Tuesday, June 12, 2012

O Boy

About three months ago I started receiving O, Oprah Winfrey's print magazine, in the mail. I have no idea why, either. I didn't subscribe to it, and everyone who might have purchased a gift subscription for me swears they didn't (any of you want to confess? E-mail me, it's driving me crazy.)

The magazine is very nice, as big and glossy as the lady herself, with lots of pictures. Unfortunately I'm not too interested in fashion, make-up, changing my throw pillows monthly, or the wisdom imparted by Dr. Phil or Dr. Oz or Finance Suze. Celebrity experts make me too nervous; I'd rather stick to the garden variety who aren't worried about their next close-up. I've also never watched Oprah (even back in the eighties when I did watch some television, I skipped it) so all of the show references are likewise lost on me.

I wanted to get something out of this magazine, so I've checked out the recipes in each issue. While they're very photogenic and apparently quite nutritious, my family would not willingly consume any of them. Some of them I don't think my crew would touch even if you held them at gunpoint. Imagine my guy coming home after a long, hot day working in noisy equipment rooms to the delights of grilled peaches with yogurt and pistachios, or the perfect summer salad of heirloom lettuces, wild arugula and fennel drizzled in a apple cider vinegar/raw garlic/Dijon mustard-based dressing. I can almost hear him asking me if my menopause has restarted just before he sneaks out for Bob Evans.

On a side note, when did lettuce go heirloom? I thought they only did that to the poor tomatoes. Is no vegetable safe from these people?

Of course then there are the books. Oprah does love books, and there is plenty to be read about what you should be reading. The July '12 issue is jammed packed with recommendations, articles, a bunch of cute young thang authors all dressed up pretty, and the inevitable beach reads (perverse soul that I am, I hardly ever read anything at the beach; I pick up shells, take pictures of the birds and check out the really interesting graffiti.) Oprah has also started a new book club, which seems to be the e-book version of the old club.

I don't buy the books that Oprah recommends, and I think I know why; simply reading the blurbs depresses me. Not that I have anything against books of the horrible-personal-event-that-I-bravely-survived sort, or the horrible-ficitional-event-that-ends-very-badly-for-everyone-involved-but-should-make-you-feel-better-about-your-crap-life-unless-you're-so-depressed-after-reading-the-book-that-you-decide-to-end-it variety. Evidently these alligator tear jerkers are considered moving and inspirational, so if that's your poison, by all means, drink it.

Actually I have read one book that Oprah recommended some years back with Ye Old Book Club, a book she in fact made very famous (not because she did; I had to read it as kind of a professional courtesy. Long story.) When I limped to the finish of that one -- and it was one long-ass nightmare of a slog, let me tell you -- I felt a bit like a deer frozen in the headlights of an unmanned freight train carrying several dozen tanker cars filled with corrosive toxic chemicals about to derail and wipe out a town in Pennsylvania. For only the second time in my life I wanted to shout at everyone I knew to run from a book.

Since the Os started arriving I've been sticking them in the guest room, but honestly, I don't want my guests reading this stuff. I have no heirloom lettuces, no arugula, no pistachios. And I hate yogurt. After Dad died I didn't shoot up heroin or walk my way across the Pacific Northwest, tempted though I was. My poor opinion of O's content could be envy-born, though. I mean, the tremendous amount of thought and research and craft that must be involved in writing such classic articles as $30 Bag! $15 Ring! $40 Dress! is frankly beyond me and my modest writing superpowers. Yes, I think that's probably it. I'm jealous.

When it comes to gifts I know it's the thought that counts, and I am genuinely touched that someone thought enough of me to send me a subscription to O. If that is the case, it didn't turn out to be a good match, but maybe next time you could check the gift-script box for Archaeology or National Geographic or even Popular Mechanics. Until then, I thank you on behalf of me and all the patients waiting in the lobby at my physical therapist's office, who will be reading my Os from now on.

33 comments:

  1. Ah. So to you it's the glizy, glossy version of fruitcake, lol.

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    1. Yeah, pretty much. Although I can see why it would appeal to a lot of women. It caters to that impossibly perfect standard they all seem to set for themselves. Every page seems to shout Be young! Be pretty! Eat designer food! Change your throw pillows! Buy this! Buy that!

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  2. Oh thank God! I was beginning to think I was the only woman left on earth who didn't get the appeal of glossy womens magazines.

