Wednesday, September 14, 2011

These Are Not My Grandmother's Magazines

I remember when I was a young girl, my paternal grandmother subscribed to just about every women’s magazine save Cosmopolitan. She once spoke of picking up a copy of Cosmo in the beauty parlor one day, only to fling it from her hands in shock because the contents were too burning hot for her old-fashioned sensibilities.

But she enjoyed all the other magazines, and after reading them she’d bring them to our house, in thick stacks.

I read them voraciously. I learned household hints and etiquette. I informed myself of matters gynecological. I pored over tales of marriages that might not be saved, yet somehow they always were. At the risk of dating myself, I must have read a story about the Kennedy family, in particular Jackie, in just about every issue; back in those pre-Diana days, stories about royalty were rare, except for the occasional article about Princess Grace.

I always enjoyed what I read, and learned a lot about marriage and family and relationships.

Fast forward to today—this morning, to be exact, when I found myself sitting in a very crowded waiting room and hadn’t brought my Nook.

Until this morning, I hadn’t read any of those women’s magazines in years. And I mean years, for which I can either blame or credit the Internet and less time and curiosity than I had as a young girl.

The magazines I read this morning had the same titles as those my grandmother once subscribed to—yet these were not my grandmother’s magazines. There wasn’t a single Cosmo in the stack, yet I still nearly flung them from my hands in shock.

I’m not a prude, for crying out loud—I write historical romance novels with steamy love scenes in them, and I occasionally bought Cosmopolitan in the days when I was a twenty-something globetrotting playgirl—but I must admit I was stunned by how much my grandmother’s favorite magazines have changed over the years, and become quite indistinguishable from the once very unique Cosmo.

No, I think my real problem was that I couldn’t actually read the magazines, or stay on one page for very long, because I had two men wedged on either side of me in that packed waiting room, and being the paranoid neurotic that I am, I didn’t feel comfortable sandwiched between them with the magazine open to a page with words printed so big, they could easily be read from the far side of the room, blaring at me about “rejuvenating” a very explicitly identified part of the female anatomy. I don’t think I’ve ever turned a page so fast, only to find a collection of humorous anecdotes from readers about the time their little darlings walked in on them while they were otherwise amorously engaged; and oh, looky here! A list of helpful tips if you get a hankerin’ to do it in public.

But no handy household hints, or answers to etiquette questions, or accounts of marriages saved when it seemed all was lost. And no articles on Kennedys or Royals, even though the latter have been very much in the news this year.

If my very proper grandmother were still alive today, I don’t know if she’d still enjoy reading these women’s magazines.

But I’ll bet the men would . . . if only they knew.