When people talk about tips in women's magazine, they inevitably think of suggestions like "use your scrunchie as a cock-ring" or "dribble chocolate sauce all over his body." Frankly, in a world where people get off on toenail clippings and videos of Leonardo DiCaprio crying, this is just too boring and vanilla for me. So what should you do if you're in the market for a unique and truly existence-altering life hack?
Enter Chat, Pick Me Up, and similar British women's magazines (known in the industry as "real-life weeklies")—the kind of publications you see on the lower shelves at newsstands, often costing less than a fun-size bar of chocolate and featuring breathless headlines like "Christmas at Home… With Mum's Dead Body!" and "Chip Shop Shame Made Me Shed 5 Stone!"
If you're familiar with these gossip magazines, you'll know that they usually have a page of lifestyle tips submitted by readers competing for the top hack, which earns a prize of around £60. As a long-standing fan of these publications, however, I will be the first to admit that these tips usually make about as much sense as a Goop jade vagina egg. Past submissions have exhorted readers to stick sanitary pads on their hips for "instant curves," slice open pita bread as an emergency clutch bag, and use sanitary towels to clean their bathrooms ("so absorbent!"). They've even been lovingly collated and mocked in BuzzFeed listicles and Tumblr blogs.
But who I am to criticize? Maybe Kirsty from Brighton and Elaine from Inverclyde are onto something that my metropolitan liberal elite ass isn't. Maybe sanitary products really can double as booty padding, and instant hot cocoa can replace bronzer. After all, there's an entire cottage industry built around dubious internet life hacks advising people to use frozen grapes to chill wine or a cheese grater on cold butter.
There was only one way to find out: I was going to have to try some of these tips myself.
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(FYI: These are all legitimate, real tips that were printed in actual magazines and endorsed as actual things you can do in your life. I did not make these up.)
"Now that it's colder out, hard boil a couple of eggs just before you leave the house and put them in your coat pockets. They stay hot for ages, keep your hands toastie warm—and when they cool down, you can eat them as a delicious snack!" Joanna from Edinburgh
It's 68 degrees out in London, but I dutifully hard boil some eggs and slip them into my jacket pockets for my walk to work. I tentatively wrap each hand around a warm egg, expecting to feel a little grossed out or weird. Guess what? It actually feels really, really great. (It's not like they're peeled, which a colleague assumed.) Very comforting. Turns out eggs fit into the palm of the hand perfectly, like little round hot water bottles. They even stay warm for the entire 20-minute walk to work!
It isn't until I see two colleagues walk past me, talking and conversing like normal people and not freaks who keep warm, just-boiled eggs into their pockets, that I start feeling kind of weird. It's like I've taken pictures of their kids from across the park without parental permission, or taken a piss by their bicycle and accidentally splattered their wheels. I'm keeping a little hard-boiled secret in each pocket.
I sadly remove my hands from my pockets, furtively chuck the eggs into my tote bag, and immediately forget all about them. Later that night, I accidentally step on my bag at home and spend the evening picking eggshells out.
"If you need a clutch bag in an emergency, just put your lippy, car keys, and tampon into a pita bread, remembering to always hold it the right way up." Anonymous
Is pita bread the worst bread? It is if you buy it in a sad, defeated-looking multi-pack from a supermarket like I have. It also makes the worst emergency handbag ever. It can't even hold a lip balm and £25 without breaking open on the way to the corner shop. The shopkeeper, who is used to pathetic journalists mining his establishment for content, looks nonplussed. "Am I going to be in the story?" he asks. Already, the pita is disintegrating in my hand. I've never hated a carbohydrate more.
"I'm not very curvy and have no hips, so I pin sanitary towels on the side of my knickers, then put my clothes on over the top. Instant curves!" Rosy from East London
Sanitary products have achieved near legendary status in these highly specific tips pages. They can be used for literally anything: as a way to block a drafty window, Easter-egg bunny ears, bedroom slippers, and makeshift armpit wipes.
I peel off the adhesive strip of two sanitary pads and gingerly stuff them down my jeans. Walking around in jeans with sanitary pads taped to my hips is maybe the most deviant thing I've ever done in the VICE office, and that says a lot. It feels even more deviant than coming to work with boiled eggs in my pockets. Also, as far as I can tell, there is no discernible difference between pre-pad me and post-pad me. I'm not saying I'm the curviest woman on Earth, but come on—these are maxi pads, not throw pillows.
"I use sanitary towels to clean my bath, sink, and loo in the bathroom. They're great because they stick to your hands and are so absorbent." Elaine from Inverclyde
I make a good pass at the toilet seat and the sink tap with some sanitary pads, but my whole body feels like one long retch. I don't even know why. It's not like I haven't used a roll of kitchen towels to clean a bathroom before, or accidentally used my own toothbrush to scrub mould. There is literally nothing to differentiate a sanitary pad from any other fiber-based absorbent cloth. Yet psychologically, there is a big difference. It just feels wrong. I can't explain why. If you can't understand why wiping up stray drops of piss with a sanitary pad is abnormal, you are truly beyond help.
"If you want a glow, but don't want to splash out on a bronzer, just dab your makeup brush into some hot chocolate and sweep it over your cheeks. It looks similar—just don't be tempted to lick your face!" Kirsty from Brighton
I have to admit, I'm a little apprehensive about this tip. When I check the ingredient label on the hot chocolate container, I find out that it only contains 13 percent cocoa powder—the rest is sugar, E numbers, and something described as "anticaking agent." When I tip the chocolate powder into the lid, the air fills with the sickening scent of artificial sweeteners. It doesn't even look that brown—or at least, not a brown that any human being naturally turns in the sun.
But I'm converted when I sweep it over my face. After a couple of tries with the brush, I do indeed start to develop a small, sun-kissed glow. And I smell great! I smell like childhood memories of snuggling up with a hot mug of cocoa and a hug from dad, or at least what I imagine happy childhood memories to smell like. (I was a very unhappy child. No, really? Yes, I know, it's difficult to imagine.)
Triumphant, I walk over to my desk and ask my coworker Sirin if she notices anything different about me. "I think it actually looks OK!" I announce proudly.
She looks pained. "Oh, no. No." I slouch off to the bathroom to scrub it off with toilet paper. "Soz!" Sirin yells after me. In the cold, harsh light of the office toilets, I see what she means: Cocoa powder is not a flattering shade. The light tan color is flat and depthless, which makes sense, because it's supposed to be mixed into a delicious hot drink, not blended onto human skin.
When I try to wipe it off, it gets up my nostrils and makes my nose itch. I look at the stained, crumpled pieces of tissue. It looks like I've taken the world's most powdery shit.
I tried my best. I really wanted these to work. I prayed to Chizzy (Charlie and Izzy, the two patron saints of Chat magazine's now-defunct tips page) to make it happen. But some attempts to make life easier end up making it so much worse.