Sunday, March 21, 2010

Real Simple. Not.

First of all, let me say that I really like Real Simple. I'm a new subscriber. I just received my second issue. A few recipes from my first issue have already made their way into my family's regular repertoire. I feel I'm part of the magazine's demographic: that vast continent of harried, overscheduled women who want style, organization, and delicious food...all done simply.

Then I encountered this photo spread in its 10th anniversary April 2010 issue, entitled "The New Easy." The blurb reads, "Does getting dressed call for more energy than you sometimes can muster? With these minimal-effort, wardrobe-changing pieces, you'll have more time for enjoying the good stuff. (Anyone up for a game of airplane?)"

The implications are clear. This piece is for the moms out there who want to enjoy both effortless style and relaxed fun with their children. Why, that's me! I enthusiastically flipped the page. I'm tired of my LLBean fleece and jeans uniform. My closet needed a wardrobe-changing revolution.

The opening photo featured a man playing airplane with a baby while a sleekly glamorous blonde smiled fondly into the distance. The blonde is wearing a Cannes-appropriate striped top with cropped wool pants and stiletto platform sandals. The next pages revealed more of the same. Chic, but impractical outfits accessorized with towering heels and oversized jewelry on steroids. Even Carrie Bradshaw, stiletto goddess extraordinaire, couldn't totter after a toddler in those shoes. From the layout, it looked as if the aforementioned "game of airplane" would be a quickie before handing the babe off to Greta, the live-in nanny.

This is my favorite photo:

The perfectly polished "mom" chats blithely on her phone while her onesie-clad baby tries to pull up on a desk and pull down a large glass urn on his or her adorable head. Note the fantastic stilettos (perfect for chasing down baby). I also love the ridiculously oversized ring, perfect for accidentally bopping baby. Has anyone tried to lift a baby wearing a ring of that size?

Who believes that the makeup and the glossily sculpted hair of the precisely eyebrowed, scarlet-lipped blonde require minimal effort? And does anyone on the editorial staff even have children?

Another favorite:

Yes, I'd have my stilettos on a hotel bed with my head flung back in delighted laughter. That is, if I were at the hotel without my children. I'd be laughing in slightly hysterical relief that I was finally, finally alone.

I'm growing offended by this spread. This is not aspirational fashion. This is ridiculous. If I wanted fantasy, I'd turn to Vogue or Elle. Real Simple is supposed to be for and about real women. But perhaps it's not for real women. Or even real, affluent, suburban/urban women. Perhaps it's for that razor-thin demographic sliver of women who're overwhelmed by their charity board, country club, and social calendar commitments?

I admit that I'm not a lady who lunches. Not unless you count peanut butter, banana, and honey sandwiches shared with the preschool set. I don't sit on any charitable boards. You won't see me at an opening gala or photographed at an haute soiree. However, I have friends who do these things, and let me tell you. None of them would classify these looks as "minimal effort." Spend the afternoon primping at the hairdresser's while the babysitter comes early. Yes. Easy. No.

Please, Real Simple. Get real.


  1. Amen, sister! What a sham--makes me want to beat someone over the head with a Mephisto sandal. Thanks for making me laugh instead.

  2. LOL! that's more my style.

  3. i glance at real simple occasionally, but can't get past the grammatically incorrect title most of the time. great blog post, gena!

  4. Thanks, Corinna! Yes, the grammar problem. Always vexing. The title just needs alternative punctuation. It could be Real. Simple. Or (Real) Simple...very e.e. cummings. Even Real/Simple. Though grammatically correct, Really Simple sounds silly, and as seen by the photos, this mag is not Simply Real. Okay. Now I'm getting carried away.

  5. Actually the e.e. cummings' version would be (real) simple. Stopping now.


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