I am in shock. Granted this is not the, “Did you hear that Canada just invaded the U.S.,” or, “The banks just closed their doors and the government isn’t making good on accounts,” type of shock, but it is nonetheless intense.
This source of my angst seems innocuous: Good Housekeeping magazine. While I was growing up, my mother always read Good Housekeeping. When I got married, she purchased a subscription for me. Many times, we compared which stories we particularly enjoyed and discussed recipes. One of the hardest telephone calls I ever made was cancelling her subscription after she died. That call made the loss real in a tangible way and I found myself on the floor bawling while coherently trying to give the necessary information.
A few years ago when there were a bunch of back issues I never had the time to read, I let my account lapse. A few months later, I started it again. My life simply felt a little incomplete without that monthly
mail. Despite the fact that I was finding fewer articles interesting and that I didn’t always care about, or even recognize, the ladies gracing the cover, I received a lift when a new issue arrived. There were still pieces that I enjoyed and recipes I clipped. What there wasn’t – until the July 2013 issue – was anything that made me shout out, “You’ve got to be kidding!”
July’s edition features a story titled, “Why It Feels So Good to be Just a Little Bit Bad.” The article, however, doesn’t explain the psychology behind the feeling, but rather urges, “being just a little bit bad.”
As I read the ten examples given for ways that women could fulfill this advice,
my jaw dropped until it could have given me a pedicure. I didn’t have a problem with all ten; I did
have a problem with many of them. (Despite God’s not contacting me directly with His opinion, I am pretty sure that He’d have a problem with many of them as well.)
Number one, “Gossip,” rubbed me the wrong way, but compared to number two, “Flirt with a man who’s not your husband,” it seemed downright Pollyannaish. In a society where trust and commitment are steadily eroded and where children and adults suffer so much from marriages that either don’t take place or end, how can taking any steps to feel sexy with someone other than your spouse possibly be beneficial? Pardon me, but the example given, of making eyes at a waiter when your husband takes a
bathroom break or winking at the UPS guy, sound asinine at best and dangerous at worst. Keeping excitement and romance alive within marriage is a lifetime challenge, and not one that flourishes by ‘practicing’ on random people.
I’m fine with a, “spend the day in your PJ’s,” suggestion for one day a year and some of the other options, but I see too many of the ten as destructive and antithetical to happiness. Anyone who knows me or even knows that my husband and I produce a resource titled, Perils
of Profanity: You Are What You Speak, won’t be surprised to hear that I disagree with the words, “sometimes you just have to toss an F-bomb.”
A few years ago, I read two fascinating books, each one written by a former editor of The Ladies
Home Journal. Edwin Bok (editor-in-chief from 1889-1919) helped propel the magazine to prominence. His autobiography, The Americanization of Edwin Bok, provides invaluable insight into yesteryear’s America and the power of women’s magazines. (Many thanks to Musings’ reader David Altschul for alerting me to this book.) After 21 years as editor-in-chief, in 2005, Myrna Blyth wrote a controversial book called, Spin
Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness and Liberalism to the
Women of America. The title is self-explanatory. Perhaps these books sensitized me as to how much
influence each monthly issue of a popular publication has. While I don’t expect magazines to sound the same as they did in the 1880’s, 1950’s or even the 1980’s, July’s Good Housekeeping suggests a game-changer in that periodical’s philosophy.
Is the Good Housekeeping of my youth completely gone? At the very least, a tug of war
for the soul of the magazine is taking place. Have you noticed this type of
evolution in items you read and have your reading habits changed in response?
I’d love you to join the conversation by telling me your thoughts.