When I was a kid, my parents always made sure I had, among other things, a magazine subscription. At various times throughout my childhood, I had a subscription to Your Big Backyard and Ranger Rick and Highlights for Children and Disney Adventures. As a teenager, I got seventeen and Brio and then later, once I decided that I was not the target audience for magazines detailing eyeliner reviews and flirting tips, Reader’s Digest. In most everything else, I was a proponent of the idea to save the best for last (usually a philosophy I applied at dinner while saved my fruit salad as a reward for suriving the green beans at the head of the meal), but when it came to magazines, I sat down the day they came and devoured them.
I never asked my parents if they wanted to make sure I was reading (never a problem) or if they wanted to make sure that at least once a month I had the joy of having my own piece of mail. All I know is from the time I could read until the time I went to college, I always had a magazine.
In college, the girls I lived with my freshman year did not get magazines but instead, the magazine’s free and more frequent sisters: catalogues. They inhaled and exchanged j.crew and Victoria’s Secret with fervor and glee until someone’s P.O. box was graced with the crown-jewel of catalogues, the A&F Quarterly. At this point all work stopped until the analysis of the current crop of Abercrombie Boys could be thoroughly and thoughtfully conducted. While I had no interest in clothes I couldn’t afford or disarmingly attractive men who would in real life likely dismiss me unforgivably nerdy, I could appreciate my floormates’ thrill at the catalogues. Who doesn’t like seeing mail in the box that’s not asking for money? Who doesn’t need a fifteen-minute break to window-shop and dream? Who doesn’t appreciate an excuse to put the reality of life on hold for a minute to peruse this fun surprise that came in the mail just when it was needed most?
For all of these reasons, I decided when I was in grad school that I needed something to read that wasn’t assigned to me, that didn’t require in-depth analysis or a reaction paper or even for me to discuss it intelligently with anyone. So sometime in 2006 I ordered a subscription to Entertainment Weekly. I was in love. It was there, in a pile of bills and credit card offers and mail for the previous residents, in my mailbox every Friday. It meant I could set aside half an hour over the weekend to revel in pop culture. If I didn’t care about the feature (Lost, Sex in the City, Twilight), it was only a few days until the next issue came out to redeem itself.
And then our daughter was born. I’m not going to pretend I stopped caring about pop culture or say that I don’t have time to read since she came along, because that would all be a pack of lies. I probably read more articles and features and reviews in a week now than I did before she was born — but they’re all on my iPhone. If it’s linked off my Twitter feed, I probably read it at 3 a.m. as Erin nurses and I try to stay awake while making sure everyone else in the house stays asleep. Magazines — dark, unwieldy, low-tech magazines — are not conducive to this kind of reading.
I kept lying to myself, thinking that I was going to get to the growing stack of Entertainment Weeklys someday. When I realized that the issue with my long-time hero Kermit the Frog on the cover came through and I hadn’t made time for it yet, I knew the time had come. I broke up with Entertainment Weekly.
Monday, as I sat at an airport gate with a napping Erin sprawled across my lap, I caught up with the last two issues of Entertainment Weekly. I had a moment as I finished the “Stars’ Worst Movies!” issue that perhaps I was making the wrong choice by unsubscribing, but the time and energy devoted to the latest Twilight movie in the other issue reaffirmed to me that it was a good time for a clean break. I’ll miss a lot of things about this particular magazine, but I think the thing I’ll miss the most is the same thrill that comes with every magazine I’ve ever had: the thrill of opening the mailbox and seeing my name on something that is specifically and intentionally for me.