Thursday, September 6, 2007
Hold onto your butts, y'all -- I'm giving up magazines. I know this seems rash, and I want you to know that this is NOT a last ditch attempt at finding Jesus or a pre-suicide giving-away-things-that-mean-a-lot-to-me kind of thing. Rather, it is an exercise in stress relief. Also, I'm not exactly giving up all magazines, just the ones that subliminally make me hate myself. Allow me to explain.
I am stressed, pretty much all the time to varying degrees. As I have mentioned a lot on this site, I am a perfectionist. I have recently realized that these two things are not only linked, they are like, kissin' cousins, you know? Just all kinds of wrong.
Anyway, I live in this culture, which means that I automatically get exposed every day to messages -- via advertisements and commercials -- along the lines of: Just _________ and you will be perfect! Fill in the blank with any of the following: work out harder, eat healthily, buy this outfit, buy an apartment, have a baby, get married, use this hair product ... the list is infinite. A non-perfectionist might see these things and say, meh, I like the way I'm doing things just fine, thanks. I, on the other hand, see them as goals. I must be fit and thin. I must be pretty and well-groomed. I must be successful and wealthy. I must be happy and fulfilled at all times. It's like a fucked-up neo-feminism that says, not only can you be anything, but you HAVE to be EVERYTHING. This (however misguided) belief leads me to endlessly criticize myself. I don't want to say there's a voice in my head, because that makes it sound like I'm schizophrenic, but, for instance, if I don't get up and go to the gym before work (which, by the way, I have only done about twice), I think, Why can't you get your ass up and work out, you lazy bitch?. If I don't have time to wash my hair in the morning, every time I look in the mirror over the course of the day I think, Not winning any beauty pageants today. I am constantly vexed over the fact that I'm not living in the perfect, seamless, easy, stress-free land of make-believe propagated by our insane culture, and reminding myself of my shortcomings takes up most of my idle time.
Magazines, as I see it, are the worst offenders for women. You know which ones I'm talking about: the ones that pretend they are celebrating women when really they are just setting you up to feel that you are not enough. They literally scream at you from the newsstands (or, more likley, from your very own mail box): LOSE WEIGHT! DON'T AGE! BUY A NEW FALL WARDROBE! BE PRETTY, GODAMMIT, OR YOUR LIFE WILL SUCK! I read these magazines all the time. I squeal when they come in the mail, I read them to relax, to make me feel better. It's only just now dawning on me that they are actually doing the opposite.
Yesterday was the kicker: I was reading my five-pound Vogue (a magazine that doesn't even pretend it thinks you are okay the way you are, unless you happen to be an anorexic socialite who regularly spends $5,000 on a single pair of shoes) and playing a game I invented called "Imaginary Closet". I flip through the pages, filling a pretend closet with all of the outfits I want. Suddenly, I got depressed. I won't ever be able to afford those clothes. I can't even afford the Gap right now. And, why am I reading a magazine that advertises plastic surgery, something I am personally, wholeheartedly against? Who can afford a $200/hr personal trainer? Who can fit in six gym visits a week? Who can do all of the checklists to "be a better you" and meditate and fix whole-grain pancakes with muddled strawberries every morning before heading off to the park to paint and "take time for you!"???? It's not only Vogue, it's all of them: Lucky, Elle, Shape, Self, Glamour, Marie Claire, Bazaar, InStyle, and countless others. They just make it harder. It's not relaxng to read all about how much less than perfect you are. It's upsetting.
I know I'm not the first person to have this realization, but it's a big step for me. I'm going to take a few weeks and read the newspaper. I'm going to read the New Yorker. I'm going to read actual books. And if I can't get up to go to the gym? Well, then, Anna Wintour can kiss my fat ass.