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Not Real Simple
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.

Real Simple 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. Until…

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.
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