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Thursday, September 14, 2006


What's wrong with "Us"?

Let me be the first to admit that I am a subscriber to “Us” magazine. I eagerly anticipate its weekly arrival in the mail and I devour every page like a starving dog with a bowl full of kibble. It’s not right. But I can’t stop.

What is my fascination? What is our fascination? How has this seemingly contagious case of voyeurism caught on like wildfire across the country, and why oh why does anyone care about what Jessica Simpson, Paris Hilton, or Nicole Ritchie did this weekend?

Do you care as much about what your own family and friends are up to? Your neighbors? Who your single friends were recently spotted with?

Having read nearly every reputable gossip rag for over a year, I can not think of one interesting thing uttered by any of the three women I mentioned. They are quite possibly, the most boring people alive. Their conversational skills possess the banality of a plastic bowl of a low-quality, freezer burned, melted vanilla ice cream. Their teeth, hair and jewelry blind the viewer, strategically rendering them less likely to notice their duller aspects, like their views on life (or decided lack of them), their vocabularies, their actual accomplishments, and seemingly, their brains.

Yet, their images are everywhere. I know their catch-phrases and I know about their legal troubles. Are these the kind of women my daughter will look up to? Will she try to emulate them? Good Lord, the thought of it chills me to the bone. Check your brain at the door, accomplish nothing but greedily obtaining gratuitous publicity, and look good while you’re doing it. This is considered the pinnacle of success? In pop culture, it seems to be just that. What the Hell are we doing?

Consider women who have ACCOMPLISHED things with their lives. Women like Jane Goodall, Ann Richards, and Mother Theresa. They are all women I respect and admire tremendously. They have changed the world with their hard work, love for their fellow creature (both human and non-human), and their clever minds. These are women who have inspired, and who have created things. Important things. They had ideas. THESE are the women I want my daughter Maggie to know about.

And what am I doing about it? Nothing.

I am often too tired and distracted (did I mention lazy?) to make the effort to block out the media, and create a more thoughtful, carefully orchestrated environment for my daughter to soak up like a sponge.

All day at work I field phone calls, and e mails. I pay my bills online. I remember 30 passwords from rote memory. I barely hang on, juggling 24 moving piece parts each day, none of which require any form of complex thought. People pop their heads in my cubicle, which lacks a door, interrupting my already fragmented train of thought with random questions. I am distracted by the phone conversations of every person around me, which I can hear every word of.

Then I go home and find something in the fridge to make for dinner. Then I clean up dinner, play with my daughter, and put her to bed. Finally, I find a nice, comfortable reality television show to watch before climbing into bed.

This is what I do, because it’s easy, and I am often too exhausted and distracted to be thoughtful. And yes, I am aware that I offer up a giant, enormous cop-out as an excuse. Apparently, so do a lot of Americans.

Sales of expensive flat-screened TVs are up. The explanation for this, based on an article I read today, is that people are investing their entertainment dollars in big screen TV’s and leaving their homes less and less. They buy these TVs to avoid having to go out to movies and the expenses associated with various forms of entertainment that as a by-product, also cause us to interact with others. That kind of freaks me out. Everyone seems to want to live on their own island with their own garage and their own flat screen TV. Is human interaction really that scary?

This is chasing the American dream! Stay home, tune out, buy stuff, ignore your neighbors and stalk celebrities in cyberspace!

Just give me my magazine and leave me alone with my sweet, sweet escapism.

Why do I love to read my “Us” Magazine so much? Am I shallow? Yes! Sometimes I am! But I try to be decidedly un-shallow in many aspects of my life. I am conscious of the ridiculousness of it all. Particularly, I am painfully aware of the utter lame-ness my own behavior. I have bought in, and am a happy shareholder, of American Pop Culture. Because it’s mindless, and it’s fun, and Sweet Jesus I am too tired to do much else. Give me my gossip rag and stop talking at me.

I have the disease. Call it boredom. Call it escapism. Call it loneliness. Call it exhaustion. I want to know about the love life of that beautiful ditzy miscreant. How do they stay in shape? Who does their hair? It’s all so fascinating! But really it’s not. It’s a diversion from the banality of my own distracted life.

When I stop and think about the big picture, I get freaked out. I want to lead a thoughtful life for myself and for my family. A lot of the time, I feel like I am failing.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.”

