Some of you know that I used to write for PNN, a now-defunct blogging website for women. My column, “Mind, Body, Spirit,” was a wonderful, supportive outlet when I needed one. When word came down that it was going belly up, we all had an opportunity to grab our posts before the witching hour. I didn’t bother. Part of me didn’t want to keep that old stuff, didn’t want to go back there.

What I cherished from that time was the sisterhood of my PNN bloggers. We’ve kept in touch, even got together in fits and starts over the years. On FB this morning, one of our members (I’m looking at you, Beth Rose) wrote that her son found her old posts using Wayback Machine (

Then I got feeling all brave and tried to see if mine were still there.

Yep. Still there. I’m sharing one of my favorites from 2010. The technological world has changed since I wrote this post, but the basic concepts still hold up. And that makes me kinda sad. But I have hope for today’s young women, that they’ll never let some bullshit corporate standard of “beauty” make them feel bad about themselves.

Here we go…

Problem Areas

Okay, I finally figured out. It took me a few decades, but all of these fashion and beauty magazines–I’ve got their numbers.

They want me to feel bad about myself.

Not so bad that I’ll seal myself in a cave for the rest of my life, quietly whimpering myself to sleep each night, but bad enough that, once I put down the latest issue, I’ll high-tail it to the nearest mall with my credit card and buy out half of their inventory. Bad enough so I will own eighteen different lipsticks, because I’m never quite sure if they look good on me, and they never look as good in my bathroom mirror as they do in the store. Bad enough so I’ll never know if curves are in or out, if I should strive for the natural look or the Lady Gaga look, strut about on heels or be comfortable in flats, and forever be insecure.

They want me to feel bad about my hair so I’ll purchase, use, and repurchase the products advertised in the magazine. Then continue buying the magazine so I can rip out pictures of Jennifer Aniston or Meg Ryan or whatever other big star is having a good hair month and bring that unattainable hairstyle to my stylist to endure her rip-snorting guffaws because never in a million years will I look like Meg Ryan. Meg Ryan doesn’t even look like Meg Ryan.

They want me to feel so bad about my body that I’ll divvy up my various quadrants like those dotted lines on a USDA diagram of a cow, and identify which represent “problem areas.” These problem areas need very careful management, by a whole committee of beauty specialists. I need to choose fashions, makeup and hairstyles that minimize these areas by calling attention to other areas. I need to do ridiculously gymnastic “spot toning” exercises using a variety of plastic balls, best done in expensive exercise gear against a tropical backdrop decorated with other pretty gym people.

And once I have, through careful geometry, muscle flexing, and tricks of shadow and light, eliminated or disguised all of my problem areas, I’m still not good enough, according to them. Because somebody high up in the fashion world decides that every season a new (and I imagine, randomly chosen) color palette shall rule, and every season, hemlines, bust lines, and bikini lines change, none of which are flattering on a woman over twenty-five. Even the editorial urges me to purge–my closet, that is. (Don’t even get me started on diets.) To help me winnow my unworn wardrobe, I am to discard everything that I have not worn over one years’ time.

Of course they only have my best interests at heart. They, and their advertisers’.

I bought these magazines as a teenager, poring over the pages as if they were the gospel of how to be perfect, pretty, popular, poreless, perky, and altogether pulchritudinous. And the messages stuck. Even though I no longer wear makeup, dye my hair, care about fashion, or even want to look like Meg Ryan, there’s still a little part of me that wants to be beautiful.

Or whatever the high-ups in the fashion world decide is beautiful that month.

Maybe that’s why I still buy fashion magazines. I’m addicted to those early messages. I tell myself that I buy them for the interviews, but come on. I’m only fooling myself. It’s for that first hit of crack, the glare from the shiny pages filled with shiny women with shiny hair. It’s for that not-so-subtle promise that yes, it is possible for me to look like the girl in the photo spread, but only if I follow their directives and buy a subscription.

First one’s free…