When I first started at my job, one of my coworkers had a desk that was covered in clown figurines and true crime books. It wasn’t a strategy, either; she genuinely liked perchable, creepy-looking clowns and stories about gruesome murders that had actually happened. I kept meaning to take a photo to show my friends, but before I could do this, she left the company.
She still talks to some people from the office, though, and one of them still sends her celebrity gossip magazines once they’ve been read. Yeah. Those weekly gossip magazines you see at the supermarket? People actually read them. Not only that, but people actually subscribe to them, meaning that once a week, their mailbox receives its regular delivery of steaming hot garbage information and not only does the subscriber devour it, but they pass on the parts to a scavenger for further plunder.
Oh man. That last part was so salacious, I should write for those magazines.
But that would mean that I cared, wouldn’t it? I mean, I’ve had plenty of jobs I haven’t given a shit about, so it stands to reason that a person who writes for gossip magazines gives a similar amount of shit about their position (zero). However, I know what it’s like to want to write for a living, and I know the feeling when that living is paid for in 15-second bursts of advertisements that imply you’re not cool unless you’re drunk, and I know what it is to swallow any cheapness you see because while you’d love to write stuff that matters, what actually matters right now is paying the rent. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
I still think that you’d have to care a little bit about what you’re doing, though, or at least know enough about it to lie convincingly. And while I’ve certainly done my share of degrading things for money, I have never been required to pen a breathless paragraph about any of the Kardashians, and for that, I am very thankful.
Even if we assume that the writers don’t care, we know that the readers do. The subscriber in my office cares a lot, to the point that she regularly asks me if I’ve seen what Tori Spelling’s husband did (no), or if I think that country music guy is going to stay married to his country music wife (probably not?), or if Juan Pablo really is an actual human herpes sore (I guess so, at least based on what Twitter said about him). And not only does this subscriber ask me about these people, but she gets worked up over what she reads about their lives. Like, truly worked up, as if their indiscretions are personally insulting because don’t they care that she cares about them.
I was talking about this crazy-ass behavior with another woman in my office, who said “You know, I’ve just told her before. I said, ‘you know these people aren’t real, right?’ but she just stared at me. I don’t think she gets it.”
Psychologically, I understand that a part of your life must be empty if you’re trying to fill it with meaningless shit, and I suppose that at least it’s gossip magazines and not, say, crack cocaine. But I’ve also tried to understand why any of this is so meaningful to her while it’s completely vapid and hollow to me. Like, I understand Sinatra’s legacy, or Elvis, or any of these people who existed prior to this hyper-accelerated, hyper-disposable celebrity culture. There’s a reason Sinatra and Elvis still mean something today; they were talented, they were personalities. Today, though, and I don’t think I’m being crotchety when I say this, the emphasis is on making easy money fast by exploiting the most docile and/or willing product available.
This is why women who sign up to be on the Bachelor can brag they were on the front page of a goddamn magazine. And why regular, middle-class women who work in offices in shitty American suburbs care about it.
And it’s so weird watching her read these magazines in the break room, or hearing her talk about it, or seeing her become visibly upset by something in them. It’s as if I’m populating an entirely separate universe than she is, because there’s no way any of that stuff matters in mine. And nothing I say can convince her that it doesn’t really affect her life, either.
I can’t even convince her to look this bullshittery up on the Internet for free.