    I just can't see the draw. Bean thin, young hip & trendy women and men wearing clothes that 1) I can't afford 2) would look hideous on my short fat & 50 body and 3) would be totally inapproriate for my life. Recipes for food I can't afford to buy and would probably go to waste because my kids would take one look and run for McDonalds. Articles about overcoming strife & hideous heartache which while I can sympathise over, I can't empathise with. Thankfully my life has been pretty normal with no major problems, bar losing both my parents. Heartache yes, but expected in the general run of things.

    I can't watch movies like that either, those "based on a true story" ones. I just don't find it entertaining. When I read a book or watch a movie its an escape, to lose myself in another world, away from my reality. I can fantasize that I'm the heroine kicking ass or falling in love with the gorgeous man (who'd never in a million years look at me in real life). That's probably why I'm such a sci fi fan, picturing myself exploring strange new worlds and kicking ass across the galaxy, because its such an escape from my normal life.

    So I'm really glad that I found someone else who doesn't read glossies, who isn't on facebook and who enjoys the simple pleasures of life such as a good book. Which you write by the way, I loved Nightborn and can't wait for Nightbred.

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    1. Fran, if they ever come out with a mag that offers comfortable fashions for us big girls, practical and edible recipes, decent advice that doesn't require the purchase of anything, and articles written by other real women who don't secretly consider us to be brainless schlubs, I will personally buy you a subscription. Sadly I have to say: don't hold your breath.

      It's funny that you mention Facebook. I just got yelled at (again) for not being on it, but the argument of "All the other authors are promoting their books on it" just doesn't work for me.

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    2. I feel the same way about Twitter. I do have another ID in FB for author FB pages and "friends". I use it as another means for me to learn about new books and about new or new-to-me authors. Not that I need to buy more books... but ... *stares at the ever growing wish list* I think I am an ebook hoarder o.O

      M.

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    3. There are worse things to be, Mireya. At least the e-books won't eat your livingroom. :)

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  3. Between the ads and the content the magazine uses lots and lots of different fonts. I use it for poetry collage. (Fifty cents a back issue at the thrift store.) If you were closer I'd come and hijack your copies.

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    1. I never thought of mixed media uses, and yes, O does use a lot of interesting fonts. I'll save and send you some, no problem.

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  4. Just an FYI, more than likely, no one did get you a gift subscription. There are certain companies that when you order from them online or sign up for a loyalty card, etc, that will sell your information to magazine companies and then the magazine company will turn around and send you a subscription with no warning. I know this because I suddenly started getting Money magazine in the mail, which had absolutely no interest for me. I then read a friend's blog and discovered she too had gotten two different unsolicited subscriptions. I decided to A) investigate and B) try to cancel my subscription. When I went to Money magazine's website to cancel, I was told I couldn't cancel through them because the subscription had been set up through M2 Media Group. Investigation told me that this group gets our info from places like Barnes & Noble, eHarmony, Vistiprint, Orbitz, and Choice Hotels among others. I'm pretty sure that Vistiprint sold my info after I ordered my uber-cheap business cards. I was able to cancel my subscription eventually through M2 Media Group's website, but I found the whole experience frustrating. I guess their reasoning is that we'll fall in love with the free magazines and then just renew automatically when the time comes? I am not sure how this is profitable for them really and it is such a huge waste of paper. I feel like this should be regulated to reduce waste. I'd suggest trying to cancel yours and seeing what happens. If no one is owning up to giving it to you, it is probably because no one did.

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    1. Lord, really? They do that? That seems like such an invasion of privacy. And I ordered some cards from Vistaprint, too, a couple years ago, and since they were an online service I had them sent to me via a family member's address (which is how O is coming to me as well.) Thanks for the info, Di, I never would have guessed it.

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    2. Sounds like Vistaprint is the guilty party for you too, then. I guess we know how they can keep their business cards so cheap! I absolutely agree with you that it is a huge invasion of privacy. I'll be curious how your experience goes if you decide to try and cancel your subscription.

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  5. Not as awesome as I should be, according to O. Ha. Thanks.

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  6. You likely got it via something you purchased online. Though I admit that glossy mags is one of my guilty pleasures when I am too wiped to do anything but browse through ads (as that is what glossy mags are mostly about), O has never been on my radar, and I don't recall ever having seen a single one of Oprah's shows nor am I a viewer of her network. Not even in the early years or at the pinnacle of her career as a talk show host was I interested. I am more likely to watch a trainwreck talk show like Maury Povich's than hers. As to book recommendations, no comment. I have read more in my lifetime than she will ever read in an 1/8th of her own lifetime so thanks... but no thanks. I don't need "celebrity recommendations", tyvm.

