Six years ago I started this blog after browsing a magazine rack in search of something entertaining to read while traveling. At the time, I was struck by how none of the magazines related to me, or to the other real women in my life, so I decided it was time to have a portal where we could share what regular, real life is like.
Last week I was again standing in front of a display of magazines at an airport, and realized there has been little change over the past few years. There are more special interest publications, especially those focused on food and home. There are more tabloid/celebrity gossip rags, with splashy headlines about people we don’t know yet apparently should be shocked by their behavior, style, or taste in men. The biggest change is in the newsstand prices. In Stylefor $9? Us Weeklyfor $7? Seriously? No wonder readers are flocking to digital editions.
What has not changed are the covers, the topics, or the messaging. Still the unrealistically flawless faces peered down on me, articles promised me rapid weight loss, better style, increased wealth, better sex… and of course shallow peeks into the life of some gorgeous athlete, actress, or model. I saw no magazines with images of normal, regular women, with helpful articles about things like dressing to hide muffin tops, coping with the insanity of raising teenagers while caring for an elderly loved one, or how to scrape together enough money to repaint your own kitchen and deal with stained ceilings.
After browsing my options, I decided to pick up yet another cooking magazine (one of the few I don’t already subscribe to), and two celebrity tabloids because I never read those and thought they’d be an interesting diversion (and were less than the cost of a pair of shoes).
With my purchases tucking into my bag, I felt prepared for my journey home. Until I was reminded of the stark reality of the continued decline (read: PIA) of air travel. After learning of my first weather-related delay, I settled in to browse some of the glossy pages while I waited to hear updates on expected departure times. Within the first 6 pages, I felt extremely out of touch as I discovered I was supposed to care which actress was spotting eating Fruit Loops, what celebrities were caught holding hands, and which celeb wore a certain style better than another. Even worse, I had absolutely no idea who several of the people on those pages were. Sorry, but I truly have no idea who Tinashe, Rose Byrne, or Olivia Culpo are, and why I should be interested in their lives. I guess they don’t travel in my circle of running errands to CVS and Stop & Shop, nor are they in the five shows I watch on Netflix.
I set the magazine aside and decided to opt for my other favorite airport past-time, people watching. Which, sadly, has become decidedly more boring now that 90% of people are sitting or standing hunched over their mobile devices. No animated conversations between each other, no movement or activity, no interesting family interactions. Just hunched and swiping or tapping. There was a mom traveling with her two boys…they were on their tablets while she talked on the phone. There was a young couple snuggled up together, watching videos. And there was a weary mom with a baby who stared blankly with exhaustion.
Soon enough, my view changed thanks to news of more delays, and I joined others in the painstaking process of standing in line to determine our fate of rescheduling, re-routing and re-booking. I now could just stand and watch the lengthy process of an airline attendant trying to rebook anyone who would be missing their connecting flight, thankful to not have his job. At one point the line was so long that the attendant pulled out a snack and water cart which was conveniently kept readily available behind the counter. It was somehow comforting to see that some human behaviors haven’t changed – free food will cause people to temporarily put down their devices and get up and move. Quickly.
With more time to kill, I ventured down the Terminal to find some quick lunch. Soon remembering, again, that the options are never very good, nor healthy. After waiting in another line at a semi-fast food establishment, I received a meal that was not even close to what I had ordered. Which led me to some bonding time with other travelers standing to the side of the counter with their own incorrect orders.
Eventually we were allowed to board our flight. One of the most absurd changes in air travel is the juxtaposition of more people, fewer flights, and much less physical space. Yet so many passengers are still determined to bring carry on luggage, which not only have they had to tow with them through the airport and into bathrooms, but must next wrestle to fit into decreased space in overhead compartments. Literally every flight I’ve been on lately has been at capacity level, and many of those carry- on’s must be checked last minute, thus defeating the whole purpose of dragging them along. After a while, we got all settled in, and sat. For 45 minutes. Then were told the flight was cancelled, and we needed to get back off the plane and – yup, you guessed it – go stand in line again. Yee ha.
You get the picture of how the rest of my afternoon and evening went, along with a whole lot of other very real, and very tired and frustrated, fellow travelers. After about 5 hours, I was shuttled over to another terminal to meet a different plane. I tracked down a charging station so I too could be a hunched-over-my-device human, and texted updates to family. I then flipped through a few more pages of my trash magazines, chuckling at the pages showing that “stars are just like us”, because they are spotted reading newspapers, grocery shopping, and carrying boxes. Funny, I didn’t see any celebs hanging out in this mass of humanity waiting hours to get on a plane to head home “just like the rest of us. “
Minutes before boarding time, another announcement was made. There would be a delay because one of the flight attendants was late, stuck in traffic.
And that, my friends, is real life. It’s not about JLo and A-Rod shopping at a farmer’s market in Italy, or about Duchess Meghan’s bonding time with the Queen, or about Red Carpet fashion fails. It is about how we deal with delays, cancellations, and changes of plans. It is about getting the wrong fast food, and hoping the vitamin water you are drinking is powerful enough to ward off the germs of the coughing and sniffling passenger next to you. Some days, it is about being that woman, late for work, stuck in traffic, stressed about inconveniencing a whole plane full of passengers.
Real life is not smooth and glossy and flawless. It is often messy, bumpy and tiring. It is about adventures and having new stories to tell, and most importantly, it is about getting home safely to loved ones, even at 1am.
Sure, it’s ok to occasionally spend $7 to flip through images of that other world as a form of escapism and entertainment. And it’s ok to be hunched over your device to get updates and stay in touch digitally. But once in a while, put them both down and dare to interact with other real life humans. We are a non-glossy yet fascinating and beautiful bunch — flaws and all.