Thursday, June 18, 2009

Our local library is not good. Yes, they have Jim McGreevey's The Confession, and for some reason a lot of the Criterion Collection, but of the paltry selection of books (half in Spanish, although at this point there aren't many Spanish-speakers in the area) there's next to nothing one would want to read. Certainly not the biography of Richard Wagner I foolishly hoped to find on my first visit. By chance, though, they had one book I've always wanted to read: the recent book of a certain beauty editor who's long been a bete noir of mine on grounds of smug preciousness.

Well, I read it. I expected to be filled with self-righteous, enjoyable rage the whole time, but in the end I was just depressed and bored. It's a memoir of working as a beauty editor, with tips and such interspersed throughout. And I guess I should have known what I was getting. But the unthinking veneration of skinny as god, of youth, of conventional beauty, was for some reason surprising to me; this woman works for a magazine that's known for having a bit more of a "common touch" than the average fashion-mag, and I guess working where I do sometimes you forget that it's supposed to be tacitly understood that everyone wants to drop ten pounds and look like a model, which attitudes I'd understood to be so hopelessly recherche that no thinking lady would ever admit to them, even if her thoughts tended in that direction. This writer's column always bothered me because I found it tone-deaf; reading the book, that didn't make me mad anymore, just sort of depressed. And what was I doing getting worked up over such silliness, anyway? I now understand that she and I are such wholly different people with such a wholly different set of values and assumptions that there's really no point wasting the equilibrium. Probably should have realized this some twenty years ago, but narcissism runs deeper than we like to admit! (Mine, anyway - I don't want to fall into that pernicious "we all feel this way but I'm honest enough to say it" brand of irrefutable smugness than so bedevils first-person essays.)

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