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.