shine on you glossy things.
on my tempestuous relationship with magazines.
I have a confession to make.
I don’t read magazines. Anymore.
When I was a little girl, I treasured my older sister’s 1980’s copies of Seventeen magazine that she had left behind when she went off to college (there is quite an age gap between my darling sis and I.) I prized them above, well, if not all other things, then many other things. I brought them to elementary school on occasion, and later on to middle school as well, and would sit on the playground or in the cafeteria (respectively) surrounded by a group of girls, just flipping through the shiny pages and looking at the teased up hairdos and acid washed jeans and the natural eyebrows and somewhat healthier looking models. We would laugh at the bangs and joke about the pleated pants and secretly take mental notes while reading over the advice columns (because why not start stocking up on advice for teenagehood when you are only ten?) I stored them all under my bed (along with my sister’s old Mademoiselle’s, r.i.p.) and collected new issue after new issue, growing my collection of magazines far past that of most teenagers, and certainly beyond that of any other preteen.
Until one day, and without any warning or the slightest provocation, my father threw them all away. One sunny afternoon I came home from summer camp I think, and climbed the winding stair up to my bedroom (which was in the attic of our old Victorian home) dropped my backpack on the floor, and lay down on my stomach on the blue carpet with the bleach stains from my sister’s one attempt at going blonde, and crawled toward my bed to reach down underneath and feel around and… I felt nothing. When I looked, I saw nothing. Just blank space. Just the space under my bed.
And I. Threw. A. Fit.
And, to be fair, and hashtag this as #firstworldproblems or #whitegirlproblems all you want, I had every reason to. Those were my possessions. They were my treasures. My father thought they were garbage and was constantly telling me that they were rotting my brain, but to me they were like windows into the way the ‘other half’ lived. The beautiful, the glamorous, the famous half. Where I wanted to be one day and the closest I could be and the furthest out of that house that wasn’t always the happiest house on the block. Fashion and Hollywood and smiles and beauty. And things to desire that I never would have known to desire if it weren’t for my magazines. How would I have known what to want if they hadn’t been telling me?
After that, I think my hoarding of magazines only grew worse. And I mean, I hoarded them, I really did. My tastes branched out to include Vogue, and Elle, and Jane, and W, and Flaunt, and Nylon, and Paper, and Dazed and Confused, and Lucky, and Domino (oh god r.i.p. Domino, even now, just thinking about you makes my heart hurt) and and and and and.
And I could not throw any of them out. To a point where I once used stacks of them as bedside tables, and stacks of them in the hallway as actual shelves (granted, when you live alone as a teenager, this is no unusual way to furnish your home.) In high school I had the excuse that I was (in addition to a million other things) a “two-dimensional mixed-media artist” and therefore needed them for the collage work elements of my art. But that stage in my artistic development only lasted so long, and even then I had giant Rubbermaid containers just filled with tens of pounds of clippings of hands and mouths and heroin chic misery stretching all the way back to the 90’s. And after that, well, I could no more throw out a magazine than I could throw out a book (it is, of course, common knowledge that anyone who throws out a book will be haunted by that book’s ghost for all the rest of eternity.)
Suddenly — and while looking back it feels as if it was overnight, but I’m sure that it was not — that all changed. I think the turning point was around the time I was moving away from my first apartment, which coincided with my being extremely, extremely ill (for a good few months straight, but that’s a whole other story, and invalids like me are wont to rattle on and on about these things.) My body didn’t work, in a way that had nothing to do with how much I hated it for not looking like the models in my magazines, and I barely had it in me to feed myself and get out of bed in the morning, let alone to go out and purchase stack after stack of fashion magazines.
After a long sabbatical, while waiting for a prescription to be filled at my local Rite Aid, I picked up a copy of _____ (why blame any one magazine in particular? it's all of them) and aimlessly leafed through it. Within five minutes I'd spotted five beauty products that just a moment ago I had not known even existed, but that I absolutely had to have; my thighs were not thin enough and my hair was not perfectly coiffed at all times and I was too poor to live a happy life. I was gripped with shock and horror and leapt backward, throwing the evil thing down on the floor and cried, in full view of the rest of the drug store patrons, "Out out you evil thing! I will not be your slave!!" (You got me, that never really happened, I simply placed it calmly back in the rack and made note of my awareness that, yes, magazines make you want and want and want and never stop wanting.)
I haven't purchased a magazine in years. The only ones I have in my possession take up about a twelve inch long stretch of my bookcase, and include nothing but Lula's and Domino's. I still have a great love for artful editorials, anything shot by Tim Walker (the magician,) styled by Grace Coddington (the unparalleled genius of the fashion world,) or featuring Karen Elson (the woman is made of shadows and moonlight.) I enjoy these spreads online, or occasionally seek them out in bookstores to look at and marvel over, but I never, ever buy them. (For the sake of full disclosure, if Domino was still around and Lula was easier to come by in the US, I would totally still buy both of those... just to be real with y'all.) I admire a great number of other publications, and I would even love to participate in some one day, but for now I'm happy to limit the number of things that make me feel insecure (lord knows we've enough to contend with in this modern world.) That is part of what I love about publications now being online; it is so much easier to weed through the ads and the hurtful images to the bits of art and wonderful articles that are housed therein, only buried betwixt all this other harmful stuff.
Anyway, that's my story. That's why I don't read magazines. Anymore.
And what about you? I'd love to hear your stories about your relationships with magazines, the role they play in your life, and how they make you feel. Please share!