And Fat. And Poor. And Old.
I’ve stopped buying glossy magazines. I say ‘glossy’ because I would never buy the ‘celeb’ ones anyway (I have no interest in other people’s cellulite and armpit hair, I have enough of my own, ta) and because sometimes I buy work, food and home related ones when relevant, and they are fine. So by ‘glossy’ I mean your typical Women’s magazine with the shiny cover and JLo or JLaw on the front looking airbrushed beyond their natural beauty. The magazines with big striking neon headlines telling you how to have great sex, lose weight and find the man of your dreams in three hours. You know, those magazines that cost more than your lunch and take less time to read than your sandwich takes to eat.
So why have I stopped buying these magazines? Because they have started to fuck me off, that’s why.
I never thought I would say that because a long long time ago when I was 21 years old I worked for the publisher of some of the UK’s top mags and I loved it. I went to work every day smug about my most-coveted job and shared the lift with the Cosmo editor, the Harpers & Queen stylist and Company writers. It was glam, really glam, and the parties they threw were amazing – probably because the publishers had so much money left over from the shitty wages they paid us.
Except it was all nonsense. It was fluff and nonsense. No one really did anything, we weren’t making big statements and the only interest the head office had was how much money we could get away with charging for the back page ads. It wasn’t that exciting either, beyond our four hour boozy lunches on a Friday, the only drama I remember was the time someone set off the fire alarm. The poor firefighters had to weave their way through hundreds of eager young girls and gay guys who were cat calling and wolf whistling at the sight of all those sexy uniforms. I think the alarm was set off a few more times ‘by accident’ before I left that job…
Back then, as a young and eager girl about town, I would pour over these shiny happy pages full of the latest must-haves and pictures of people I wanted to look like and I would feel inspired. But now I see them for the shite they are, and I can’t decide if it’s because I am getting older, wiser or more cynical.
Here’s why these magazines are bad for my health – and probably yours.
1.They make me feel fat
I’m not fat. I could do with losing ten kilos, I’m certainly not at the ‘eager to slip on a string bikini this summer’ stage yet, but neither am I relegated to the elasticated-trousers-only section of Evans. Yet, when I look through the fashion pages of these magazines I see girls that are painfully thin. Girls I want to get in a headlock and force feed pork pies to. And they aren’t all Photoshopped that thin because I worked for these magazines and I saw the young models stumbling around getting lost and lightheaded (being hungry will do that to a girl); they were just as thin front on as they were side on. I used to watch the designers airbrush hair off the girls’ arms as they were so anorexic their bodies were covered in downy fur. I know all that. Yet, when I see these kids staring back at me off the pages I feel fat. Instead of worrying about them I worry about myself. And that’s not good.
2. They make me feel ugly
I’m not ugly. Okay, I’m not a supermodel or I would be in the glossy mags and not moaning about them, but I’m not ugly. I am yet to have a baby look me in the eye and scream with fright, at least not when I have my make up on. So why is it when I flick through these magazines I come away thinking ‘bloody hell, I really need to sort my face out’!? Why do I start hating my make up drawer and wondering why my earrings are so drab and considering researching the latest non-surgical face lift techniques?
3. They make me feel old.
I’m not old. I’m not even forty yet… but I feel ancient when I buy these magazines. I look at the famous women featured that have achieved so much in their mid-twenties and wonder what the hell I have been doing with myself all this time. The articles are meant to inspire me and excite me, but I feel like I’ve missed the boat. The models are showing us how to accessories our work outfits, but their faces are saying they should still be at school. Yes, I know I could buy magazines for the slightly older woman, but they are the magazines my mum buys. Where are the mags for 30-45 year olds? Not the ladies that wear tweed or like to jazz up an outfit with a fun scarf or want to do charity work, but women like me that still shop in Top Shop but have to buy their knickers in M&S because they like the ones that hold you all in. We need magazines for forty year olds that look 35 but act 21. Is that so hard to do?
4. They make me feel poor.
I’m not poor. I can splash out a few quid on a magazine, but these prices are ridiculous. 60% of the publication is made up of advertising, 25% is fashion and make up (which is actually still advertising) and the rest is articles… normally with a reference to a new film or book launch or business. Still advertising. So I’m paying money to be sold to? I’m paying them so that they can convince me to buy stuff on behalf of the people that paid them. What the… Why am I doing this?
5. They make me despair.
I’m all for dipping into a spot of fantasy and looking at all the things I could buy and wear if I were a size 4 and earned three times my salary, but normally they just make me feel like a failure. I look at the ads and wonder if I’m weird for not being that excited about the length of my lashes or the smell of my neck. I read the articles and I am bored, I’ve seen it all before. I flick through the fashion, but it’s stupid – creative shots of clothes nobody would wear, and boring shots of clothes I can buy on the high street masked as a fashion feature when it’s just a glorified catalogue page. I read the sex tips and laugh, I know how to do all that. In fact I write about it better myself. I read the horoscope and laugh, it’s bullshit. I get to the end and look at the interior section and know that my house will never look like that unless I throw everything away (including my kids) and start from scratch. Then I cut out the recipes and file them in the folder that I never look at.
So there I am, my handbag weighed down by my latest glossy mag, and I wonder why the fuck I just spent nearly a fiver on something that took twenty minutes to ‘read’ when a glass of Merlot down the pub would have made me feel better about myself. And maybe lasted longer.
Then I feel sad. Because I used to love my glossy magazines. I used to think they were exciting and aspirational. I used to dream of one day looking like those girls and being grown up enough to afford that stuff and have a house that looked like that. Maybe even get to ‘inspire’ other young girls with the stories of my success. And I still could, I could obsess about my looks and material stuff and what’s in and what’s out, but I just don’t want to. Because it’s stupid and fake and a waste of time.
So come on magazine editors. Give us fun, gorgeous, clever magazines full of interesting stories that WOW us. Beautiful photography of normal people. Amazing articles about something that will change our lives. Tips and advice about more than just lip gloss and doggy style. How can our young girls feel good about themselves if you are telling them that beauty and perfection is what they need to aspire to? And how can us not-so-young girls feel good about getting older when there is such a clear divide on the magazine stands between unobtainable youth and middle age. What about the women in between? Maybe there’s just not enough money in all of that to make it worth your while?
Well it looks like I’m stuck reading dull newspapers for a quick light read. At least when I look at the atrocities going on around the world and see the horrific images I am thankful for everything I have (unlike when I read glossy magazines)… but surely I shouldn’t have to look at such despair to feel better about myself?