So maybe it’s my fault. I read People Magazine and Us Weekly way too much. Every week. I do it in part because, not having time to actually see grown up movies and watch TV, reading about stuff keeps me up on what’s going on, what I will see if I ever have time, and keeps me up on pop culture in general. I read the tabs the same reason I immerse myself in other media, because I am a deconstructionist; I don’t think I can seaparate myself from the influences of our culture on us and our kids, so I try to keep as educated and informed as possible to set myself free. People is kind of like my cliff notes.
But really, I read the tabloids because it relaxes me the way watching bad TV never quite does. I can still space out and worry about my real life while watching Gossip Girl, thoughts intrude like bills I need to pay or deadlines I have to keep. But the tabloids require just enough brain power (maybe because it’s actually reading) for me to focus and get a vacation from my life for about an hour.
But not this week. People Magazine was so apalling, I was too mad to sleep. I should have known, there were early signs. When my husband came home from Safeway, his hands full of groceries, I asked him if he’d bought me People, and he said, “I couldn’t do it. It was too stupid.”
I said, “But it’s always stupid.”
He said, “I can’t remember what it was but it was really bad.”
The next day, on my own trip to Safeway, I discovered it myself. People’s cover featured famous rock star-virgin Kevin Jonas of Jonas brother fame getting married to his bride Danielle Deleasa. (I remember the first time my husand and I saw the Jonas Brothers on TV; it was maybe five years ago, they were performng at the VMAs or some music award show, and we saw these three boys rocking out and we thought, “My God, they are little kids. We must be really old.”)
For years, Kevin wore a promise ring showing his commitment to save himself until marriage. I suppose there is some gender equality there– usually its pop-princesses Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson doing that (or actress Brooke Shields when I was a kid, never mind she played a child prostitute in screen, and later admitted she’d had sex before marriage with a guy at Princeton who went on to play Superman on TV) As a wedding present, Kevin gave Danielle real glass slippers custom made in her size. Guess what her favorite movie is, ever since she was a kid? Yes, now she’s proud to be a real life Cinderella.
OK, but that’s not actually what got me upset about People this week. It was inside the magazine– a two page photographic spread on fat brides. People is challenging these women– six of them are ethinically diverse, equality!– to lose wight before their weddings, all coming up in this Fall. The humiliating photo shows the women literally, squeezing into these tacky dresses, bras popping out, zippers stuck, each one has a cartoon look of distress on her face. I don’t even know how I would begin to explain this photo to my kids. This is exactly the kids of imagery I would like to have warning lables on, rating it triple SSS for Stereotype- KEEP AWAY FROM YOUR GIRLS. (I guess I should start by kicking my habit.)
The next couple pages after the photo shows these women with ther fiances, many quite handsome, all expressing love for these women. Why couldn’t this article headline “I Love my Fiancee Just the Way She Is” or “I’m Fat, In Love and Getting Married, Who Cares What I Weigh.” Instead of the actual headline “I Want to Lose Weight for my Wedding”
More than once, my kids have pointed to someone in a public place and said “She’s fat.” or “She has a big butt.” I don’t shush them up because they are making an observation, I don’t want them to think fat or big is a terrible, unmentionable thing. (Though if they persist, I do tell them people’s bodies are private and stop commenting. They also do this when they see a bald guy, “He has no hair!”)
I also tell my kids when they say things to each other like “You’re a big fat liar,” or something like that, that there is nothing wrong with being fat. (Does fat in this phrase refer to the lie? Meaing it s a big lie? Or that the person who is telling the lie is fat which is what I always thought? I have no idea what it means andneither do they, I just don’t want “fat” programmed in them starting at this young age as an insult; Junie B. Jones is a chapter book series they love. Junie B is always calling someone fat and a liar, so be prepared if your kids get this book.) I tell my kids we all come in different shapes and sizes. Some people are tall, some are thin, some people have brown skin, some white, it’sa ll just different, one is not better than the other. (I think Po Bronson recently wrote a book about how to talk about race and kids, that you should talk about it at ayoung age b/c they notice differences in how people look, I don’t know if Bronson writes about body size.)
I don’t tell my kids thin people are healthier than fat people. Who knows what thin people are doing? Smoking packs of cigarettes a day, snorting coke? Puking in the bathroom? There are many fat healthy people and many unhealthy skinny people. Ironically, another person featured in this weeks weight obsessed issue of People (there are also long articles on family weight loss, losing half their size etc, I guessits the New Year’s resolution issue) is Brittany Murphy who likely died from some complications of anorexia. Actress Kathy Najimy is quoted saying of her: “We hope that in honor of her life…the pressures that girls and women face will fade.” Not in the pages of the tabloids.