Once again, nearly as consistently as prying public discussions into the supposed ticking of our biological clocks, the Cosmo-esque fake cover of Overanalyzing magazine has been recirculating. Perhaps it's because we're bored on this pre-long-weekend Friday, perhaps it's because it's rather genius, perhaps it's because, again and again, we need reminders that women's magazines—like, so often, the articles within them—have a tendency to run toward the undermining and under-empowering.

The cover is awesome, to be true ("I Had to Pay for My Own Drink: One Woman's Horror" is a personal favorite). Elsewhere, we see send-ups of the way lady mags talk about sex, losing weight, having kids, and the inevitable, omnipotent cupcake. Because Women. Love. Cupcakes. (Can we set the record straight here? Pie trumps a cupcake any day of the week. Pizza is better than both.) 

We first spotted it today after Peter Shankman, a vice president at marketing firm Vocus, posted it to his Facebook page on Wednesday. "I don't know who created this, but it's brilliant. :) Shouts out to all my publishing friends," he wrote, and nearly 10,000 people (publishing friends or otherwise) have liked it. It turns out, though, that he wasn't alone in not knowing where this Overanalyzing parody came from. It's appeared over and over again in various corners of the Internet, in 2010, 2011, and now, again, in 2012. It's been on Buzzfeed, on The Gloss, on FunnyJunk, on, more recently, Reddit (and then Facebook and Twitter ...which may indicate why it's popping up again.) Today it also makes Adweek. So, who exactly did create it?

The original source is Cracked.com, where the Hendricks mockup was posted along with similarly themed fake magazine covers featuring Heidi Klum, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kim Kardashian under the headline "Advice About Relationships: Relationships help pass the time by trapping you in arguments about things that don't matter." That article, a tongue-in-cheek takedown of pretty much everything we're "supposed" to believe about dating and relationships, was written in May of 2010 by Brendan McGinley, who also put the cover together. His piece on Cracked has since gotten 327,065 views. McGinley told The Atlantic Wire, "That 'arm on hip' Cosmo stance photo of Ms. Hendricks is by Stef Keenan, who was very kind to get a laugh out of it when I finally found her and asked her if I could pay her for it. So for that I'm eternally grateful to her." He added, "All three covers [he created the Maxim and Gody's ones, too] still make me chuckle when I see them, so I'm just happy other people can get a laugh out of them, too. And I'm grateful to Cracked for the opportunity to showcase them. "

In a section called "Self-Hating and Berating" in the original piece, McGinley writes, "Consider the erroneous advice on the cover of a contemporary women's magazine," and goes on to ask, "So how to enjoy oneself on a date and adhere to the rigid dictates of strangers? Here's a tip! Ignore some common rules plucked from today's checkout aisle." Like, for instance:

  • If you get a guy's number, wait three days to call so he wonders who you're sleeping with over the weekend. This counts as fantasizing about you.
  • A man won't respect you if you have sex on the first date, unless it's with him.
  • You look terrible. Have a friend Photoshop you before a date.
  • Love yourself for who you are, says a magazine that has never had a size 10 cover model.
  • You should never let a man pressure you into sex, unless he paid for dinner and a movie, because, come on, that's like $75.
  • Trust is the foundation of a healthy relationship. Hire a private investigator to dig up your boyfriend's secrets so you know how exactly what kind of bastard you're dating.
  • When having an affair with a married man, it is polite to wait at least six months for him to leave his wife before you "accidentally" get pregnant.
  • Dumped? Wow, there must be something wrong with you. Figure out what before you waste anyone else's time, you goddamn train wreck.

Men's magazines do this too, McGinley explains, "breeding a new caste of helpless, self-obsessed neurotics, just like women's mags did before their readership evolved an immunity to it." But you could argue that we're not immune at all, given rampant eating disorders and body dysmorphia, given female insecurities and unrealistic relationship expectations from men and women, given that books like The Rules persist and are being repackaged and resold again and again to convince women that they need to follow stringent guidelines and employ inauthentic tactics not only in terms of how they look or act generally but in how they date, in hopes of getting some man to finally marry them, the ultimate generalized goal of everyone. Then, presumably, they can start getting serious about all the expected things they're supposed to do with regard to having kids, and then being perfect moms and wives and careerwomen who can do it all? Why do we keep reading this stuff, anyway? 

Of the viral return of the cover, McGinley said, "It's nice that people respond positively to something you've created. The only part that's been odd is when one person thinks it's a feminist warcry and others think it's misogynist teasing. It's not really either, it's just...there's not that much new to say every month, you know? Being a man or a woman is basically the same internal experience through the millennia, however much the external social factors change. But when you have to fill those 600 non-ad pages each year, you pretend each issue is the first time you've run that kind of content. If laughing at it helps somebody shrug off some socialization pressure, hooray! If not: I'm sorry I could not save you. I just wanted to point out 80 percent of everything is BS. But I also think both those magazines [Cosmo and Maxim] are better than the reputations they catch."

Perhaps, though, that's exactly why we keep bringing back this fake Cosmo cover. Shankman told The Atlantic Wire that he "just thought it was priceless. Each caption is so right on target in skewering the Cosmo type mags." He added, "It's not a bad idea to see these repeatedly. Might make the world a better place." McGinley said, "I guess two years later, my thoughts are: Hi, everybody! Thanks for laughing. We'll get through this humanity thing together."
 

Fingers crossed.