Saturday, 10 March 2012


The first time I read GOOP, I laughed like Mehcad Brooks was tickling me. It was for the same reason that I love to watch Barefoot Contessa. I enjoy people who are fabulous to the point of being preposterous. Ina Garten floats delicately through her Hampton home casually referencing (because we should all already know) the importance of using only "very good vanilla" or "the best truffle oil you can find". If you can't get your cardamom pods freshly fertilized by only the most discerning mountain goats in the hills of Nepal, you might as well just burn your kitchen to the ground now and allow yourself to perish in the blaze. There is no point in going on.

As a real person from the Third World, I regard these folks with glee, and not as much judgment as you might think. I love interesting recipes and fancy things, and am currently enduring a self-imposed shopping fast to arrest my acquisitive nature, but surely one does not absolutely need two pieces of perfectly snipped Spanish chervil to garnish the side of one's Sunday frittata. You could pluck a couple pieces of Aunt Rhoda's fern and we would be none the wiser. So I have once or twice found myself staring at a GOOP article saying out loud - apparently to Gwyneth Paltrow but really to no one - "Gwyneth Paltrow, A Perfect Murder is my guilty pleasure (in part because you just had to have your character speak in perfectly-lisped Castilian Spanish so we would know that even though you seem boringly American, you are in fact well-travelled and severely interesting.) But you are a ridiculous person."

Still, Ina and Gwyneth have and know their audience. There are similarly ridiculous people out there (actually, Ina is not that ridiculous in substance. I make her food all the time. One manages to overlook the condescension and just go ahead and throw in the very mediocre vanilla) and others who aspire to be similarly ridiculous. Presumably, all the fancy people congregate in these and other fancy places and barter very good vanilla, cardamom and chervil. But when I open a modest little Allure magazine and Donna Karan's "10 Things Every Woman Should Have" begins with "Haitian craft", not even Alfre Woodards's psychopathic son could inspire such chortles. Here's the entire list:

1. Haitian crafts. This turned out to be the least absurd of the list, although at first it seemed hilarious. It suggests that we should all try to make active, social choices through our consumption, and that one way to do so might be to support companies that invest in and help create markets for the products of artisans in developing countries. Noble, if oddly specific.

2. A bodysuit. Donna starts her day by wearing it to yoga and then "adds and subtracts layers as the day goes by." A bodysuit. They should have named this article "10 things Maybe Four Women should have if three of them are Beyonce".

3. Art to call your own. There is some text here about being married to a sculptor. I haven't met my sculptor yet. But I know a guy who carves fallen twigs on the beach and sells them to tourists.

4. A yoga mat. You can lay on it and consider how much you hate yoga.

5. A sanctuary. This I can agree with. Women tend to be disproportionately burdened with care responsibilities in addition to academic and professional commitments. Having the space to regroup is important, even if it's just alone time outdoors in the fresh air. Of course Donna Karan's sanctuary is Parrot Cay in Turks and Caicos, which she calls her "three-hour Bali". know...fresh air or that.

6. Donna Karan Cashmere Mist Body Lotion. This one has her name in it. My. How curious.

7. Cashmere scarf cozy. For $2000 from Donna Karan stores. Curiouser still.

8. Essential oils. Ok.

9. Green juice. Ok. And no thanks.

10. A belt bag. It frees up her hands and she can feel it on her body. If I'm trying to feel anything on my body, Donna, it's not a $1695.00 glorified fanny pack from your store.

I know this is Allure - a glossy whose business is selling crap. But who is Every Woman? Reading this article prompts me to again wonder who magazines like this are writing for. Is it all aspirational? Are we all spending our bus pass money on the March Allure each believing that all the other women reading it have bodysuits on under their jackets and we are the only losers who don't own Haitian craft or cashmere scarf cozies? (Interestingly, the average woman in Haiti is clearly not even being counted as a woman. But at least if she were, she would probably already have item 1 covered.)

Of course, the simple answer is that the entire industry is absurd and built on hyperbole. A 'steal' would be a $500 feather for the hair if a 'splurge' is a $12 000 fascinator. And 'every woman' means 'every woman whose lifestyle can support our recommendations and whose interests mirror ours, or who wishes she fit into the latter categories'. Still, one can't help but chuckle at the earnest tone of the GOOPs and the Allures in their pretense that we're all in this together. Or at least we will be when some of us return from wintering in Bali.
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