Find yourself standing in any grocery checkout line, and you'll see the schizophrenic covers of current "women's" magazines, in which Good Housekeeping and Woman's World consistently vie for Best (Cuckoo's) Nest.
Over 35 and can't lose weight any more? Lose 35 pounds by Christmas! Anxious? Yummiest-ever cool-weather cocktails! LOOK AMAZING: party styles that FIX your figure PLUS best shapewear! IT'S WHAT'S INSIDE THAT COUNTS!
Suzanne Somers' "sexy forever" diet will rejuvenate my stalled metabolism, while showy "Take-along treats!" of what appear to be glass crocks of mini-strudels and a big platter of cookies embellished with fruit (hey! healthy!) shaped to resemble a turkey nicely cover the most egregious half of her tight, holiday-red figure. We can enviously fantasize about maybe looking something like Somers, while negotiating our traditional worry-free postponement -- in one glance. Make it S-P-A-R-K-L-E, then check out the nuts that rid your body of EXCESS FAT! Boy, do these magazines have women figured out. If you're Sybil.
All the so-called lifestyle magazines, except, of course, W and Vanity Fair, are carrying on like it's Reagan's '80s -- seducing us to perpetuate perfection in our holiday performances, leverage and spending, then proactively allaying comeuppance anxiety with soothing wardrobe tricks and the kind of English deployed for the branding of Chinese banks. The only difference is, it's all pointed toward the patina of guiltless austerity: Target, ShoeDazzle and double-the-TV-offer perfect tortillas. Why the face? It's what's inside that counts!
Little darlings can be forgiven their fiscal innocence. After all, they've never experienced what we grownups call economic cycles. I see on Facebook that university sophomores are posting Christmas lists to Mommy and Daddy, irresistibly punctuated with smiley face emoticons. How can Santa say no? I mean, the student loan is already in the bag. This year, when friends ask what they might bring to the holiday gathering, I say, "firewood."
Well, seems to me the setup is that "Holiday Happiness!" must be looking like Somers while eating the cookies and slamming cocktails. To attain this, I see I'll need both magazines for "Party Styles that FIX your figure PLUS best shapewear," after loading my cart with "Holiday Cookies MADE EASY (shhh... it's store-bought dough)."
The aromas of collusion are wafting from the magazine rack (Pillsbury, Spanx and Condé Nast -- BUSTED!) but that's probably just me, unnecessarily paranoid in my current bathtub reading of Kurt Eichenwald's The Informant about late-1990s Archer Daniels Midland price fixing. But what have they to do with me? I feel no moral conflict in any of this. In an hour or so, I'll be sprinkling sparkly colored sugar on star-shaped dough, listening to Martha Stewart's hand-picked Christmas music in traditional, acoustic and jazz genres. Maybe I'll just turn on Lifetime and let whatever nonstop, 24-hour-a-day Christmas movie I never heard of is running, run. I've been through over four years of recession and depression -- I want my days to be merry and bright again. Another rebroadcast of CNN Heroes? Oh please. I saw it, I got it but otherwise, any time I bother with CNN it's all fiscal cliff, fiscal cliff, fiscal cliff and look, what I basically get about the fiscal cliff is that whatever the impending catastrophe is, for me, personally, if it doesn't occur on December 21 per the Mayan calendar we're talking about the January billing cycle anyway.
Besides, I already bought the dough and the Spanx.