Young, upwardly mobile professionals of today, mired in credit card debt as we may be, hold several things sacred: one is good design (see the magazine Domino for the ideal type). Another is the twinned values of entrepreneurship and aspiration. Another is marriage, from a perfect wedding onward-- no divorce, no frozen dinner marriage for us-- we're not our parents (he book "One Perfect Day" illustrates this perfectly).
I'm taking a break from complaining about politics to survey the newly married section of the readership of the Huffington Post. Did you mysteriously receive a magazine called The Nest? Yesterday, I was mailed the new magazine, created by The Knot, the yuppie wedding empire of websites, magazines, and wedding planners that include anxiety-inducing to-dos such as "60 days out: plan your undergarments" and "10 days out: hand-make table favors."
One of the worst things about having a wedding was the bridal magazines and the pressure of the perfect neo-yuppie lifestyle they portrayed. At first, I was so excited to buy them all, I mean, I'd been waiting a decade to be able to purchase a copy of Bride's without feeling like a fraud. It felt like the first time I could legally buy a drink. But soon, the tyranny of perfection made me anxious, and embarrassed for feeling anxious. If I didn't subscribe to the controlled-chic of weddings featured in InStyle, Martha Stewart Weddings, and the classics like Modern Bride, would my wedding be a bust? If I didn't choose au courant color combos like sky blue and brown, or use a combination of ferns, artichokes, and calla lillies in my bouquet instead of roses and baby's breath would I be kicked out of the club? Can you even still buy baby's breath? If our dog didn't stand in for the flower girl (if you read these magazines, you know what I'm talking about), or god-forbid, the table favors weren't handmade, did I have to hand over my street cred? I was embarrassed that I took these seriously because nowhere in this flood of consumerism did magazines address the real values of marriage and family, the underpinnings of the ceremony and frippery of Your Perfect Day.
Well, my husband and I (mostly my husband) figured it out and even though our place settings were written on index cards in Sharpie pen, the wedding was fantastic and chic. The color scheme included chartreuse and I had ferns in my bouquet. I moved on to marriage, relieved I could finally be a mess again.
But no, says this new magazine, The Nest! I read it cover to cover and couldn't put it down, even though it made me feel bad about myself. In it are features like, "Couples Inc: meet six couples who started their own businesses together. What's your excuse"? "Feng Shui for couples" and "Get their look...get their life." The wedding planners have been replaced by a checklist for "Key Purchases" for your new home from garden to kitchen. Engagement ring ads have been replaced by fancy colored stones and, shocker, credit card ads.
I am having a bridal magazine flashback. I can't compete with this. I don't want to know about couples who start businesses together while jointly decorating their perfect new homes in shades of sky blue, brown, and furnish in Jonathan Adler and toile. My newly married life is wonderful, but our feng shui has been addled by peeling paint and junk store furniture. I'm married to an entrepreneur and the thought of starting another business makes me nauseous. And, stepping back, the consumerist message doesn't work so well here. The Nest is not a design magazine whose purpose is to sell products. It claims to be a magazine about new marriage, building a home and a life. Sure, most of us are fortunate enough to couple new marriage with a shiny new Kitchen Aid. But there's more to it than that.
Magazines are a powerful reflection of, and influencer of our modern lives. Glossy mags provide very concrete images to which we're supposed to aspire. And their reach expands- unlike newspapers, audience for fashion and lifestyle magazines is growing. There's a style guide for every lifestage. New entries include raising chic little ones (Cookie), and now the time immediately post-marriage. These pages provide an ideal type script and storyboards for the narratives of our lives.
So, the copy of The Nest goes in the pile next to the copy of The Complete Organic Pregnancy one wishful-thinker sent me. When I want to review my storyboards, I'll take a break and flip through them.
Did anyone else mysteriously get mailed this magazine? We must be on newlywed mailing lists!