    M.

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    1. I have always liked Oprah for her support of the Publishing industry; I think she's done great things for a certain sector of the literati and, of course, the memoirists. I am a fan of anyone so powerful who still reads (most huge celebs don't.) But I have this nagging suspicion that with Oprah book recs are more about giving her grist for the show mill than offering readers great stories. And the book must look spectacular on a coffee table, of course.

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    2. I couldn't agree more. It's a marketing ploy, in my opinion. The whole book recommends of hers always seemed suspicious to me, irrespective of how much she may have supported a sector of the publishing industry.


      M.

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  7. ROFL. I learned early on that the books recommended were go in your room and cry about how awful people are, how awful the world is and how awful I should feel about myself.Enough said.

    too funny with the secret subscription, that would be killing me

    reese

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    1. You've got it there in a nutshell. I think I cry enough on my own, don't you? Reading books should be a pleasure, not an ordeal.

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  8. Anonymous8:39 AM

    I thought I was the only one who didn't swallow the Koolaid when it came to Oprah and her books! Being a big reader it always astonished me when people who didn't read a lot would recommend her book club to me. I tried to be polite but mostly I just said that depression was not an outcome that I sought when reading. Now I have gotten several people asking me if I have read 50 Shades since I am a reader and like romance, etc. I can honestly say that I have no desire to ever read it. Its not that I am a prude but I don't want to read something based on a couple that I don't find particularly enticing. Oprah has followed in the footsteps of Martha Stewart in my opinion. Making women feel bad that they don't have the time, energy, inclination, etc to iron sheets and make cakes from scratch. I would rather live in the real world and spend my time with my kids and husband than worrying about whether I have the right throw pillows on my couch. :)
    Leslee

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    1. You mean, you didn't read that book everyone is talking about, Leslee? Gasp! After it's been shoved in your face at least a thousand times? For shame! (It's okay, neither did I. I had growing grass to watch.)

      Martha Stewart doesn't work within the boundaries of a normal household budget, so I can't emulate her stuff (most of which I find a little cold and dull anyway, especially her holiday ideas.) I never imagined Oprah is trying to follow in her footsteps, but now that you mention it I can see some definite parallels.

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  9. I am also one of those women who doesn't buy into the glossy magazines. I also don't get the hoopla that surrounds Oprah, but my friend loves her. Oh well. To each their own.

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    1. I'd make an observation about the sort of women Oprah most appeals to, but I think it would probably be insulting to your friend and everyone who fangirls the lady, and I really don't want to do that. What doesn't work for me may be fabulous for someone else.

      I do mean that, btw. If anyone out there disagrees with me, and thinks Oprah is the bee's knees, and you adore all the stuff she hypes, then I'm truly happy for you. Love want you want to love, I say. P.S., I'd love you to come over my house and get all these damn magazines out of my guest room. :)

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    2. love want you want to love = love what you want to love. I can't type today, sorry.

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  10. I once tried reading an Oprah book club pick. It had something to do with drowning in the sea of depression, or drowning then getting depressed, or getting depressed then drowning. I truly can't remember the plot, other than I was really cranky I'd wasted valuable reading time on a book guaranteed to depress me enough to fling MYSELF into the sea.

    I also seem to suffer from a perverse anti-lemming condition. Now that Shades of You've Gotta Be Kidding Me is the flavor of the month, I can't be bothered--and not because I am in any way a prude. I read several bits of it at the bookstore the other say, and frankly? I don't see the draw. But each to her own. The world would be a dull place indeed if we all liked the same things.

    Good call to leave copies in the waiting room at the physio's.

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  11. Years back, I received a free subscription from the newly minted WIRED because I was considered a mover and shaker in digital publishing. That tells you how barren the landscape of digital publishing was in the Nineties, not how important I was.

    Oprah sells the belief that you can change for the better, but she's stated more than once that she hates romance novels because they are unrealistic in the belief that a person can change and find happiness. That makes her a hypocrite of the first order.

    If I want misery, I can look around me so you couldn't pay me to read most of her recommended reads. Give me genre novels any day.

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  12. When i worked at ye old fabric store, the racks of O, and Martha Stewart used to inspire such...angst in customers. They'd be at the till, fretting over how utterly perfect these two women were. I replied often "they have a crew of 30. Its easy for them."

