I am beginning to lose patience with myself for reading certain magazines. I really think that the time I spend reading them would be better spent doing nearly anything else, including giving wedgies to orphans. I’m not particularly opposed to newsmagazines, or to those cerebral, highbrow periodicals that come out ‘quarterly’ and are filled with pithy little fiction pieces in which neither character in a love story has a name; the kinds with comics that you kind of want to laugh out loud at, and kind of want to punch in the face. No, I’m referring to the magazines, aimed especially at women in their teens to early thirties, that have the word ‘Butt’ somewhere on the cover more often than not. Sometimes it is followed by an exclamation point. Magazines on which the number of days or weeks to a slimmer me constantly varies but is always indicated. I think it’s time I gave these magazines up, or at least tried to figure out why I read them voraciously whenever they’re around, even though all they do is make me feel as though I don’t measure up in a number of petty little ways.
I mean, really. If my friends talked down to me the way Mademoiselle does, I would claw their faces with my ragged, un-manicured nails. And yet I am content to curl up with reading material that has the emotional depth of a salad, and read articles that assume a chummy, familiar tone with me, then tell me to tone my flabby arms. The ways in which the messages of different articles in a single magazine contradict each other, boggle my mind. ‘Learn to Love Your Body!’ is followed by ‘Hide Your Ugly, Ugly Flaws!’ There’s always the piece telling you how to ‘Be Yourself!’ which is inevitably followed by something to the tune of ‘Here’s How to Be Someone Who Men Will Find Attractive!’
Ever since I began reading Seventeen magazine at the tender age of twelve (which is the age of most avid Seventeen readers who are not in prison), I have gathered the pearls of wisdom which drop, along with subscription cards, from the glossy, all-knowing pages of magazines. I will scan advice columns and apply each situation to my own life, no matter its utter irrelevance: (“Her mom doesn’t approve of her fiancée?…I have a mom.”) My favorite example of the logic of these magazines is when a handful of random men are interviewed about an issue and their responses appear next to little pictures of them that are captioned along the lines of: Bob, age 17, CT. These opinions are helpful only if I happen to run into Bob in CT, in which case I’ll know that he thinks women who have sex on the first date are “weird”. Since I’ll probably never meet Bob, am I supposed to be taking his opinion as representative of the opinions of 17 year olds, or residents of Connecticut, or Bobs…or even men in general? The possibilities are endless, and I hate them all.
Is it possible that I am making these magazines out to be worse than they are? After all, no one is forcing me to read them, and they may serve a purpose in my life that I am simply unaware of. Perhaps as a young girl, I had too much self-esteem, and needed someone to inform me that I had unsightly circles under my eyes, and how to treat them. Maybe I simply enjoy the escapism of reading articles that assume that my problems go no further than hiding my trouble spots and figuring out what he secretly wants me to do in bed. All the same, I think I could do without learning which $300 fashion must-haves are hot this season, and which foods have hidden calories (Curse you, food, and your treacherous caloric deceit! Feh.) From now on, I’m not going to read anything that won’t help me achieve inner serenity, or at least give me answers to shout out during Jeopardy. It’s quality literature for me, or nothing.