A large stack of glossy, colorful magazines sits by the chairs in the waiting area for my physical therapist’s office. It’s comprised largely of Oprah magazines. I stare at them twice a week. The colors change, but everything else looks the same; there is no indication of the passage of time, either in the article titles or the Oprah photos behind them. Here are some actual examples (I took pictures of them with my phone; yes, I did that) of titles on the covers of the magazines:
How to Feel So Much Better!
Getting Out of Your Own Way!
O’s Guide to Loving the One You’re With!
Change You Hair, Change Your Life!
Find Joy In Every Day!
Instant Mood Boosters!
Meditate to Lose Weight!
Unlock Your Inner Superstar!
The spine of every issue contains the month and the title! (All About Hair! Make This Your Year to Shine!) With an exclamation point at the end! (Except for last June’s Wow! Reads because even Oprah thinks that words should outnumber exclamation points. Where possible.) The prescription for modern-age blues is apparently ecstatic coping advice from an egocentric multi-billionaire whose only claim to fame is the ability to hypnotize women into believing that they can make themselves happy by changing their hairstyle, losing ten pounds, purchasing a vibrator and main-lining acai berry and green tea.
Today’s women’s magazines have completely given up on pretending they are anything more than product catalogs that women have been duped into paying to purchase. Each one is a carefully constructed collection of print ads with images of impossibly beautiful women beating back age and fat by sheer force of photoshop. The smattering of articles only serve to tout the products in the ads, along with a token female celebrity feature where the interviewer spends the first paragraph describing how busy she is and how vibrant she looks without a “stitch” of make-up (a phrase that needs to be stricken from the the English language right now), and of course, no plastic surgery. (In the next paragraph, she will attribute it all to Pilates and a raw diet.)
If you flipped open a naturopathy catalog (a mail order catalog) and an Oprah magazine and laid them side by side, would you be able to tell which was which? I’m not sure I would. Probably the Oprah magazine has higher quality photography. It’s a well-photographed shill for the
self-help self-actualization industry in this country that is living large off of women’s doubt and insecurity about the fact that their lives aren’t as fun and joyful as they think they should be; women who entertain a closet fantasy of having drowned their children at birth and flown off to a remote island in the tropics where they support themselves by writing advice columns for women’s magazines while laughing into their piña coladas.
I, too, am a victim of the Oprah magazines of modern culture, along with countless exhausted, striving, perfectionist others. Just another statistic. (Put me in the fibromyalgia pile; I have friends there.) Do do do! Be thin! You can have it all! Don’t decide between two things, you might pick the wrong one! Just a little ingenuity and you can integrate them both!
No. I can’t, and I won’t. And not only can I not have it all, I can only have a few small pieces. So rather than trying to cram as many different chocolates down my throat as possible and then wondering why I feel sick, I’m going to peruse the chocolate map on the inside of the lid and only pick a dark chocolate with coconut, a chocolate truffle, and a peanut butter fudge. Those are the ones I like the best. And I’m going to make a strong cup of coffee and get a blanket and sit on my front porch and eat them one at a time as I watch the sun come up, and let my mind wander, and maybe decide on one productive thing to do today. Or not. Maybe I’ll just sit on my dirty rugs and play with my cat. And write an article for an Oprah magazine. Sit on your dirty rugs and play with your pet!
Somewhere, there is a clandestine society of women who feel their feelings. They burn an Oprah magazine every month as part of their ritual of defiance. On the longest night of the year, they gather up all of the Cosmos, Marie Claires, and Seventeens they can find and build a bonfire and dance naked around it, and whoever can shake her wrinkles and fat rolls the hardest gets a crown made of papier-mâché’d hershey’s kisses wrappers.
I need to join that secret society. I’m going to swipe one magazine from physical therapy every time I go until I have enough to fill a trash can and set fire to it during a full moon so they can find me.
Or perhaps two weeks after the full moon. Make the Most of Perimenopause! Go Green – Use Your Hot Flashes to Power Your Coffeemaker!