When you run the same face on the cover every month, you’ve really got to work the power of a strong cover line. The intrigue factor of ‘We’re starting a beauty revolution (say bye-bye to feeling bad about your looks)’ – possibly a reference to Nora Ephron’s book I Feel Bad About My Neck – has kept me from abandoning the June issue of O The Oprah Magazine (Surprise: Oprah’s on the cover!), to my ‘never did get around to reviewing it’ pile (would you believe it’s wastefully large?).
As a spiritual girl, for whom faith has become, in recent years, more important than acquiring Marc Jacobs pumps (no one ever said I didn’t occasionally stumble), Oprah’s brand of woman-of-the-world, easily digestible and life-applicable Christianity has huge appeal for me. The woman is, after all, a former preacher and journalist, who aspires to live like Jesus Christ. Quite the challenge, I imagine, for someone who is idolized, monetized, busy and hugely successful. The cornerstone of Jesus’ appeal was his absolute humility and selfless service and sacrifice – as well as his unfailing devotion to a life led by the Lord (i.e. not of his own choosing). As such, Oprah’s probably on the A-list at Heaven’s door.
Oprah’s magazine, owned by Hearst, isn’t preachy, though the May issue dealt almost entirely with the issue of spirituality. Essentially, what this magazine does is provide another means for her audience to get their Oprah fix (and make Hearst/Oprah some more cashola). On another level, it also caters for a market somewhere between mainstream women’s magazines, which largely steer clear of religion (unless they’re reporting on the latest Scientology scandal, giving it to Polygamists or investigating a Morman sect), and the Christian woman’s market, which is full of titles that mostly verge on daggy. As such, the concepts employed by positive psychologists are more the guiding editorial philosophy than overtly Biblical principles (which, as you might have noticed, often appear in my sidebar).
Women like to be in control of their lives – a concept in conflict with Christianity (God is in control). From what we eat to where we work out, educate ourselves, marry, get married and invest (or spend) our money (see the ‘Take control of your money, honey’ coverline), we’re happiest (or so we think) when we’re calling the shots. This means when something doesn’t go according to our plans, or someone upsets the balance, we grow frustrated and miserable… and indulge in a little retail therapy, over-eating or wine drinking.
In this post-feminist, fast-paced, achievement-driven era, the idea of waiting patiently for guidance and accepting sometimes life takes us in a different direction to that which we’d hoped is completely foreign: ‘going with the flow’ is for hippies – if you want something, you go ahead and get it. And when we get it (the job, the Marc Jacobs pumps, the man) and find that we’re still unhappy or unfulfilled, we go ahead and make plans to get the next thing: the Masters degree, the mortgage, the baby). And if we’re still not happy, we get a publishing deal and go to an Indian ashram, a divorce or a sneaky little face lift. Will we ever be truly satisfied? Who or what is driving us into this state of perpetual want? Where are our expectations coming from?
Last month Oprah interviewed Eckhart Tolle, one of her spiritual idols; this month she interviews Maria Schriver, her friend of 30 years. As you know, Schriver is the wife of Californian governor, Arnie Terminator, as well as a member of the Kennedy family and a very successful journalist who was forced to leave her plumb job at the NBC due to a perceived conflict of political interest. What Schriver and Oprah have in common is drive, a determination to exceed expectations and please other people, and lives defined by their work. However, after being forced to jump off the career treadmill in 2003, Schriver told a women’s conference last year, “You can spend the rest of your life trying to figure out what other people expect from you… or you can make a decision to let that all go. For this people-pleasing, legacy-carrying, perfection-seeking good girl, that was a news bulletin.”
Schriver’s values were inherently Kennedy: competitiveness, working vacations, public service, accomplishment. In the interview, Oprah tells her friend that at 25 she didn’t know what to do with her life, despite at that stage having a job reporting the news and weather and preaching on Sundays, and that she was always anxious, to which Schriver replies:
“I always thought the answer was the next thing. If I worked a little harder, produced an incredible show, wrote a best-selling book, anchored the morning news, won a Peabody Award, worked with the Special Olympics, then I would be les restless… I made the mistake of thinking that external accomplishments would bring me peace… Losing my job at NBC News was big. I identified myself with my job.”
Schriver says she’s not the person she was four years ago: now is content to ‘just be’, rather than live at an exhausting pace: “I thought being a workaholic was good; it isn’t. I regret that I didn’t take time to stop and enjoy my friends or to have intimate experiences with people in my life, to talk to them and be quiet with them. I was too busy running against my restlessness… I’ve tried to craft the job of First Lady into a role that reflects me. That’s about connecting people, empowering and inspiring them… I’m trying to live my life from my heart, being authentic to who I am… A friend of mine told me, “As long as you keep on playing the game of trying to be ‘the right Maria’ for everyone, you’re never going to deliver the real Maria. You don’t even know who the real Maria is’… The most terrifying thing of all for me was to just sit with myself; I didn’t know how to be alone… Being able to be by myself is part of knowing that I’m enough.”
This is a sentiment echoed in another of the magazine’s features, “You’re the fattest ballerina”, by Mary Wilshire, 54, an illustrator with a penchant for superheroes and comic books who has had compulsive eating issues her whole life, thanks, in part, to her alcoholic father, strict English Protestant background (appear to be perfect) and the suicide of her mother: “Feel compassion for yourself. What God wants from a girl is for her to be who she is. This is your highest spiritual purpose.”
Unfortunately, for most of us, it will take a lifetime of striving before we wake up one day and realise that the answer to who we are meant to be, how we should live our lives and what purpose we should serve is already within us – we’re just too busy climbing the career ladder, losing weight, raising families, fighting wrinkles, and meeting the world’s great post-feminist expectations to notice.
Overall excitement factor: 8
Feel-good factor: 8
Eye-candy rating: 2 (this is Oprah, not Vogue)
Issue: June 2008
Book size: 246 pages
Inside front cover: Cadillac
Back cover: Covergirl
FOB ads: Target, Chanel gloss, Gillette (Tiger Woods), Citi, Chevy, Tiffany & Co…
Founder and Editorial Director: Oprah Winfrey
Editor in Chief: Amy Gross
Editor at Larger: Gayle King
Girl With a Satchel
Posted by Erica Bartle (nee Holburn) at Tuesday, July 01, 2008