When I read Cathy Alter’s memoir, “Up for Renewal: What Magazines Taught Me About Love, Sex, and Starting Over,” I was impressed. She spent a year reading about a dozen women’s magazines, then spent each month focusing on a different area of her life by taking the advice she found. I’ve been scanning women’s magazines for, well, awhile now, and I can’t say I’ve gotten that much out of them; certainly not a book deal.
When I read Cathy Alter’s memoir, “Up for Renewal: What Magazines Taught Me About Love, Sex, and Starting Over,” I was impressed.
She spent a year reading about a dozen women’s magazines, then spent each month focusing on a different area of her life by taking the advice she found: one month she worked on her cooking skills, another on her love life (she got the guy), etc. And, at the end, she found her life transformed.
That’s nice, but I’ve been scanning women’s magazines for, well, awhile now, and I can’t say I’ve gotten that much out of them; certainly not a book deal.
They tend to contain items like:
Drink more water and look 10 years younger! Really? I suppose there’s less time for people to see your crow’s feet if you’re running back and forth to the bathroom all the time.
Colorful boxes will encourage kids to pick up their toys. Not unless they’re the color of money. (Yes, I’ve bribed my child; where’s that story, Modern Mommy magazine?)
Sprinkle rose petals in your bathtub for a relaxing home spa day. Yeah, after I stop at the store after work to buy the roses, cook dinner, do dishes, check homework, scrub the tub (which I’ve been meaning to do), tuck in the child, and, finally, hit the tub. Clean up roses. Collapse into bed. Does comatose count as relaxed?
Six tricks to keep your man turned on. OK, but I only need the one that will keep us both awake.
Nope, my life has not been transformed by Good Housekeeping. Mostly I find the magazines a little schizophrenic. On the same cover you have “Lose a Pound in 6.2 Seconds” and “Our Best Chocolate Cake Yet.” You know which one I’m reading.
Now, like I said, Alter (get it? her name is alter; I found that amusing) went one topic at a time. But even this can be a little tricky. I did a quick survey of the May covers. Flat stomachs are all the rage, but how you get there is up to you.
- Oprah says you can melt fat with a laser. (But you have to wait until 2020; by then I won’t care).
- Glamour promises a flatter stomach with ease (I didn’t even look).
- If you’re willing to ramp it up a little, Elle is touting plastic surgery (but with the proviso that you only “do it for you.”)
- Cosmo just assumes you have a flat stomach and is offering tips for “a pain-free at-home Brazilian.” (No way).
- Meanwhile, my good buddy Good Housekeeping says chocolate can fight stress. There isn’t that much chocolate – even in Brazil.
Now, I’m not knocking the mags or the memoir. But what really happened here, I think, is that Alter focused her attention on a goal and worked to make it happen. That’s what transformed her life.
And no matter what the magazines say, that’s the only way to do it.
Beth DiCocco is features/niche publications editor at the Observer-Dispatch. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.