Ever bought a magazine for yourself as a treat? Of course you have. Perhaps something a little silly, like a celebrity gossip magazine? Yes.
What about a bigger treat – something from the next shelf up? No, no – not the top shelf. The fashion glossies - big thick spines, richly smooth pages. Most of which are just crammed full of adverts, but gorgeous ones.
It’s nice to get expensive magazines every now and again, isn’t it – to perk up the week. You just need it sometimes. But what if you wake up one morning and realise you have in fact subscribed to all of them?
I am 100% guilty of being seduced by magazines. I am a grown woman who pays through the nose for reams upon reams of things she can’t afford, and places she can’t afford to travel to. I just can't seem to help myself.
And I really am old enough to know better - I know how real life works now (I think). I consider myself a media savvy girl - I regularly critique adverts out loud when watching the television, much to the annoyance of my fella.
So why the hell am I an Elle Decoration subscriber? I don't even decorate. The bathroom floor is yet to be tiled - that’s three years of concrete. Yet here I am, flicking through pages and pages of vintage Moroccan tiles and bespoke marble. I can't even muster the energy to browse through the Topps Tiles website (most tedious experience ever), let alone take up any of the tips and eye-wateringly expensive products featured in those glossy pages.
I feel a little ashamed of my little habit. Like I have revealed I enjoy walking around the flat in my boyfriend’s pants (I don’t. Plus, it doesn’t really sound as seedy this way around, does it? More like I’m really on-trend and will be borrowing his jumpers next. I have been known to do that. Maybe it’s a slippery slope? Anyway.)
I know it’s all supposed to a bit of fun - a guilty pleasure, like chocolates are for other people. Or shoes. So why do I feel so uncomfortable about it?
I think I just don’t want to admit the truth to myself - that I secretly still harbour the ridiculous so-called ‘lifestyle’ aspirations that I did as a young girl. First it was fashion magazines – totally standard for a young woman. Fashion is great. But now that I’m venturing into home interiors it’s like I'm subconsciously nesting. And I am annoyed with myself - like a big predictable cliché I am following the path laid out for me by these marketeers. Next it’ll be Woman & Home. Easy Living. Then food magazines (that concept does sound quite appealing...they’ve clearly got me pegged.)
This love affair with magazines all started with the women's lifestyle supplement that came with The Daily Mirror on Monday's. Can anyone remember what it was called? I was obsessed with it. I would painstakingly absorb every inch of editorial for hours and hours. Literally - hours. In my head I would live out the lifestyle portrayed on those pages, contrasting starkly to the realities of my days spent in the classroom at school and then at sixth form. I envisioned that, when I was in my twenties (never in my thirties, too old…), I would buy a takeaway coffee on my way to work – a publishing house, newspaper or other arts organisation. I would be wearing a shift dress from Topshop, which would transition nicely when I met up with friends for post-work cocktails in a stylish bar, after which I would nip home to my fabulous flat in the city with a balcony.
And now here I am at 31, buying a takeaway coffee in the morning on my way to work at an arts organisation, wearing a shift dress, sometimes (but not as much as I used to) meeting with friends for post-work wine, and living in a city centre flat with a (sort of) balcony.
I should be bloody over the moon! I got what I wanted - so why am I still harbouring all these so-called lifestyle aspirations? It’s not like I’ve had the imagination to even generate new ones, not really. It’s the same meaningless things only on a bigger, more costly scale. I don’t just want any old coffee - I want the best coffee available, preferably organic. I’ve become complacent in my brilliant job. I want Reiss dresses instead of the H&M ones I can afford. Do you ever stop wanting things? I mean, it's exhausting isn't it?
It must be an addiction, this magazine consumption. You start to crave them as much as the things inside. It’s like by reading these things I am somehow living them a little bit. Of course, I’m not.
I am not jetting over to Fiji next week.
I am not planning a jaunt round Marylebone this weekend to peruse potential items for a room I’m ‘doing up’ in my Notting Hill townhouse.
I am not even able to justify buying a Smythson diary.
I know at the end of the day it's just frivolous enjoyment and I should just stop over-analysing. Life needs more of the simple pleasures that looking at pretty stuff can offer. The escapism that comes from reading about things that just don’t matter. But it is niggling at me now that I've noticed it. I think I’m most worried that other people will think I actually want to be like these people who really do live out the lifestyle of Elle Decoration, with their bonkers staircases and friends who own top London restaurants. It all feels a bit ridiculous – a pointless, pretend world. I don't want to be like that really.
At least, I don’t think I do…
P.S. One thing these magazines are an actual source of is absolutely brilliant gift ideas. So if you happen to know me, lucky you – you may not be sitting on a £25,000 art deco sofa suite the next time you come to visit, but you could have a really nice dinner plate coming your way this Christmas.
After completing a BA in English, Gemma dabbled in freelance writing for a variety of cultural organisations, including Channel 4’s IDEASFactory, before finding Hybrid Arts – a pioneering non-profit creative technology organisation based in Leamington Spa - where she has been Writing & Researching (and nobly keeping post-it notes in fashion) for ten inspirational years. In her spare time, Gemma is a freelance journalist and writes short fiction (foisting it upon patient loved ones). Gemma’s mission is…well, she hasn’t quite got that far yet.
And the rest
Likes to do things in lists, considers herself an exemplary tea drinker, spends most of her life on buses, hordes cheap jewellery and has a somewhat sordid love of Berol pens.
Favourite boy hero
Tintin – the perky quiff, the impeccable manners - just what you need in a crisis.