I have to say I agree with Eleanor. And my manner of thinking is often among the smaller-minded. Often, but not always.

For the time being, I will keep my subscription to trashy publications. Because like I said, it’s mindless entertainment for a frazzled mind. And the state of my mind is decidedly frazzled on a regular basis.

On that same note, I pledge to try to maintain an awareness that much more is possible from this underutilized mind of mine. The best way to fight mind-frazzle is to stubbornly carve out a little time to consider the big picture. To think about whether you are living the life you want to live for yourself and for your family. To quiet one’s distracted mind.

I think yoga is good for that. Does anyone know a good yoga instructor? I hear Gwennyth Paltrow LOVES yoga.


Blogger Walker369 said...

I can so agree with you and that makes me partially sad. I am a wife, a mother of three, and a full-time employee. By the time work, dinner, homework, and light housekeeping is done I have no desire to do anything else but lose myself in the mindless (whether it be tv or magazine). We will prevail though and even with the reality tv of today our children will know who Eleanor Roosevelt is.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous mothergoosemouse said...

I may not read the tabloids, but I'm small-minded in plenty of other ways, and as you pointed out, I think it's mostly because I'm attempting to decompress. But I'm trying to improve my methods - for example, by decompressing with Stephen Colbert instead of South Park.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Muriel said...

Well said!

I love People, Us, the likes. All good stuff. It's addicting.

But I totally agree that when we spend all day at work and tending to the needs of others and doing this and that and running here and there, its just nice to have an outlet where we can sort of dummy out.

I've been trying to motivate myself to exercise lately. I hate exercise. We actually went out and bought an elliptical machine last night, so that we could continue to feed our reality tv habit AND exercise! Woo!

Lately I've made it a goal to shut off the cell phone, the tv, the internet, etc. when we get home from work/school - so that I can spend quality time with my child. Sometimes its more taxing, but I can tell it makes a difference to his little 4-year old soul...

We're all human! Nothing wrong with liking our gossip magazines and reality tv shows!

12:22 PM  
Blogger DDM said...

I heart you.
I am at peace with my trashy magazine subscription. I make a choice to read 'chick lit'. My life is full of sometimes unpleasant reality, so I allow myself time to be 'dumbed down' by books and magazines that are less than educational.
Like you, I also make an effort to escape the escapism and provide educational experiences. What I learned is that I have to also give my son time to decompress from his day at school or therapy. He needs those little breaks from reality as much as I do. It's just that he watches Sesame Street instead of Laguna Beach. :-)

12:50 PM  
Anonymous Dawn said...

My professor told us last night to "read Promisciously".

So see - you have her blessing.

7:01 PM  
Blogger Lin said...

Read it out in the open while Baby Madge is too young to be influenced and then hide it when she's in grade school. It will be your little secret. Then, when she's a teenager, you can share it with her.

1:15 PM  
Blogger h&b said...

Gwynnie's weird though, and Mother Theresa is dead, and so doesn't cut it in the 'dressing for a premiere' pages.

Ok, so i'm shallow, easily distracted, and attracted to shiny things. I'm sorry .. the alternative can sometimes make me want to slash my wrists ..

So.... I hear Britney has had her 2nd baby and Tori Spelling is knocked up .. see, all good things .. I feel better already ;)

9:55 PM  
Anonymous Izzy said...

I don't watch a lot of TV and I rarely, if ever, buy US or People or anything like that but I'm not immune to it's gravitational pull. I've been know to stop and watch Xtra or ET when I was intending to watch something on PBS.

There's nothing wrong with a little escapism into the ridiculous world of celebrity now and then. My criticism lies more with a society that seems to encourage it as a lifestyle. I applaud you for examining it, which many will never do.

Want to come live on my commune? lol

10:15 AM  
Blogger Belinda said...

First of all, I'm loving the phrase "reputable gossip rag." ;-)

And while I don't subscribe to any of those magazines, they're the first ones I pick up in any doctor's waiting room! I think I'm like the kid whose parents don't let them watch TV, so they go over to a friend's house and stare at it for all the time they have!

Now, as to the question of, "are we as interested in our neighbors?" In a word? YES. I think so, anyway. And if there was some kind of local "reputable gossip rag" that reported on the people in MY town? Oh, honey, I'd not be able to stop myself.

And, BTW...thank God there ISN'T.

12:58 PM  

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