|I recently picked up a new magazine called Real Simple. I believe
their motto is: Getting Your Money Into Our Pockets
is Real Simple. This magazine purports to be about
simplicity, living a spiritual life, and connecting mind, body and soul. On closer inspection, though, it’s clear
that what it connects is babyboomers’ desire to think they’re living a simple, spiritual life with advertisers
simple need to reach nirvana by selling us stuff.
I have to give the publishers credit -- the magazine does look more peaceful and less stressful than most of the
others that surround it on the shelves. There’s no blaring headlines inciting you to "Lose Weight Now On
All Guacamole Diet!" or "Grow Curlier Hair by Thanksgiving!" or "Have Twice As Many Orgasms
in Half the Time." And no perfect airbrushed women pout and thrust their breasts in your face. I can’t
speak for you, but for me, that’s a good thing.
is not glossy. Nor does it have perfume samples or four hundred magazine subscription cards stuffed inside. (There
are three). There are no ads for cigarettes or alcohol. All of these things would make me a sucker for subscribing.
I open it. Then, my opinion quickly changes as I have to ignore seventeen pages of ads before reaching the table
of contents. The ads in this month’s magazine include: babyGap ("It’s simple to keep your kids stylish if
you come from old money or you’re a dot com millionaire"); Ralph Lauren (featuring a well-dressed woman lying
in the grass next to her horse thinking "I’m glad I have a maid to take care of all my simple household chores.");
Clinique anti-gravity firming lift cream ("Avoiding aging is as simple as a quick visit to your facial pore
specialist at the Clinique counter!"), Almay mascara ("If you think you can achieve spiritual growth
without well made-up eyes, you’re a real simpleton!"), kidstyle.com ("It’s so simple, your kids can shop
without you!"), Hallmark ("Tell her you simply forgot her birthday"), and Adrienne Vittadini (featuring
a plump-lipped blonde woman in fur coat looking perplexed. Perhaps she’s wondering, "Should I wear the simple
fox stole instead?")
I don’t know what I was expecting, but this wasn’t it. I’m not so simple I believe magazines can exist without
ads, but where are the ads for the chanting monks CD, table top water fountains, Zen gardens in a box? These would
be more in line with a magazine about spiritual life, wouldn’t they? Or at least ads for St. John’s Wort and 3-day
excursions to the holy land of your choice.
But that’s not what we get. All in all, sixty of the one hundred forty-eight pages of Real Simple are devoted
to ads. Just so we know for sure that the simple life includes never going outside without make-up, wearing multiple
strands of pearls and Donna Karan shoes, drinking coffee (five different brands of it), playing polo in your Nissan
Pathfinder or just driving to the match in your Chevrolet, potty-training your dog in your Dockers, checking your
e-mail in the bedroom then responding with a card, pureeing melon in your professional food processor and storing
it in your architect-designed refrigerator, believing that Philip Morris is concerned about your neighbors, buying
natural-looking overpriced linens from Calvin Klein, charging it all on your Master Card, and photographing it
all to preserve the memories. Simple me, I thought someone to love, a couple of dogs, and a nice hike in the country
was all it took. And to think I’ve always considered myself a spiritual person.
It’s too bad abut the ads, because there are some good articles in Real
Simple – a piece on hiring a caregiver for your aging
parents, choosing a pet, going back to school, and finding happiness. These are, however sandwiched in ads dressed
up as articles – where to find the perfect purse under $500, how to add spirituality to your life by adding body
oil to your bath, which is the best Palm Pilot (you know the old saying, "Jesus is my Palm Pilot?"),
I think the magazine’s schizophrenia is best summed up by the last of their Five Steps to Happiness: Don’t covet.
Well, there you go. I guess I won’t be subscribing.