UnReality Show

January 6th, 2013

This weekend,  I went to Barnes and Noble to buy and binge on magazines because that’s where I often get a jolt of inspiration. Beautiful photos, witty writing, off-center ideas, a kickstart to my imagination. I haven’t done that for months, and I was disappointed to see how little inspiration is to be had on the newsstands these days. What I mostly noticed is that the articles are about people whose lives seem to be a long series of magazine moments. They’re hip and well-heeled, dressed in a chic, casual, “I just dug these muddy Wellies and vintage cashmeres out of the corner thrift store for a song” style with vague yet lucrative careers (culinary mavens who run an independent bookstore out of an old mansion and hold dinner parties for equally louche friends in the backyard on rustic tables with heirloom vegetables, artisan bread and cheese made from the adorable goats they raise). They’ve always just repurposed an abandoned urban warehouse or rescued an old farmhouse with good bones. The rooms of their houses abound with tablescapes that juxtapose an antique Buddha with a pair of gardening gloves, a manual typewriter and a string of prayer beads. I don’t know anyone who lives like that, who makes a living like that, or who dresses like that. There were no rough edges and no rough characters (except people carefully styled to resemble bohemians or bikers who shop at Barneys). The magazines all use handwritten typefaces to give the articles “authenticity,” and the people featured are photographed walking down private docks with vistas on a marsh or driving a restored pickup truck from the ’50s that none of us — the suckers shelling out to buy this version of life — could afford. I recognize what a seductive vision this is to those of us who have imperfect, off-center, bare-bulb, badly painted lives, so I guess a lot of my angst comes from bitter grapes. I’d love to live in a post-modern loft, a shabby chic Victorian, an artfully crumbling Tuscan villa — I want to have a curated life! And then it’s hard to come up for air and see that my living room rug doesn’t really match the color of the couch, which, no matter what I tell myself, is not ironically pattern-mixed but instead just a shitty disaster. That my bedroom is not Swedishly all-white but just hopelessly plain. That I don’t have curios, just clutter. Reality check: My redneck self will never be magazine-worthy. So, there was no inspiration between the covers, but I did get a slap in the face to wake up and write/do/be something real, to stop comparing and despairing, to remember what I used to love about being an outsider, to stop pining for a lifestyle and start living.

5 Responses to “UnReality Show”

  1. Uma says:

    This is sooooo absolutely true and sums up perfectly why my coffee table has been devoid of such magazines for years.

    The same could be said for many of today’s popular blogs as well, especially those targeted towards creatives. Space after space hung with the same “Keep Calm and Carry On” screen print; everything and anything decorated with the ironic addition of facial hair or antlers…UGH!

  2. Katie says:

    You’ve so perfectly put into words the feeling I get anytime I fall into a blog or magazine that looks a little too perfect. “A curated life” – love it. Helps me remember not to measure my life up against the perfectly edited photo spreads or carefully chosen words. Cheers to the real life.

  3. Nikki, this is why I love your writing. You are so real. And yes, I often feel like this when reading magazines. Does everybody aspire to this? Or should we? I don’t know. In my quest to keep up, I spent time on a Friday night scrolling Pinterest, and realized that 45 minutes there equaled discontent. I choose to live a small life. And perusing Pinterest explodes my head and invigorates the want factor times 20.

  4. claire says:

    you are brilliant.

  5. I have a love/hate relationship with what I see in magazines too, especially when I buy several at once and they’re all featuring very similar tips/looks/styles. I subscribe to Architectural Digest and Dwell, not because their looks or lifestyles are in any way accesible to me but because they offer more variety than the typical checkout magazine. You’re right though, most magazines are an escape and they offer fantasy, whether it’s Vogue’s surreal or cinematic fashion spreads or Architectural Digest’s pared down desert home or overfilled, over-embellished Paris apartment. Some days I want to go where they take me, and some days I’d just rather stay home!

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