So a strange thing came in the mail the other day. It was the latest issue of Marie Claire with an offer of one year free subscription. I have no idea how or why it was sent to me. It really doesn’t matter. Because (after paging through it), I threw away the magazine and went online to cancel the subscription.
Why did I do this? Out of fear that “if it seems too good to be true, it is,” that I may somehow be incurring charges that are hidden in some fine print somewhere? No, though that thought did cross my mind. Out of some purist revulsion to the images of less than fully clothed ladies littering the pages? Not really, but that did make it easier.
I did it because, as I sat on my deck on a warm summer evening and casually flipped through the pages, I felt myself at once drawn in and repelled. And I recognized a feeling that washed over me, a hauntingly familiar feeling. I can trace this feeling back to looking at Seventeen Magazine when I was probably 12 or 13, then Glamour into my 20s, and more recently, really any magazine within reach when I am getting my hair done. This is a feeling that I am quite certain most women who flip through these magazines can recall easily. The feeling? Inadequacy.
When we browse the enticingly glossy pictures of impossibly beautiful impeccably dressed women, we are told, in bold type, how we do not measure up. The message is loud and clear. You are not (fill in the blank) enough. Whatever your insecurity, there likely is a photo spread or article to make you feel worse about yourself. But, wait! In three easy steps, you can improve yourself! You can have fuller lips, a more toned body, better hair, hotter style, a cooler career, you name it. If you’re single? Here’s how to “catch a man.” If you’re married? Boy, are you missing out! The new thing? “Taking a lover” How empowering!
The thing is, I know all of this is so ridiculously across the board false. I know it. You know it. We all know it. But something insidious happens when we allow our eyes to rest on the impossible images and the false claims of what it is to be beautiful and whole. The lies seep into to our minds as we glance down at our own bodies, look around at our houses and wardrobes. “I am not good enough. I can (and should) be taller, skinnier, cuter, edgier, more stylish, have better skin, go out more…”
It takes only a few minutes to be drawn into this made up world where everyone is having more fun than you with more flair and style than you’ll ever have, and looking oh so wonderful doing it. And while part of your brain says “whatever” part of you gets sucked in, and you turn the page, read the article, study the fashion tips. Suddenly you are lifted from a world where things are just fine into one where, well, something has to change. And, most tragically, we begin to buy into the deception that any of these vapid concerns or surface changes could ever provide lasting and pure happiness.
Like I said, I don’t know how or why I came upon this “free gift,” I also don’t know how or why this seduction works. But it doesn’t really matter. Because the only way it works is if I let it in.
So Marie hit the recycling, and I sat outside, listening to the chatter of my children, breathing a quiet sigh of contentment, before going in to tackle the dishes.