can teach you’ was a bit cute, bringing back memories of my own grandmothers. Crafts, baking and gardening are mentioned. Helping girls reconnect with arts, crafts, beauty and earth is a theme of Maggie Hamilton’s latest book, Secret Girls’ Business, which I featured here. In ‘How to cope with the C-word (criticism )’, girls are encouraged to recognised that criticism can be helpful – it’s how we manage the feedback that is important. “If criticism is delivered by someone who genuinely has your best interests at heart, it can help you grow and motivate you to do better, change your ways, adjust how you communicate and understand how your behaviour impacts others,” says psychologist Emma Webster. Tips are provided: listen carefully, make sure you understand, calm down before retaliating, respond maturely, admit if you’ve made a mistake, make changes. A helpful article for readers (including this one). Related is repairing your reputation when you’ve messed up and how to make amends. Other helpful pieces for girls are how to deal with homesickness and pressure to perform well at school. This article contains specific warnings about not mixing prescription drugs and energy drinks which can lead to seizures and psychosis.

A must-read is ‘6 reasons you’re always tired’. Sleep deficiency in teen girls is a growing problem, contributing to anxiety and depression. Uncovering the underlying cause is urged. Possible culprits are listed: dehydration, too much screen time, diabetes, stress, glandular fever and iron deficiency. Having recently discovered I was severely iron deficient and encouraging every girl and woman I know to have their iron levels tested, I was very pleased to see this included. It’s one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in girls and women, related to dieting, restricting food, menstrual loss and a tendency in many girls to avoid red meat. Please get a blood test.