hope and propaganda
I’ve started tuning out the mainstream media in all its various forms– TV, movies, magazines. One magazine I do still get and read is More, as it does contain some useful health information for older women and also features interesting book and movie reviews.
I did, however, look very critically at the last issue and can’t help but feel that, much like Oprah, it’s uplifting articles are often nothing more than propaganda, and as such aren’t all that helpful. Some examples. The cover story this month is on the actress Juliana Margulies and how she got married and had a baby after forty, after turning down 27 million to do another few years of ER. She is quoted as saying she didn’t ever think she’d find someone she would want to marry. But really, is it at all remarkable that an attractive, famous, extremely wealthy (we can only guess that she had millions in the bank by the time she left ER and was in no danger of starving) was able to find an appealing, attractive man she wanted to marry and who returned the feeling? There’s another story on the actress Lucy Liu and how she is going to play a struggling public school guidance counselor in her next movie and how she can relate to the role, having gone to public schools as a child. In real life, she is dating a billionaire hedge fund manager, one of the 400 wealthiest men in America. She came from a struggling immigrant family so perhaps who she is dating now is irrelevant, but somehow it still rankles. Third, there is a story about a real estate agent who, burned out and overworked after the economic downturn, started painting, sold some works, and is now making it as a painter full-time. Inspiring, yes, but how likely is her story? And will she still be surviving in a few years? When these magazines only focus on the success stories, we can get a warped view of our chances in life.
On the flip side, I have a friend who lives across the country who is a few years older than me and never-married. She has a great education and after years of somewhat slacking off, got serious, moved to a place with more opportunities, and landed herself a very well-paying job. She bought a house and settled in. Four years later, she is unhappy in the same ways I am. The only attractive men she meets are married, and her job has gotten increasingly stressful and relentless. She doesn’t know how much longer she can take it, but on the other hand, has no idea what she would do as an alternative. She does know some other women in her same boat and they have spoken of banding together in retirement, living in some type of communal property situation and sharing resources. To me that is hope rooted in reality.
Talking with her, I realize my situation is not unique and that other smart, talented, attractive women are struggling with my same issues. Reading More just makes me feel bad that my life isn’t more.