    At least the week the magazines came in to be shelved got more interesting when we were accidently sent a bundle of Celebrity Skin. I wager we'd have sold more of those compared to the twee crafty mags that we rarely sold. ( and with much giggling we DID send them back).

    I'm with you, though. Nat Geo would have been a better choice. My husband threatened jokingly to drop me in the middle of a "women's convention" offering pedicures ( HELL NO) and all manner of Oprah-esque feelinggoody empowerment, and he'd watch for the trail of destruction as I fled.

    And on the flip side, I picked up two gorgeous new issues of lapidary arts and Art jewelry. More fun when your magazines tell you how to play with torches and saws.:D

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  13. Anonymous1:50 PM

    Yep to what everyone else has been saying. I suspect the marketing group hoped to get a review and some talk about he magazine, which they did. Maybe not exactly what they'd hoped for though. :)

    Yep too, to the book choices. I have enough sadness and worry in my own life. I don't need to borrow others. I know some people thrive on emotional stories, I don't. This is why I no longer work in journalism.

    And, yep again to the production comments. Scores of people work for Martha Stewart's and Oprah's companies. Scores of people test, purchase, tweak, edit and photoshop every issue, every spread, and every episode.

    On a different subject, I like the new format of the comment threads.

    JulieB

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  14. Oh, thank you THANK you THANK YOU ALL, Lynn and commenters, for sharing that you, too, are not (as Anonymous wrote above) "drinking the koolaid." I don't watch the Oprah show, I don't read the magazine, and the O Book Club picks were nothing that I wanted to bring home, even from the library. Even as a gift.

    It's so nice to know that I'm not alone here, since so many seem to love their Oprah and it's so headturning and eyepopping to admit that I'm not an Oprah fan.

    I do have one thing to share about the Shades of Series....

    About an hour ago, I ran up to the grocery to buy a chicken to roast for dinner. I do that a lot in the summer, in the convection oven. No fancy recipe here. Keeps the kitchen from getting hot. Anyway...

    right behind me in the Express line was a short little man, around 60, bald and beady-eyed. Dressed in khaki shorts and a polo shirt. I imagined him to be a retired accountant.

    What does he place on the checkout line? A glossy Shades of paperback, a 4-pak of toilet paper, and a head of romaine lettuce.

    I have not read the Shades of books. I don't want to know if bad things happen to romaine in the books: I like my salad as it is, thank you.

    (So it's not just ladies who are reading these things....)

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  15. Reba that just made my day. Thanks for the laugh. Hopefully lettuce is safe since I didnt complete the first Shades and have no clue if Romaine does something fancy later

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  16. I really admire Oprah--she always seemed like a nice lady, and I watched her show sometimes because one of my best friends has her as a hero (bf is black and Oprah has really made her way in the world). But... I gotta admit that I often find myself feeling totally inadequate whenever I read O in the doctor's office. Same with Martha Stewart.

    And who needs that? I can get down on myself enough without added outside help, lol.

    I stick to art how-to magazines these days. Occasionally, I'll pick up a Cook's Illustrated if they're covering something I want to make for the holidays or a special occasion. If you've never tried them, they're kind of neat--they pick a recipe and then do scientific tests to see which recipe ends up tasting the best! I got a great chicken noodle soup recipe from them one time and also homemade ice cream. I learned a ton about the science behind the cooking, which I found interesting, and the recipes taste good, which is key for me, because I cook for my family and some of them are picky.

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  17. I admire Oprah's success, but if I want to feel like I read all the wrong books, I can talk to my mother.

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  18. lol, you have a lovely turn of phrase, and while I do like Oprah, and admire her success, I do feel your pain, as a woman I look at some of these magazines and cringe on a daily basis, give me my writers mags, sci - fi mags, history mags and the odd crafting and crafty mag and I'm a very, very happy camper.

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  19. I was an Oprah fan until she did the one thing she had sworn she would never do - endorse a political figure.

    I did not read any of her book club selections as they did not appeal to me.

    I shamefully admit to giving in to coworker pressure and reading the Shades. All the talk in the workroom made me curious so I got the first one. Ending of first one caused me to get the second one. False promises by same coworkers of ultimate explanation caused me to get the third one. What a waste of 30 bucks I could have used to buy books in my preferred genres. Learned a valuable lesson here!

    I'd rather buy quilting and craft magazines than O.

    Love you books by the way and many of your opinions ;-)!

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