economy candy

I read my magazines backwards.  I learned to do this by watching my mother, in her bed.  She couldn’t sit still, so when we forced her to by begging her to watch a movie with us, she’d climb into bed, her socks off, knees up, and began to skip through the pages of her Glamour Magazine.  I’d sometimes rub her feet with Kerri lotion and try to pick off her calluses.  When I thought I was about to really make some progress, she’d yank her foot away from my warm hands with an “Ouch!  That hurts!”  Then she’d pinch her eyebrows together and allow me to continue.  It was her way of communicating, “okay, but this time, be more gentle.”  Then she’d go back to… I don’t know what she read in those magazines.  I still don’t know.  I don’t know the type of article that would keep her interest.  I don’t know enough about my mother. 

I know her as she is now, an adult who communicates with her adult daughter.  I remember her as a mother who took care.  Of everything.  But I wonder what she read when she was my age, with two children.  I wonder if she would have read my blog then.  If she had the same fears or hopes.  When I’m a mother, I hope to keep a journal for my children so they know… what was I reading when we were watching that movie all together?  Was my mother reading about ten ways to thinner thighs or how to keep my father’s attention?  Did she read my father’s horoscope looking for some insight?  Did she read her own?  I skip them completely, unless I’m at the nail salon with wet nails and stuck with the page.  I think mothers should keep journals about being mothers, then give them to their children when they have their own… or when they’re at a crossroads, when they’re stewing in their own drama.  It’s so nice to be reminded that the people you love have their own lives, and have for a long time before you came along. 

I began to read my In Style tonight, from the back—because the front is all advertising and contents pages—and that’s when I lunged for my computer with my “what the fuck is that?”  There it was: a lovely photo of a whitewashed brick living room, complete with fireplace and ottoman, fashioned to mimic a clothing store.  Pools of natural light.  Yellow miniature orchids in an over-sized vase, back-lit with a wall-length mirror.  A Prada shoe box, studded belts, and beaded accessories are strewn throughout the room.  The caption to the photo reads: Organize clothing and accessories by type for quick browsing; display jewelry on a mantel so it’s easy to see each piece. 

Elenis_stephaniekleinIf I had a mantle in my apartment—no, wait, if I had a fireplace in my apartment–I wouldn’t be adorning it with necklaces to swap.  I’d kindle a fire and invite people over for wine and appetizers that looked like jewels, not clothes.  In the Party Guide of the magazine they suggest, “come for brunch and shopping.”    Then they suggest mood music for the shopping.  Turn your home into “a full-service boutique… Arrange hyacinth bouquets in glass vases set in mini shopping bags.  Set up a cereal bar…. Make a savory bread pudding.”  Who does this?  I love this idea, LOVE IT.  I do.  But who does this?  Who has this cutesy, hair-flip of a life?  I want this creative life, inviting friends to sell their clothes, pin up their jewels for sale while snacking on cookies, frosted to look like designer handbags and pointy shoes.  It’s right up their with the perfect tree-decorating bash, or yeah, Oscar soiree.  But if it came down to it, a shopping party (strange idea, notwithstanding) I wouldn’t know what to give up.  “Who would want to wear that?  I mean, sure it is too tight on me, but one day…  Oh, and that.  I can’t give away that.  It was my mother’s.  My own mother gave it to me because she no longer wanted it… but still.”  More than that though, how do people get these lives?  These glassine envelope, embossed pastel lives?  I will never be one of these put-together women.  Maybe everyone thinks that, thinks candy-coated lives are everywhere but here.  Of course there’s no such thing, but sometimes it feels true.  It’s all staging.  Props.  Settings.  When it comes down to it, we all have clutter, don’t we?  It’s why we thumb through magazines and Pottery Barn books (yes books!), constantly trying to fit order and neat into our sometimes-boring lives.



  1. While you're looking through the magazines and wondering who has the life you'd like to have, someone else is looking at you wanting the life you've already got.

