I was packing up some periodicals at my mother-in-law's house this weekend, and was struck by the similarity and unchanging nature of women's magazines. Although she subscribes to some more erudite publications like National Geographic and Arthritis Today, many of the others fall into a category I think of as "indistinguishable from the next one." From the cover format to the cover models, these piles I sorted look almost identical, except for the name across the top: Redbook and Ladies' Home Journal - indistinguishable! Martha Stewart Living and O - The Oprah Magazine - same size, same template, same high-end advertisers. Family Circle and Women's Day - same 5 articles every month ("Walk Off 10 Pounds a Week While You Sleep!"; "Redecorate Your Whole House for $50 This Weekend!"; "Balanced, Delicious Four-Course Meals in 15 Minutes or Less!"; somehow the last two have slipped my mind - Ed.)
The funny thing about all these magazines is how they keep pushing one central theme: I need to take better care of myself. I need to put me first, I need to pamper my skin and take care of my one and only body. I need to buy products that make me look younger, thinner and more "hip." I need to relax my mind, I must strive to reduce my stress, I need to indulge my passions, I should be sexy at any age, and I should never, ever forget that I'm the only me I have. If I will just pamper myself, everything else will fall into place, these magazines assure me.
Try not to run screaming for the authorities when I share this little-known fact with you: these monthly magazines are usually nothing more than annual retreads of previous issues. The articles benefit the advertisers by selling products, more than they help the reader solve real problems. But I got to thinking...by their measure, this 50-year old body has suffered chronic neglect. Is there anything to be done?
Well, since I'm unlikely to change my exercise or grooming habits at this stage, all I can do is say, "I'm sorry." And because I've been guilty of a lifetime of neglect, I feel compelled to offer individual apologies to specific body parts that have suffered the most.
By no means is this list complete or exhaustive, but starting from the top, allow me to apologize to my:
Eyebrows: According to an infomercial I saw once, the slightest effort on my part to accentuate you would cause me to instantly look 10 years younger. And how can I doubt your importance, when faced with the picture of Anne Hathaway seen here? But I've been remiss. You haven't been plucked or shaped in months. To be honest, I can't even see you very well anymore. But I appreciate all you do to keep my forehead wrinkles firmly in place.
Biceps: Short of adding webbing and feathers, I'm not sure what else I could do to make you look more wing-like. But I've reversed my lifelong habit of hiding you under sleeves in all seasons and temperatures, so you should at least feel like you are getting some "exposure," if not "attention." Yes, I know the little dumbbells are just right there, under the desk, next to my feet at this very minute...so what's your point?
Cuticles: You take the brunt of my nervousness, frustration and boredom. I constantly peel, pick, nick, bite, chew and rip your ragged edges, usually without knowing it. Once I quit smoking, picking on you gave me something to do with my hands. You were sacrificed so my lungs could have a better life. I'm sorry, there's really no hope - you are destined to be sore, tattered and bloody.
Thighs: You shouldn't complain, since I actually was spending time on you as recently as...uh...was it September? I mean, when I wear shorts, you aren't neglected. But once the weather turned cool and you became sheathed in warmth-giving fabrics, you have begun to look and feel positively reptilian. Your rapid deterioration since the summertime pampering makes me wonder why I bother with the loofa and the lotion. Right now there is a chalky residue clinging to the prickly surface that is covered equally by cellulite and stretch marks. I'm very sorry, but both you thighs belong to the category of "out-of-sight, out-of-mind." Get over yourself.
Toes: After years of hearing me describe you as the ugliest toes in the free world, your resentful appearance is understandable. However, I've recently discovered the secret of beautiful toes. Get a pedicure in December and wear socks every single moment from then on (except in the shower). Yes, you are usually very neglected, but at this moment you have no reason to complain...well, other than the embedded sock fuzz. You ten are good until the red polish wears off.
Heels: Look - here's a sampling of the products and methods I've tried on you over the years: Beeswax, lanolin, bag balm, honey, bacon grease, olive oil, mineral oil, petroleum jelly, sandpaper, cheese grater, vegetable peeler, acupuncture and meditation. I can't help you if you don't want to be helped. Your deeply etched lines and ridges remind me of those ancient sticks that archeologists say early humans used to keep track of the moon phases. I haven't neglected you, you've just been unresponsive to my efforts.
Well, I feel better now. My conscience is clear, my load lightened - a lifetime of thoughtless abuse and neglect is forgiven, just like that.
Incidentally, that is not my personal heel.