Despair Visits the Magazine Rack

by D. D. Jolly, the Dostoevsky of Champagne Dilemmas

You can’t be too careful when you venture outside.  Your psychic equilibrium is a delicate creature.  Take what happened to your friend Despair last week.  It all started innocently when I set forth for periodicals and groceries.  The manager of my regular bookstore/café/discotheque has my admiration for placing food, fashion and “women’s interest” together.  If not for this winking sadist, I might never have noticed the similarities between these magazines.

Heart healthy Casseroles/Sex
Better Casseroles/Sex Tonight!
Casseroles/Sex in 10 minutes
Mindblowing Casseroles/Sex
Casseroles/Sex the Whole Family Will Love!

As for the store’s musical selection, the singer announced his intention to light many candles and make sweet love to me.  Candles are ineffective at eight a.m.  I reviewed the knitting and science offerings while the singer explained his intentions in greater detail, something about bath water and wine or bathing me in wine or drinking my bath water.  I wasn’t listening.  I was entranced by the sock patterns.  Also, I can report that infinity might not be a thing we need to worry about and doing things that make you miserable might make you happy.  That means I have to keep watching “The Newsroom.”  Rats. 

My selections made, my eye settled on a cover and I paused.  This was a mistake.  A woman with impressive teeth was perched on something, leaning forward, head tilted, an intimate look about her.  Apparently she has decided to choose happiness.  That’s a fine choice, Ma’am.  My eye wandered.  The same person is on two covers this week.  It’s not her.  It’s a him.  Are they twins?  They used to be engaged so, hopefully, no.

I looked about – news, lifestyle, entertainment, weddings, economics, fashion, fitness – you are going to have to take my word for it that I do not take recreational psychotropics anymore when I tell you that the covers popped out at me like demented Pez dispensers.  There was some variation in eye, hair and skin color, but the faces wore the same expression.

Why do they look like that?  Nobody ever looks like that anywhere ever, except on the cover of a magazine.  Don’t give me that “people are the same all over, we are joined by our common humanity” bilge.  Go ride in a cab piloted by a Russian and then come back and talk to me, if you survive the experience.  They are unlike any other people in the entire world.  If Russian cab drivers can be their own thing, then so can the magazine people. 

A cold and profound emptiness settled on my spirit.  I needed friendship and sympathy.  I called my childhood confidante, Samantha.

You better have a good reason for calling me.

I do.  It’s the magazine people. They all look alike and I don’t know why.  I am afraid.  Will you come get me and drive me home?

That is not a good reason for calling me. 

But you do know what I am talking about?

Of course I don’t.  Get a grip on yourself.  She hung up.

I looked at the Pez heads.  What are they looking at?  Really, Jennifer Channing Kelly Taylor James Michael Antonin Kim Johnny Hillary Brad Katherine John Barack Zach – what are you looking at?  How can you all look the same?  Think of how many expressions wash over one human face in five minutes.  You can’t keep up with the number thoughts and emotions you have in one day, but your face does.  Why is there consistency of expression across these many faces? 

School picture day bobbed up from the memory foam.  The photographer would brandish a puppet to make us look in the same direction and smile.  Do photographers get sour faced celebrities to smile by waving croissants at them?  Smile Darling, give me some eyes and teeth and I will let you eat, someday.  Let’s not bring baked goods into this.  Some things are sacred. 

The class portraits were an assortment of scowls, blinks, and grins.  We thought about how much we hated our clothes and how we could not wait for this to be over and for recess to begin and oh no that smell is coming from the cafeteria.  We looked at the camera, but our minds were elsewhere and it showed on our marshmallow faces.  The magazine faces are the faces of adults, or near adults.  They all look the same.  The faces can’t be the same unless the thoughts inside are the same.  And the thoughts can only be the same if… oh, I see.  Despair has your number.

The possible forms that the faces on the cover of the magazines could be include but are not limited to:

Human/lizard hybrids
Secret government clone experiments

I am leaning toward human/lizard hybrid.  They appear to be made of some organic matter and I would not be surprised to learn they have prehensile tails under their Spanx. 

This begs the question of why are human/lizard hybrids on the cover of the magazines?  Their purpose is to distract us.  Keep us thinking about our own inadequate bodies and homes, salaries and noses, rather than focus on important things like knitting, dark matter, the erosion of civil liberties and state-sponsored mass murder.

I looked at the faces again.  Their assured expression started to look desperate.  Please don’t walk past me.  Please don’t ignore me.  Poor things.  Look at how they need us to look at them.  Look at what they have done to themselves.  The bones whittled, the skin sliced and stretched, the cheeks plumped, the eyes lifted, the bodies starved and who knows what privations of the spirit accompany the mortifications of the body.  Pity and compassion welled up in Despair.  I can’t help but revert to the religion of my forbears (Pentecostal Buddhist) on occasion.  They aren’t human/lizard hybrids.  They are human and unbearably sad.

No, no, no, no, no.  That is how they get you – by tricking you into thinking they are like  us.  Nice try, Magazine Apparitions. 

I would pity you if you weren’t lying to me, trying to make me feel bad about myself, picking my pocket and generally insulting me at every turn.  There is no end to the number of tricks you employ to make me feel like I am not measuring up to an irrelevant standard of physical, financial, emotional, sexual, and social success.  How many products do you push at me in a day?  The movies with plots and actors interchangeable as Legos, but not as solid, fun, and colorful; the clothes I can’t afford and never mind because they don’t fit and they look hideous and they were sewn by slaves; the wars I don’t agree with and don’t understand; and the laws that I don’t agree with and understand all too well.

Sorry, Love, you don’t choose happiness; it chooses you.  Today you tell me you got your beach body with kale and yoga and next week I will hear your teary confession that you subsist on amphetamines and self-hatred.  You want to wait until all of the facts are in?  Do the thousands of bodies under shrouds count as one fact or one thousand?  Oh, never mind, we are on to the next thing.  You believe in original intent, do you?  I believe the drafters of the Constitution expected us to read like adults, not like five-year olds.

Right, you fuckers.  I know who, or more correctly, what you are now.  You have not chosen happiness and you have not kicked cocaine and you have no secrets of sexy abs, and you do not govern or judge with sense or integrity and you have nothing of any use to share with me because you exist for no reason other than your personal craven gain.  Ha.  Thought you could sneak all that past me, did you?  You don’t have any power over me, Chum.  Now, I need to continue with my day.  I think I will make a casserole for dinner tonight.

Next ditty: Despair on Tourists in Boston: A Guide for the Locals

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