  2. Stephanie, it's so funny you wrote this tonight. This evening after work, I found myself in the "housewares" section of Anthropologie. Looking at the little glass multicolored doorknobs and faux Victorian creamy white place settings, I suddenly felt that somehow I missed a boat someone else told me to catch. I also felt vaguely inspired to "uplift" my surroundings, but at the same time felt defeated. That's how I feel when I read one of those magazines–doesn't matter whether it's home furnishings or fashion. And that's why I only read them at the dentist or doctor's office.

  3. My favorite parts of magazines and newspapers remain from back to front. Crosswords, sports, obituaries, one page features with terrific titles, real estate, auctions. Table of contents? Hah! Maybe on page 54.

  4. In a magazine article I read a few years ago about Martha Stewart (I can’t remember which publication), the author tells a story about how Ms. Stewart came up with an idea for a fabulous craft project and brought it to the editorial team on her magazine. One of her artists pointed out to her that no one would every take the time to create this project. She chided the artist, “You are correct, but they will wish they could.” And that, I believe, is the secret of Martha Stewart, Glamour and all of the magazines we read with fabulous ideas that no one will ever do.

    We wish we could. We LOVE stepping into these perfect “hair-flip” worlds and pretending we really live there, even if it’s only for as long as it takes to get a pedicure.

    Love your blog, wish I could write more, but the latest issue of Phoenix Home & Garden just arrived, and I gotta run!!

  5. "Who has this cutesy, hair-flip of a life?"

    That is so GOOD.

    Life IS a good bit of staging and props. And when you get down to it, clutter is the only unique prop a person's got. It's the high tide line of seaweed and shells that are left… then washed away for some new clutter… making you wonder, "What the hell did I see in putting those things here and there?"

    Looks like the tide's coming in, SK. You've got some brand-new clutter to strew about pretty soon. And take it from the King of Clutter, it's all good.

    (I always read SI from the back, too. It's like you're cheating the editors from any surprises or over-hyped letdowns–when you read it that way.)

  6. I'm actually sitting here having the same thought! I've been absolutely fixated on learning to cook, to no avail. For months now, I've had the desire to have all of my friends over for a table-leaf needed, keep the wine flowing, dripping candles, girl talk loaded, friends are your chosen family, dinner! How can it be done? I try to find time to read up on cooking classes, but find myself enjoying the dream more than the hassle of the reality! One day, I swear! I must add, one thing you said a few posts back will never escape my mind…if you find yourself bored, are you boring?
    Cheers to you always writing it when I need to feel normal!

  7. I've spent a lot of time lately considering the fact that I was never able to think of my mother as a human being when I was younger. It was impossible for me to comprehend that she'd had a life before me, or that she could have a life outside of me and my brother. I guess that's just the inherent selfishness of children (which many people grow out of, yet others don't). I was going to write something on this topic–I think you've done well with it here.

    "Who has this cutesy, hair-flip of a life?" I laughed out loud at this line. I love it.

    (Planning to come to the reading on Thursday. Look forward to meeting you then!)

  8. I gave both my mother and grandmother journals last year for Christmas in the hopes they would record their lives, leave me something of their inner thoughts. I've got my fingers crossed that they indulge me.

    As for the Instyle parties, I'm right there with you. I want to throw grand, creative fetes but can't find the time, energy or that "perfect place".

  9. "It’s so nice to be reminded that the people you love have their own lives, and have for a long time before you came along."

    I love this sentence. Something about it just clicked with me and I realized I'd never looked at my own mother as being twenty one years old at one time. I think the idea about keeping a journal and giving it to your kids when they have their own is a fantastic idea. You got the wheels in my head moving this morning. :-)

  10. Depending on what type of crowd you end up getting involved with in Austin they would totally go for that. Austin's motto is "Keep Austin Weird" and a living room turned into a botique party could fly there – probably not the case in The City.

