Before getting into the intended topic of this post, I would like to begin with two neutral descriptions of my recent reality:

1. Rob, my firstborn child, who was supposed to work until midnight on his first day of work and be home at about 12:10 a.m., didn’t come home until 1:20 a.m., and did not respond to texts because his phone was dead. He was late because closing took more than an hour longer than anticipated by his experienced adult manager, or because he misunderstood the scheduled shift; I can’t really pick which I’d prefer.

2. Paul, who is rearranging our basement, thought that the reason many of our stored/shelved items were in plastic Target bags was because I never even bothered to take them out of the store bags and just put them directly into storage. The actual, significantly better and less insulting reason: I wrap items deliberately to protect them from damp and dust. He took everything out of the bags and threw all the bags away before telling me his clever theory. When incredulously confronted, he said we could “just” put everything BACK into bags—but that it should be NEW bags, because these ones were dusty.


For the first time since subscribing many years ago, I have given up on a stack of People magazines. I remember when I used to try to wait to read each issue: the best was if I could wait to read it until the NEXT issue had arrived, so I’d be reading one AND still have one. Before a trip, I would save up several so I could have them as a treat on the plane.

This stopped about a month before the election, and didn’t pick up again afterward. Recently, with my magazine rack crammed not only with People but also with Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and Teen Vogue, I made a concentrated effort to catch up.

As you might imagine, it was worse than before. There were articles from BEFORE the election—ack. There were articles from AFTER the election—ack. There were lots of reminders of things that I’d mercifully forgotten. And my overall interest in the celebrity stories didn’t revive. Reading them was a chore, even if I skipped the ones about celebrities I hadn’t heard of (a gradually-increasing percentage, with age). One of Paul’s favorite games is Guess Why Swistle Is Cranky, and several nights in a row I gestured wordlessly to the magazine I was reading.

It didn’t take more than a dozen such evenings before I floated the idea to myself that I didn’t have to read the magazines at all. Not even a little! I’d suggested this to myself before, but it’s hard to take something that used to be a costly hoarded treasure and just toss it out without consuming it. Like, if you generally love eating Cadbury Fruit & Nut bars, and the only thing happier than knowing there is one waiting for you is knowing there are TWO waiting for you, it’s going to be a little difficult to throw out a whole case of Cadbury Fruit & Nut bars—even if you’ve since gotten tired of them.

But our library has a subscription to People, and they archive it, so if I ever regretted the decision I could go back and read the ones I’d skipped. And our library also has a well-visited Free Magazine Swap area, where people can leave magazines for other people to take, and I KNOW People magazines get SWAPPED UP: when I drop some off on my way in, they’re often gone by the time I check out. So they would be appreciated and not wasted, and that is typically the hardest aspect of getting rid of something: finding someone who wants it.

No, I couldn’t do it. I needed to read them. My subscription runs out in the fall; I just won’t renew it, and I’ll keep going until then. I will read them all, even if the progress is slow.

Followed by: THAT IS THE MOST RIDICULOUS THING I HAVE EVER HEARD. I spent a little time snipping my name/address off a few dozen magazines (snipping that rectangle is the international symbol for “This magazine is donated and not lost/stolen,” as well as the international symbol for “I don’t want you to know I read People magazine unless I choose to share that extremely intimate information with you”), and I have put them in the library book bag. I left behind the few most recent months’ worth, in case I decide I do want some for a trip or whatever; I can donate them later if I decide no.

Then I turned to the New Yorkers. I recently renewed my subscription, so those are going to keep coming. I would very much like to be someone who reads every well-thought-out article, but instead I am someone who appreciates the cover and then flips through and reads all the cartoons. I will be at peace with that. I went through all the issues I had, and I read all the cartoons, and they were really good and I enjoyed them. And won’t it be nice for a library patron to come upon this pile of barely-flipped-through magazines? Yes. After those challenges, Teen Vogue and Vanity Fair were a piece of cake: address removed, and into the library bag.

22 thoughts on “Magazines

  1. Alexicographer

    Oh dear, I can well relate to the basic problem this post describes, including the “finding someone who wants it” aspect. It quite bugs me imaging useful stuff is going unused. And yet …

    My Costco membership has helped me a bunch with the “If you generally love eating Cadbury Fruit & Nut bars…” problem as I’ve more than once bought SO MUCH of a desired item there that by the time I got through with it (if not sooner) I no longer desired it. As a bunch of these things are/were not healthy for me, that is a good thing.

