One of my pre-recession pleasures in life used to be curling up on the sofa with a glossy magazine and a small vat of tea.
I made happy sighing noises at the sheer gorgeousness of the perfect life that was just within my grasp...all I needed was a credit card and a shopping list of this season's must-haves (be it phones, clothes, cars...take your pick). These lovely, shiny pages promised me I could be young/thin/rich/healthy/calm/clever while effortlessly being a gourmet chef/chic home-maker/wise parent. Easy.
It was also nice to have an accommodating bank manager who flung loans at us like confetti. ("a new computer?? Of COURSE you must have the latest fuel-injected, leather-upholstered, platinum-plated laptop that a family of fourteen could happily live in...or is that a car? I get confused...have some money anyway!!") .
Then the recession happened. In the space of a few months all our dreams of owning cars with silly names evaporated into the ether along with the collective conscience of the money lenders. Hell, I even stopped buying my glossies to make sure we could pay the phone bill. (I still had lots of tea, though...it would be MADNESS to give that up.)
Yesterday I had a precious few hours to myself, and I decided to have a browse in the newsagent.
It's amazing how much perspective a little distance can give you. I was horrified and a little disgusted at the magazines I used to hold up as my bar for things to aspire to. Without exception, they all imply that there is something wrong with our lives. The covers scream that unless we are having raunchy al fresco (*cough*)relations with a flamenco dancer while tapping business deals into our blackberries that we are a poor excuse for a modern woman. They accuse us of (*gasp*) looking less than perfect in public. They insinuate that our child-rearing/ cooking/house-keeping (*OK...anyone who has ever lived with me has permission to laugh freely here*) skills would put Rosemary West to shame.
A perception of happiness is heavily marketed by the glossies. They peddle aching self-doubt that we try to soothe by galloping out to buy, buy, buy.
Now most of us can't buy these things any more, and I don't know about you, but it doesn't make me feel any different. I still like to look nice and try hard to care for my family. But I can nip over to the petrol station for milk at 7.30am without a hair-do and full make-up. If I frighten the guy behind the counter that's his business. I can still enjoy the gym without believing it's all utterly pointless unless I achieve a bum like Kylie's and a waist like Cheryl's.
Hmmm. I'm getting an idea for a brand new glossy. It's called "Buying Junk Doesn't Make You Happy. Have a Cup Of Tea Instead". Catchy, no?