#48: Real Simple

#48: Real Simple

When I lived in Eastern Europe, my friends back here would ask me what I missed or would like in a care package. I enjoy magazines, so that was always on the list.

One spring, three different friends of mine paid money to send the same issue of the same magazine, “Real Simple,” all the way to me in Eastern Europe. Here were the headlines:

“Easy morning routines: Look better in less time”
“Quick pasta upgrades”
“How to get the best price on anything”
“Living room makeover: 12 fast fix-ups”
“The fold-everything guide”

When three friends send you the exact same magazine, you have to ask the question: What was it in THIS magazine that made them think, ‘Hey, I need to send this to Melissa’? I doubt that all three women thought I needed a pasta upgrade, whatever that is. I’m sure they knew that I like the best price on everything, but I think I’m generally a well-folded woman whose living room doesn’t cry out for a makeover. So…what was it? What was it about this magazine, with its common-sense advice many of us knew before paying $5.95?

Don’t get me wrong – this is a pretty magazine. I have purchased many issues of “Real Simple” in my day. But I wonder if the idea of anything being “Real Simple” is an illusion, an oasis in the frenetic desert that life can become for all of us sometimes. Its deception lies in the way it portrays “simple” life: glowing skin, makeup routines, exotic dinners with no less than 10 “simple” ingredients, living room makeovers, wardrobe makeovers, doing everything the “right” way, from folding linen napkins and dress shirts to haggling with retail clerks.

On the cover of the issue that made its way across the Atlantic in triplicate, there was a picture (lovely with cool, creamy colors) of what I suppose was the dressing table or nightstand of this mythic woman who lives life “simply,” which holds an antique mirror, a glass vase with fresh flowers, a vintage clock, a makeup brush, a lovely lavender jar I assume holds powder, and a glass with a toothbrush peering over the edge. Apparently, this wonder-woman is awakened refreshed (no doubt from her antique brass bed in her perfect country home) by the clock in the picture, brushes her teeth with the toothbrush and flower water, brushes her face with powder, glances in the mirror, and is out the door. (I’m not sure if slipping into the casual, “simple” $400 pantsuit on page 94 comes before or after the makeup.)

I’m sorry – I don’t mean to mock. And I’m sure not ungrateful to the sweet friends who sent me great care packages! But every once in awhile I’m not sure that magazines like these aren’t just an equally unhealthy alternative to “Cosmo.” The sirens in its pages aren’t size 0 Barbies, but do I feel any less inadequate when I close its pages? Of course I know that satisfaction isn’t to be found in “Cosmo.” But do I also know that satisfaction isn’t found in the right home décor, the right pasta dish, the right wardrobe, the right price, the right ME that I could attain if only I followed these time-saving, flavor-enhancing, fold-improving, living room-beautifying tips?

Yes. But sometimes I forget. So I thank you, girls, for sending me in triplicate a reminder of what it was to be an American woman at that moment. I sincerely didn’t want to lose touch with that. But I also thank God that the din of my ever-striving, ever-marketing homeland was a little quieter for me for a few years, leaving me to look toward heaven itself instead of heaven on earth.

Melissa sig

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