  2. Tessie

    This is so timely! I recently cancelled my US Weekly subscription, which I have had for OVER 15 YEARS. I, too, used to hoard them for flights and long car rides. Chalk that up to one more thing the election has ruined for me.

    In my experience, closing a restaurant of any kind takes at LEAST an hour, not that you should have to learn that the hard way, ROB.

  3. Alexicographer

    Oh — and I forgot to say earlier, but OMG Paul — what???!!! This behavior (his!) is crazy. And not conducive to a happy marriage, though hopefully, you know, just a bad day. But OMG!

  4. Clare

    I hope Paul enjoyed replacing the bags alone, after perhaps suggesting that you should go and get a few more things at Target so you could have more bags and apologising for the error of his ways.

  5. Shawna

    OMG I am very angry at Paul on your behalf. He DEFINITELY owes you a Target shopping trip to replace them! And didn’t he JUST learn the lesson to not mess with the pantry like at all?! Sigh.

  6. ernie

    I do not perscribe to People, but they come to Coach’s office. I grab a few that the office is done with when we go on a trip. I have a hard time tossing them out – even after I’ve read everything remotely interesting. AND, I find I know less of the celebs as I age – and I guess as I become less hip.

    My oldest NEVER seems to be able to keep his phone charged. Sort of defeats the purpose as far as I’m concerned, although I’m sure he believes his phone exists simply to keep in touch with friends. He recently lost his brand new phone and since he is famous for ‘borrowing’ everyone else’s chargers in the house – now that he has nothing to charge, I enjoy waking up to a fully charged phone.

    Storage: Coach and I differ on the purpose of storage. Our ability levels for locating things in storage can best be described as novice and expert (guess who is who). If I label a box ‘X-mas lights’, and I hand it off to him to carry down into the basement storage room, he manages to rotate it on the shelf so that the label is facing in. This scenario has led to the re-purchase of items like x-mas lights and St. Patrick’s Day party supplies. Ugh!

    I can relate all too well to your post!

  7. Melanie D.

    I would love to hear a review from you on Teen Vogue. My daughter starts high school in the fall and I have thought she would enjoy some sort of fashion/beauty type magazine (I loved Teen and Seventeen in junior high/high school). She turns 14 in July and I thought maybe a magazine subscription would be fun and more interactive (with me) that Dove Cameron’s Instagram feed (Mom! Look at her cute shoooooeeess!!) I didn’t even know Teen Vogue was a thing, so now am wondering if that would fit the bill.

    1. Swistle Post author

      I only leafed quickly through one: I subscribed to support their recent political activism, and I donate the issues to the library swap pile. There’s a lot of fashion stuff in there, but it seems to me they’re putting an emphasis on being smart and aware as well as cute and fashionable. One thing that surprised me is how SMALL it is: it’s not regular magazine size. And it only comes out four times a year.

  8. Anna

    Magazine Guilt- yes. It is a true quandary that requires one to confront one’s true self. When I got the New Yorker only for a trip, or an occasional secondhand copy, I read every single scrap. Now that I subscribe, I have had to give myself permission to read only what interests me. I do make myself read The Talk of the Town every week, but it’s short.

    If you have a tablet or e reader, see if your library offers digital magazines- at my library the service is called Zinio. It was SO GREAT when I was nursing my firstborn 24/7 to be able to swipe through pretty pictures without holding up a whole floppy magazine. And I could check out things I would feel weird to be seen reading, or would just never buy- Us Weekly, Brides, Horse and Rider. I could get the New Yorker that way but for long articles I prefer the paper copy.

  9. Natalie

    Oh Paul. No.

    I’m working through my 3 year old stack of Parents magazine. Then I take them to my daughter’s preschool, they use them to cut up and practice letters and whatnot. That makes it seem ok. However I should probably stop keeping them on top of the rarely-used-or-emptied bedroom trash can because my husband recently got a wild hair to gather up ALL the trash in the house (which he never ever does). And so preschool lost out on an excellent 2015 vintage Parents magazine.

  10. Lawyerish

    I had to quit all of my magazine subscriptions because the pressure of the growing pile was too much to bear. I had stopped reading women’s magazine a while back because they only served to make me feel terrible about myself and my clothes, and anxious about all the things I should be doing/buying for my skin/hair/home, but then I found a couple of magazines I liked a lot for the articles (New York; Garden & Gun (NOT what it sounds like — it’s just Southern interest but not about actual guns); Coastal Living). Even those, however, tend to pile up. I think I do more mindless phone-scrolling than magazine-reading than I used to pre-iPhone, which is too bad and I am part of the problem in terms of print media, although I DO subscribe to TWO hard-copy newspapers SO THERE.

