How Suburbia Changed My Monthly Reading Material

My UWS pre-furnished studio had little to recommend it (storage was surely lacking), but it was perfectly surrounded by bookstores

My studio apartment on the Upper West Side had few advantages. It was a narrow shoebox with terrible lighting and a kitchenette with a microwave that sat less than a meter from my pillow. I look back on it now with amazement that I didn’t develop any new phobias or a brain tumor.

The one advantage it did boast was location — it was perfectly positioned among several bookshops. It was part of my daily routine to drop in and check the newest hardcovers while I sipped on the most exquisite cafe au lait from the coffee shop next to my building.  After lingering over the week’s releases, I’d usually stroll out with the latest  New Yorker and New York Magazine, ArtNEWS or Paris Vogue, Self or Vanity Fair. What I could have saved by subscribing to these magazine, I’ll never know.

In the suburbs, bookshops live in malls or shopping plazas. It’s rare you can just stroll from your door into one, morning coffee in hand. Going to Barnes and Nobles requires planning — it had better be on the way home from the supermarket if I want to drop in for a browse. If all I want is a new New Yorker, I always have to ask: is that worth the parking fee?

In the suburbs, bookstores live in malls and shopping plazas.

But I suppose, while suburbia and its sprawl lack certain conveniences, when you move back to your parents’ house you gain the benefit of inheriting their magazine subscriptions. Who needs to tromp outside when things come to your mailbox?

Alas, when I moved out, my parents canceled my subscriptions to Vogue and Vanity Fair and replaced them with National Geographic, Martha Stewart Living, and Newsweek — a thoroughly grown-up assortment of publications. Generally, I found this new selection both educational and useful (Martha’s recipes are usually winners).

While most 25 yr old females are learning beauty and sex tips from Cosmo, I'm checking out AARP the Magazine. To each, her own

Most 25 year old females get their monthly beauty tips and a new carnal challenge sex position from Cosmopolitan, meanwhile I was reading about “Sex and the Empty Nest” and “Robert Redford at 74” in AARP The Magazine. Apparently, “Sex in your 70s can change — for the better…78% of couples enjoy at least as much sex a they did before retirement.”

Bet you Cosmo girls didn’t know that little factoid. I have an extra subscription card, if you’re interested. 

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We’re All Pretty, Pretty, Neurotic Princesses

Of late, I’ve found a kindred spirit in Cinderella.

Sure, I have neither an evil step-mother who locks me in an attic nor ugly step-sisters who steal my clothes and spill pizza grease on them, but I have my share of chores that keep me looking like I just rolled around in a cinder bin.

 

Every Cinderella needs her own set of seamstress mice

 

Mornings are spent makeupless in old jeans and a t-shirt running errands for the family while my mother recovers from her recent hip replacement. I race through grocery stores, power-mop the kitchen floor, dust away the cobwebs from the corners of the living room, transfer the laundry from the hamper to the washing machines, groom the dogs, and put two meals on the table while prepping the third for my return at night. The projects I’m working on have me on call 24-7, and the majority of what I accomplish during the day is done between blackberry emails on the run and conference calls from my compact-SUV. At night, I’m “training” and if I’m lucky, home in my sweats by 10PM.

In short, I’m like every other modern woman as she tries to make her way in life on her own two feet while contributing to her family’s overall well-being. There isn’t much in the way of glamor, but there isn’t much to complain about.

On the console table near my front door sits an invitation to a charity ball. The event is being organized by a woman whose generosity, strength, and heart I greatly admire, and who has recently emerged as a fairy god-mother of sorts. A little bit of sparkle is something to look forward to, especially in the name of a good cause. As for the Cinderella transformation, do you remember that scene in the Disney movie when all the worker mice team-up and create a ball-gown for Cinderella from scraps of material? Yea, I’ve got seamstress mice too. Rather than buy something new, my tailor is reviving a unique vintage piece. It is a recession after all, and I’m a big believer in “once couture, always couture.” A needle, some thread, a little bibbidi, bobbidi, boo, and I’m good to go.

Hopefully, I won’t leave a Ferragamo behind on the dance floor.

All these parallels got my friend Annie and I thinking: If the 21st century New Yorker edition of Cinderella looks like me, what would the some of the other princesses look like in today’s Grimm fairytale?

 

Grace (of "Will & Grace") is the modern Snow White, and we love her

 

Rapunzel is that girl that lets men walk all over her. She’s the one most likely to get back together with the jerk who dumped her. Because she spends most of the day locked away in her room/office, Rapunzel is bound to get into trouble when she’s partying away a Friday night. As she goes off to the bathroom to make-out with the bartender, her friends say “It’s no wonder her mother had to lock her in a tower!”

Snow White shares a flat with 3 gay guys. In fact, all of her friends are handsome gay guys who take her shopping and tell her she’s fabulous and that they can’t live without her. She stopped having girlfriends after her jealous best friend slept with her boyfriend. Snow often eats indiscriminately and feels bad about it later when she’s passed out on her sofa in an apple-turnover-induced food coma.

Sleeping Beauty is the girl we all hate because every guy hits on her and she’s totally oblivious. She has no idea how beautiful she is or how charming. Men stumble over themselves trying to buy her a drink. She’s nonchalant about dating because she never has to work to get asked out, but she doesn’t like to ruin a good night’s sleep by having a strange guy stay over.  All her friends secretly hope she has an eating disorder…

A Book of Dealbreakers

I shouldn’t be telling you this… but I own 3 dating-advice books. It might even be as many as 4. I know you want to, but please, don’t judge me too harshly. I have good excuses for why they’re on my shelf:  “The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists” was a salvage item — I grabbed it from a friend who was about to trash it. I thought it would be an education in the way men think on a Saturday night at a bar. I haven’t read it, so I still don’t know what men are thinking on a Saturday night at a bar… I probably never will. “Jane Austen’s Guide to Romance” really is a great character analysis of Austen’s heroines and heroes. It’s better than sparknotes. As for “He’s Just Not that Into You,” well, you’ve got me there.

Look, I haven’t sunk as low as “Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars” or “The Rules” — I’m neither desperate nor clueless. I do, however, find this genre of  “lite lit” to be extremely amusing. There’s a new advice, or rather a what not to do book about to hit the newsstands, “Undateable: 311 Things Guys Do That Guarantee They Won’t be Dating or Having Sex,” and I’m inclined to buy it.

Here’s the “about the book” from the publisher’s website… I think you’ll want it too:

“SHIRT: SPORTS JERSEY.
JEANS: EMBELLISHED.
HAIR: OVERLY GELLED.
STATUS: UNDATEABLE.

“Did your date show up wearing socks with sandals? Are tighty-whities a deal-breaker for you? Do fanny packs make you want to run for the door? Now, for the very first time, we’re revealing the secret list of things that so many perfectly eligible guys manage to wear, say, or do to make themselves completely undateable. With an essential rating system that ranges from minor red-flag offenses all the way to the irreversible kiss of death, this hilarious handbook exposes the many common mistakes that can turn an otherwise acceptable man from a “maybe” into a “no way.” From pleated shorts and soul patches to ordering girly drinks and owning more than one cat, the evidence is painfully funny to behold. No more double denim, corporate swag, or exclaiming “Booya!” No more jogging in place at stoplights, and definitely no more “going dutch” on the first date. This book is for every woman who’s ever wondered where to draw the line, and every guy who’s ever asked, “What did I do wrong?”

“Here’s what you did.”