By Reed Fischer
By Anna Gulbrandsen
By Jeff Gage
By Stacy Schwartz
By Natalie Gallagher
By Erik Thompson
By Jeff Gage
By Loren Green
Lots of people are fine with celebrity magazines. They read them to unwind--which sounds to me like eating live mice to unwind. They just don't take magazines seriously. They toss them out after they read them. They distinguish between the real world and the magazine world.
Me, not so much. I try, but it's no good: Magazines are real to me. I believe in them the way I believe in storybooks, which is a whole bunch. It hurts me to throw one away. So I've got to be careful, especially nowadays. Every issue of Rolling Stone in its most recent model (sleeker, faster, sexier) ends up in a cardboard box in the closet, because it makes me sad and lonely to have Britney, Christina, Kate Hudson, or that booby-rexic Brazilian model blinking at me from the coffee table like drugged teen hookers. I half believe that magazines and books have individual vibes, if you will, and that a magazine created without love transmits a jangly signal of desperation to those within its range. (The superstring theorists will prove me right, you'll see.) Let MOJO pile up next to the bed, no problem. But Rolling Stone's got to go in the box.
Some people skim magazines to calm themselves while waiting for the shrink. For me, they're a big reason I'm at the shrink. How do these people do it? Maybe they just don't think to compare themselves to people in magazines. (They probably don't feel guilty for every bad thing that happens in the world, either. How do they do it? I carry around personal shame for Neil Diamond's work in the early Eighties, just for starters, not to mention that version of "Da Do Do Do, Da Da Da Da" with Sting singing in Spanish.) On a bad day like yesterday, in the middle of my own, private Celebrate Melancholy! Week, I was no match for the snorting beast of American psychosexual pathology in my mailbox: Jennifer Lopez on the cover of Rolling Stone, in a metal Wonderbra.
I pull the thing out of the mailbox, and I know right away I'm going to read it, despite laundry and deadlines and my best Girl Power/Drew Barrymore/Crouching Tiger training. I mean, how can I not? She's a one-woman freak show of metastasized success. She might as well be wearing a sandwich board that reads: "I AM RICHER, HOTTER, AND BETTER ORGANIZED THAN YOU COULD EVER HOPE TO BE, YOU ROTTING CORPSE OF A NOBODY." An internal debate ensues between two of my selves: the teen girl who loves to torture herself with unfavorable comparisons to others, and the concerned guru:
TEEN: Whee! A celebrity-magazine article about a woman my age who's way more successful than me!
GURU: Hmmm...what other mail is there? Look here, love, see the pretty pink stationery from--erm, the nice gas-company people...
TEEN: She has a metal bikini!
GURU: How about this keen Get Organized! catalog? Porn for obsessive-compulsives! C'mon, let's go grab some coffee--
TEEN: She has golden skin!
GURU: Do I have to give you the business--again? Okay. See, Rolling Stone pushes celebrity T&A in order to sell advertising to the tobacco, liquor, and corporate-record industries, which consist of greedy bores and balding guys who wish they had been rock stars, who abuse and exploit your people: young people, and musicians! Furthermore, young lady, you're every bit as lovely as Jennifer Lopez and twice as smart. You're soulful and, and...and well, you're just a super person, and I don't want to hear another word about it.
TEEN: She has a metal bikini.
And so on.
My mom always said, Don't compare yourself. But my mom's a Jedi master. I'm a 30-year-old late bloomer who couldn't even afford Ecstasy on New Year's, forgets her groceries in the back of the car, believes in magazines, obsesses over music trivia (and trivial musicians), and is convinced an alternate realm of perfection and beauty exists just on the other side of the air we breathe. I'm like one of those sleeping fetus-people in The Matrix, trying to find the rabbit hole to Reality. I don't have anything figured out, unlike Jennifer Lopez. She's got it sussed--even if what she's sussed is the manufacture of cold illusion and exploitation of human insecurity.
So I read the hideous thing. I regret it immediately but, unlike a bulimic food binge, you can't un-read a bad article once you've read it. It sits there, curdling your juju. For the rest of the day, comparisons with this chick haunt me.
Jennifer Lopez says, "I don't smoke because I don't have the three minutes it takes to smoke a cigarette!" I have plenty of time. I just don't have the three bucks for a pack.
Lopez has a kicky nickname: "J. Lo" (also the title of her new album). I wonder if I should try it. Call me K. Sul. Yo, I'm K. Sul.
J. Lo is a glamorous movie star. I have some glamorous moments too. Just the other night, my roommate said my dinner (fish sticks and spinach) was very Erin Brockovich.
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