    One great thing about moving is you get to toss away SOME of the excess.

  11. Call me crazy, but haven't you had your "cookie swaps" and dinner parties? You seem to have that hair-flip life, at least in your past posts.

  12. I love reading Martha Stewart's Living. Sure, I am never, ever going to mold my sugar cubes (see this week's "good thing" on website), but these "good things" inspire me to slow down and be creative with my own slices of life. Forget clothes. I would tell all of my friends to bring books they don't want on their shelves anymore and we would do a bookswap and eat pizza. I say forget cutsey hair flips of life; bookish types tend wear their hair in buns anyway. ;)

  13. Zmanda, i feel the same way! I want to cook and take classes and I own my Dummies Guide to Cooking.. yet it never happens. I feel that, as a Cancer —they are supposed to be the most natural of cooks in the zoidac (no I'm not weird, but sign stuff not horoscopes are spot-on sometimes), I should be doing this! Parties are great and frozen Greek apps always work for me.

    Re: mothers, I guess I am weird in that I am best friends eternally with my mother- however her mother died when she was 2 so that may explain it, our close-ness. I once heard Rosie O'Donnell and Madonna (yeah I know) say how they were raised without mothers and that makes their mothering styles and their relationships to their daughters all that more stronger, and stranger. I guess I'm also odd/too-nostalgiac (that Cancer over-emotional bit) in that I never STOP thinking of my mother's life pre-me. I want to be just as she was, in the wonderful late '60's when she first came to NYC, lived with her wonderful roommates who are all now 'Aunts' to me, going to grand old dinners with the girls, and fun parties with cute, dapper South American guys in Queens– all before meeting my father. Yes she was married at my age and that makes me all the more obsessed with my circumstances of late, but I can't stop thinking every single day of what my life would be (will be :( ) without her in it every single day.

    Enjoy your mom now Stephanie. Don't think of the past, as difficult as that is *well you're a Libra, so you'll fare better!

  14. Stephanie,

    Your writing is so astute and dead-on. I always fancy myself as wanting that coordinated life, no scuffed boots, no bras on the floor, plenty of garlic and wine in the kitchen, but I never can fully get there. Maybe it's the many roommates, the East village, the paltry cash flow, but I've never hosted book club at my apartment.

    Maybe it's at least good that I'm doing book club at all. Sort of the mark of a civilized girl…

  15. I do the same thing with my magazines. It's almost like I haven't read them if I start at the back. Like I know I can come back and enjoy them all over again right side first. But I never do. Come back. I just pile them up and throw them out at the end of the month.

    Sometimes I hide them under my bed. Force of habit. My stepdad use to say fashion magazines were full of loose women, drugs and 'juke box music' (I think he meant rock and roll.)

    He was a nut. One I still have a hard time shaking.

  16. 16 years ago I started a journal/baby book for my precious baby boy – I was good about writing in it, talked of the joys of his little self and how much fun it was to get to know him. 17 months later I started a second one for my darling new baby girl…and let's just say I wasn't quite so faithful to writing in either one. 13 years ago, I made a lame-ass attempt to start another for my sweet littlest baby…wrote about 3 pages and threw up my hands to deal with 3 babies in diapers and all the things that go along with that.

    13 year old came across this lame attempt the other day whilst rummaging through old boxes – she was so overwhelmed with joy until she saw it was only 3 pages long – then she bawled at the injustice of it all. Wish I'd a) never started them or b) truly taken the time to do it right or c) hidden them better.

    Sigh. No good deed goes unpunished.

  17. I am determined to one day have a home where people come over for dinner parties and to hang out.

    Right now I'm more Bridget Jones than Martha Stewart though.

  18. Ah—it could be worse Steph. I found my mother reading a book about how to handle your child if he/she becomes a homosexual. It suggested bringing me to a psychiatrist. Just being surrounded by my dysfunctional family, she should have been reading something completely different. Maybe a PDR to look up medications that would help.

