Even worse, she probably just pretends not to because she’s trying to be intellectually above it. No, I wasn’t in the supermarket. And obviously I wasn’t in L.A
I don’t trust people who don’t admit to enjoying mindless pop culture. I’m not talking about devouring tabloids for hours on end–just glancing through one if someone drops it in your lap and you have nothing to do. Because anyone who says they’re not the tiniest bit interested in whether or not Jen is really pregnant, or whether Brad and Angie are really fighting, or what Jessica Simpson really looks like going into her seventh month, they’re lying. At least to themselves.
How do I know? Because I could do a Candid Camera episode on this subject right in my office waiting room. (Those of you who are too young for this reference can check out the link.) It might actually be a landmark sociologic study. I have an entire upscale Conde Nast corporate subscription to all of the high-brow magazines—Vogue, Elle, GQ, Travel this and Wine that–and yet if I have one tattered old Star lying around, that’s the one everyone picks up when they walk in. And I’m talking about even the most educated, sophisticated, professional career women and homemakers with strong family values. I soon figured it all out; as long as they have trashy magazines to browse through, my patients don’t seem to mind when I’m running late. In fact, I usually come into the exam room to find them curled up in the chair with a stack of tabloids on their lap, completely engrossed. It’s like I’m interrupting them. Sometimes they don’t even notice I’m there until I ask, “Is that the new one?” “No, it’s old,” they’ll say, still frantically flipping pages without looking up. Of course it’s old. Because I haven’t yet retrieved the new ones from the staff break room. (“How many times do I have to tell you guys–these are for the patients!”) Yesterday I had to pry the Us Weekly out of someone’s hand to get her to look up so I could do her injections.
Why all of this tabloid power reading in my office? Because there’s never enough time to catch up on the checkout line. And nobody actually buys them in the store. Even the guy ringing you up knows that. Haven’t you noticed that he never points at the magazine and asks if you want it, even after he’s given you the total and waiting for you to swipe your Ralph’s Rewards card? He never even seems concerned that you might steal it, or take it by accident. Because he knows you wouldn’t be caught dead walking out of the store with it. And he never gets nasty or impatient about it–it’s almost like the cashiers feel sorry for us, like reading tabloids on the checkout line is some affliction that they’ve been trained to overlook.
I’m positive that supermarkets have an entire protocol in their new employee manuals for how to handle the shopper reading tabloids on the checkout line. And it goes something like this: “They’re not going to buy it. Don’t even ask them if they want it. Pretend you don’t even see it. But if they’re still standing in the way flipping through it when you’re trying to ring up the next customer, you can kindly ask them to just step to the side. And whenever you have a break, please tidy up the racks, because they always shove them back upside-down in the wrong ones.”
So, in addition to de-bunking nasty myths about plastic surgery, today I’d like to use this blog to de-stigmatize everyone’s favorite guilty pleasure–tabloid reading.
I mean, really. What’s wrong with admitting that our society has succumbed to pop culture? Most of us have to deal with so much physical and emotional stress and politics at work all day–what’s so terrible about enjoying mindless entertainment when we’re “off-duty?” I personally have found an exponentially indirect correlation between the number of diplomas I’ve acquired over the years and the number of intellectually challenging activities I choose to strain my brain with on my downtime. And I’m not the only one. There’s a reason that young adult fiction is morphing into the next wave of movie blockbusters—because it’s not just being read by young adults. Wizards, vampires, futuristic teenagers battling for their lives on reality television…it’s fun and easy! And it’s all written on a fifth-grade level. And so what?
So go ahead…pick up that Star magazine on the checkout line. Or you can always come to my office and read it. Everyone else does. If the National Enquirer would change to a magazine format I’d get that one too. It’s just that there is still something about a trashy “newspaper” that crosses the line…
Okay, that’s all for today. I have to go to work.