Five Things

What Did ‘Seventeen’ and ‘Dawson’s Creek’ Do to Me?

History is public, but the past is personal

Ashley C. Ford
ZORA
Published in
5 min readNov 21, 2020

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Drew Barrymore on the cover of the August 1998 issue of ‘Seventeen’ magazine in costume from the cinematic classic ‘Ever After.’

Five Things is a weekly essay of five short thoughts inspired by my own life and observances now that I’ve moved back home to Indiana after years of living in New York.

One.

Nothing about money was consistent when I was a child. So when my grandmother gave us an allowance for two or three months, I took my purchasing power seriously. Grandma was living with my mother for a bit, as she did from time to time, and every Friday, just after depositing her check, she would give me a $10 bill or two fives, then do the same for my brother and sister. What my brother spent his cash on shifted from week to week, but I kept the same route and bought the same items.

First, I’d hit up the gas station for a bag of Hot Cheetos and a Cherry Coke. Then, I’d walk to the grocery store and buy four kiwis, my favorite fruit at the time. Finally, I’d walk to the CVS and pick out a teen magazine. I was about 11 years old and certain my whole life would change when I became a teenager. I wanted to be prepared.

For two or three months I clung to this Friday routine. I loved waking up, going to school, burning with anticipation for what I absolutely considered a shopping excursion led by me, centered on me, with the sole concern of getting exactly what I wanted. If I happened to find myself in the CVS on an errand with my mother, I’d walk over to the magazine racks and plan which one would be mine come Friday. I’ll never forget the heartbreak of missing out on a desired issue because I didn’t realize a newer issue was set to hit stands before my allowance hit my pocket.

I’ll also never forget the little twinge in my chest when I looked at magazine after magazine, searching for Black girl faces like mine and only finding them in the specialty hair care section. I didn’t think much about my hair then and kinda still don’t. But I accepted it as something I should care about and did and still do—what I could to remain presentable. I also accepted the lack of mirroring in my magazines as something that would not change, so best not to be too upset. Even if that’s how I felt inside. Even if part of me knew I should have…

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