    Btw, if you like Curtis Sittenfeld, she had a really enjoyable short story in the Fiction Issue of the New Yorker, which came out a few weeks ago (in case you haven’t donated it yet).

  11. Slim

    I take a Swistlian “What CAN you do?” approach to magazines. Sure, cover-to-cover would be better. But some weeks I just read the one article I am most interested in (or sometimes the shortest WHAT OF IT?).

    Also, does Paul take this approach at work? “This is not how I would expect things to be! The explanation must lie in the other person’s laziness and/or general incompetence!” Maybe ask why things aren’t the way you’d have expected, Paul?

  12. Suzanne

    You read the New Yorker the same way I do, although I do try to read the poems and at least the first paragraph of the fiction, just to see if it piques my interest. The cartoons have become less enjoyable of late; my daughter loves for me to read them to her, but then I have to explain them and why they are funny and I find myself being unable to do either in far too many cases.

    The Rob thing and the Paul thing each made me hyperventilate a little bit, for different reasons.

  13. Teej

    I used to have a subscription to The New Yorker, and they piled up and they piled up…and in my mind, I kept thinking (seriously, I thought this): well, it will be nice to have this stack of thoughtful literary magazines when the apocalypse comes, and I have to stay in my house for the rest of my life; then I will be glad to have an enormous teetering mountain of reading material.

    And then finally at some point, my brain said, “wait, say what, now?”

    And then I ended my subscription.

  14. Elsk

    I do love my New Yorker subscription, but I can only read about one or two articles a week. I share the subscription with my parents, who I see at least once a month, and I give myself three days to read whatever I want in the 10 minutes before bedtime, and that’s usually about one or two items. Usually Talk of the Town plus Fiction. But I always try to read pieces by Adam Gopnik, Jerome Groopman, Rachel Aviv, Malcolm Gladwell, and Atul Gawande. And then I pass them on to my parents 3 days to 3 weeks later.

  15. Jenny

    Magazines drive me crazy. I’m a sucker to subscribe to a lot of them because you can get most for $20/year, which is crazy cheap. People is the only one that I spend any real money on and this year they offered me 99 cents per issue. I try to read them when I am on the treadmill, but I am way, way behind. And I should throw some of them out that I won’t care about getting through (New York magazine, Sports Illustrated, Time), but I don’t. I have a huge stack my couch. Maybe I’ll get rid of them this weekend.

  16. M.Amanda

    The magazines a person subscribes to really does feel like personal information, information that should be volunteered when one decides “hey, this person is okay,” not gleaned from address labels. Though the reason I clip the labels from donated magazines is a persistent belief that scam artists look for that sort of thing and somehow use the information to trick people into giving up credit card information or to figure out a way to rob the person’s house. I don’t know that there is any basis for this belief, but I get anxious at the thought of strangers seeing my name and address on a magazine.

  17. Shawna

    Okay, 1) did Rob get paid for the whole closing shift, or did he only get paid for the amount of time he thought it would take? Because it wouldn’t seem very fair to pay a kid until midnight if he was there until after 1 am, but also I could see not wanting to pay for kids to be verrry slow at something that should in fact only take a short time, so I’m curious how his work handles it, and 2) did Paul apologize and fix what he did?

    I have taken to labelling all boxes that go into our basement for storage on 2 sides – one on a short side and one on a long side. Guess how many boxes are stacked by my husband in such a way that one of the labels shows? If you guess almost none, you would be correct. I don’t get it, it’s a 50/50 chance!

    1. Swistle Post author

      It seems it was more a combination of miscommunication and misunderstandings: Rob thought they closed at 11:00, but they closed at midnight; Rob asked the manager how long closing would take, and she said “about an hour” and he translated that into an exact time; he told us his shift went until midnight, instead of telling us he was on closing.

  18. Shawna

    Also, you’re lucky you have good, convenient place to get rid of magazines that you know people will be happy to take them from!

    I have been known to go to hospitals and leave magazines in the more obscure waiting rooms, like the ones for radiology. I used to work at a hospital and had noted that there were always a few waiting areas that only had, like, two 10-year-old golf magazines to choose from.

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