    The concept of “Come For Lunch and Shopping” sounds more like a high class way to have a garage sale. I just get my ol’ flip flops on and head outside to greet my white trash neighbors to sift through all the junk.

    What do they say? One person’s garbage is another person’s treasure. ;)

    Great post!

  19. Not maybe, definitely. It is all a sham. No one is that put-together. It is all props, and lighting, and sets. That's why it's called a photo-shoot, in a magazine. They say that children are happpier and learn more in a home that's more lived-in, and less presentational. I believe it. I want comfyness…with just a pinch or a dash of modern trendiness… but overall, a nice comfortable place with a good smell.

  20. I look through Domino magazine with the same awe. It looks famtastic, but really, in my tiny apartment here? What?! They're crazy!

  21. i feel like i have a perpetual case of grass-is-greener-itis, especially when it comes to the home. but then the standards that have been set for us ladies in popular culture are really over the top, maybe even more so than romantic ideals (and just as hard to shake). something to remember-thanks for the post stephanie!

    veronica: i remember losing sleep thinking about my mom dying and convinced that it would be the worst thing that could ever happen. then it did happen, and i kinda actually was, and yet despite missing her every day, i am now very happy, the happiest i've ever been. worrying dosen't stop it from happening, and it also dosen't clue you in to the amazing resources we all have stuffed away inside of us.

    if only i could call on those resources again and achieve even one of the domsestic projects on my list.

  22. It may be a silly hair-flip of a life, but I still want it. I still flip through those magazines thinking that some day I will make that project, decorate my rooms, and finally get those photos framed. I haven't yet, but maybe someday I will.

    I got the same habit of flipping backwards from my mother, I think they learn it at mom-school.

  23. You wouldn't want your kids to read about sex and writing naked, would you? Would you have wanted to read about your mother's sex life? I wouldn't want to know how big/small my father's d*ck is.

  24. I tell everyone that everyone else's life is just like theirs. Everyone kind of likes their jobs, but they all have days that they hate it. Everyone thinks that their house is messy, but I seriosuly doubt there are many houses out there that are clean, especially when kids are involved. I'm pretty sure that about 98% of the parents out there are tearing their hair out at some point in the evening due to something that their kid has done or hasn't done. And it doesn't matter if the kid is 6, 9, 12, 15 or 18.

    I think the happiest people are the ones that realize that life is not a fairy tale, and that no one has the perfect job, child, or spouse.

  25. I think I'd be highly suspicious of savory bread pudding in a living room boutique, but I would have one of those purse cookies. "Hi, welcome to the boutique…purses to the left, jewelry to the right….would you happen to care for some bread pudding?"

  26. >>I wouldn't want to know how big/small my father's d*ck is.

    AHAHAHA!!! hilarious. and deeply disturbing. i don't think i'd like my kids to know about me getting a pussy o' pam either. come to think of it, i wouldn't want anyone to know that… but stephanie is far more open than the average bear.

  27. I'm going to have to agree with Urbanmama's comment – You seem to have that hair-flip life.

    In your past posts you have written about "sunchokes au gratin, ricotta and broccoli rabe stuffed butterflied chicken and wine-vinegar-marinated rabbit… with Beard Papa custard puffs for dessert," who the hell does that? And Kimi's perfect birthday party? Where her cake matched her dress. Dear Lord. If that's not cutesy, hair-flip, I don't know what is.

  28. I remember when my children rubbed my feet and tried to remove my bunions. It was such a sensual moment, although they used Vaseline because we were not well off. We still talk about those days, and how special they were.

  29. Any more I just drool over the photography. It's such a refreshing change from how I use to view magazines–with a great disdain for my body. Magazines are meant to be escapism, but too often I would want to escape my own body.

  30. Hey, if little Bonnie Stern can "have it all" then so can you. What, you don't? You're doing something wrong. Begin guilt-ridden self-analysis now!

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