I used to read magazines in part because of the escapism they offered. After a stress-inducing week at a lousy job, I’d pick up a couple of magazines and spend a blissful evening reading about glamorous lives and exclusive couture.
Sure, magazines still offer some sliver of escapism, but reading the June issue of Marie Claire was like delving into a world that’s worse than the one I actually live in. They’ve dubbed this “The Body Issue,” but really, it’s the bloody depressing issue. The intrepid staffers manage to put a negative slant on every single feature.
It starts on the cover with this:
Mighty Heidi Klum Recommends Sex in an Igloo
So it’s not enough for her to be a successful, beauty-standard-setting Teutonic blonde, but now my sex life is inadequate too? And an igloo? How would I even get access to one of those?
In case you haven’t already given up on liking your body—and if you’re a regular reader of women’s magazines, you probably have!—the swimsuit edition of “101 Ideas” will pound any shred of self-esteem out of you. To be fair, they’ve made a modicum of effort to acknowledge that one size does not fit all. Apparently, there are vastly different ways in which women can be scrawny blondes!
There’s skinny-blonde-with-a-prodigious-rack Katherine Heigl, whom the magazine dubs “curvy.” If her picture above the words “Flaunt a full figure” isn’t enough to make you skip lunch, then you’re a more secure person than I am. The next page bears Kate Hudson, who is somehow the embodiment of an “athletic” figure. Even more baffling, the page quotes Gabrielle Reece, who, as an athlete, actually possesses an athletic figure! Perhaps she isn’t blonde enough to appear here. Finally, there’s “petite,” represented by the wispy Kate Bosworth. I can’t quibble with that characterization of Bosworth, although “she can’t possibly eat solid food” is probably more accurate. That covered everyone, right? Next page!
More body anxiety-inducing style lurks on page 58, where “Fashion Prediction” touts capris:
Don’t get caught with your pants hem down. Think cropped…with ankle-enhancing chunky shoes.
Ankle-enhancing? That may have been last body part I wasn’t worried about.
It goes on: “Project Heidi” reveals that Klum really does look that good in person. The “Bulletin” overflows with gloominess: it crams disaster survival, a democracy activist’s death in Iraq, and students lobbying for the right to carry guns on campus into three pages. (There’s more there, too, including the flash that $399 iPhones are the preferred gift for Father’s Day. Uh, not this year, Dad. Sorry.)
Then there’s “Women Harassing Men,” about the rise in women sexually harassing men in the office. This story will forcibly disabuse you of any silly notion that females might actually abstain from the kind of behavior to which we’ve been subjected. Equality means different things to different people, I guess. Next, “I Married A Terrorist” is the story of a woman who, well, you know.
Even theoretically joyous events—weddings—are morphed into a relentless negative. Thinking of inviting friends to your nuptials? Don’t bother! They don’t want to come! “How to Survive Wedding Season” offers not-at-all-bitter essays with titles like:
•When Brides Attack
•Three Reasons It’s a Bad Idea to Hook Up with Three Guys at the Reception
•Hello Wedding Season, Good-Bye Savings
Are you still with me? Immediately following that heartfelt celebration of wedded bliss comes “Losing Stephanie.” The only photos of the aforementioned Stephanie are from the past, while her husband and kids are shown “at home in 2008,” so right away, it’s clear this story doesn’t have a happy ending. Stephanie was diagnosed with Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, one of those inexplicable, horrifying deaths that women’s magazines specialize in. Here’s what the doctor told her family:
CJD is one of a group of degenerative brain disorders…in which it is believed that an infectious and indestructible form of a protein called a prion invades the brain and creates spongelike holes. As the brain disintegrates, the human or animal descends into dementia and loses all control of its body. There is no treatment for CJD; it is 100 percent fatal.
Writer Gretchen Voss explains that the disease is believed to be linked to mad-cow disease. Worst of all, it has an incubation period of 30 years—meaning we could all be nursing this fatal disease right now. Still not drained enough to throw the magazine across the room? Keep reading!
A few dozen fashion pages intervene, offering up the usual outrageously thin women in fantastically expensive clothes, with the only atypically pleasing element being a non-white model in “Nightglo.” Then, two features add a lamentable dimension to otherwise positive tales of transformation.
First up, Ariel Levy’s acne memoir “Out, Damned Spot!” The good: her skin clears up, finally, thanks to a new laser treatment. The bad: The treatment is $500 a session, and she requires “several” after the initial three sessions. Next, diet-book authors Neris Thomas and India Knight celebrate dropping pounds with an entirely sensible regimen they devised. But even losing 70 pounds has its downside. This is Thomas’ final quote:
I kind of thought everything suited me when I lost the weight. We both spent so much money, it was a disaster! I’m sure our next book will be Happier Women, Loads of Debt.
Because I am a masochist, I persisted. The Love/Sex section includes the confession of a man who ended his relationship with the woman he dubs the “One for Me” because of an addiction to online dating—and surprise! None of the women he’s met online since have lived up to her. Then Maura Kelly meets a man who pressured her to pop a Xanax on the first date—which I’m going to go out on a limb and declare a dealbreaker. He tells her:
“It makes you forget all your hang-ups. You become the real you.”
If you have the tiniest shred of faith in humanity remaining, the final page of the magazine will kill it with the cattiness that is endemic in fashion mags:
White pants: If your thighs are wider than this caption, pass.
And if you want to feel the slightest bit of joy ever again, pass on this issue. Excuse me, please—I need to go look at some puppies.