The Magazine Dilemma

July 24th, 2010

I like to read women’s fashion and beauty magazines.  I once confessed that to a woman of my acquaintance who slowly looked me up and down, taking in my naked face which definitely could have used some touching up, my hand-me-down-from-my-teenage-son cargo pants and my unevenly-faded tee-shirt and then said, “REALLY?” with such disbelief I had to rush to reassure her that I don’t absorb anything I read.  I didn’t tell her that there was a time in my life when I wrote for women’s magazines, including Vogue and Cosmo, because I think she would have keeled over in a dead faint.

I’d be the first to admit I don’t dress or look like I read those magazines but I do read them–every chance I get.  Trips are a good excuse.  There’s nothing like a long airplane flight to give you the excuse of running into a Hudson’s News and grabbing the latest Glamour (why DO they spell it that way?) or Marie Claire. Meanwhile, my pals at Amazon are always sending me these amazing promotions for magazines: who can say no to a buck an issue?  It’s tempting.  And sometimes I give into that temptation.  But deep down, I know I shouldn’t.

You see, a number of years ago, I made a vow.  My vow was to keep all women’s beauty magazines out of my house once my daughter was at an age when she would actually start looking at them and paying attention to what they’re selling.  These magazines are incredibly destructive to young women, and I know it.  The whole goal is to make you feel insecure about your own looks–you’re not thin enough, not fit enough, not well-dressed enough–and then essentially sell you articles, clothing, and make-up that will maybe, if you’re lucky and spend enough money, make you not as horribly unfit to be seen in public as you are now.

Her issues all stemmed out of insecurity.

The last thing in the world I want is for my daughter to question her own looks or body.  I happen to think she’s beautiful.  I’d like her to think so, too.  But Madison Avenue and all the major magazine publishers don’t want her to.  Because if she’s comfortable with who she is, she won’t spend future earnings trying to change herself, and buying magazines that promise to teach her “How to Lose Ten Pounds in Ten Days!”  or “Which Bikinis to Buy to Hide Your Body’s Flaws!”

I can feel my pulse racing just thinking about this stuff.

It’s too late for me.  I’m already insecure about my body, my looks, my ability to keep a man (which is weird since I’ve been with the same guy for the last 22 years).  I rail at my thighs and stomach, hate the way I look when I’m trying to get dressed up, refuse to wear a bathing suit in front of other people.  Apparently I absorbed the message I was being sent: I’m an unattractive, overweight mess.  And I guess on some level–even knowing that–I read these magazines for the solutions they offer.  (And for the pretty pictures, too, of course.)

Anyway, it’s not really about the magazines per se.  It’s a much bigger problem.  Ban the magazines and you still have the same message being beamed out by every TV show and movie–the actresses get skinnier the more famous they get and their breasts get bigger.  And then there’s all that advertising.  Break the TV, forbid the cinema, and there’s still the online media which tears into any celebrity who gains a few pounds or looks her age.  Destroy the computer and there are still billboards and posters everywhere.  This stuff is all around us.

How do I save my daughter when I can’t save myself?  And why do I still like to read these magazines, even knowing how very wrong they are in so many ways?  Any thoughts?  I could sure use some advice here.

  • Heidi says:

    To my silly, silly friend Claire,

    You need no advice. You are beautiful, warm, loving, witty, intelligent and a wonderful friend. Your daughter sees these things everyday. She knows that you are much loved, even if you see yourself as a bit natural and down to earth. Whether consciously or not, you have given her the finest example of “today’s woman”. I’ll get off my soapbox now. 🙂

  • Claire says:

    Aw, Heidi. You make me want to cry. Thank you for your kind words. I’m so far from being the parent I’d like to be. But thank you.

  • Autismville says:

    You are in my head!! Stop it! You’re starting to freak me out.

    Living this with my 10 year-old, who is already worrying about being fat.. And yes.. I’m sitting on my couch, sans makeup in running shorts and a t-shirt reading the In Style I snagged at CVS today… Why???????

  • Claire says:

    Oh, good, I’m not the only one! That makes me feel better for some reason. Maybe it’s like pornography? Fun to look at, but only because it’s NOT something we’ll ever do?

  • Ann says:

    I no longer read Glamour or Cosmo, but not for any politically consciousness raised reasons; it’s because they just no longer interest me. I do, however, pore over Better Homes and Gardens and House Beautiful and the Food Network magazine. It’s all the same mindfuck, really, looking at things (thighs, abs, clothes, ottomans, menus, hair, duvets) I will never have and winding up feeling a little bit sad/angry/envious along with the enjoyment of looking at pretty stuff.
    Maybe it’s the female equivalent of men checking out women’s bodies?

  • Claire says:

    That reminds me of something my friend said recently: she was looking at the cover of GOOD HOUSEKEEPING in a check-out line and thought, “Huh, this is really interesting. They must be targeting younger readers now, since the articles all look so appealing to me.” We laughed for a while at that one . . .

  • annie says:

    I agree with Heidi. You’re real, Claire and to your beautiful daughter, you are a perfect role model.

  • Florence says:

    I’m not easily impressed. . . but that’s impsersing me! 🙂

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