Friday, October 14, 2005

The Art of Surreptitious Tabloid Consumption

I consider myself to be a thoroughly reasonable human being. I have no tattoos, no bumper stickers, no criminal tendencies, and very few piercings. I do not watch reality TV, soap operas, the 700 Club, or Jerry Springer. I am not a pacifist, socialist, environmentalist, fundamentalist, or vegetarian. I have never dated an axe murderer, gotten married in Las Vegas, or ridden a motorcycle. I try not to wear white shoes after Labor Day or mix my metaphors. In short, I am about as normal and rational a twenty-year-old girl as can be hoped for in the modern world.

However, I have one skeleton in my closet, one insane, irrational obsession, a deep-seated psychosis which lurks just beneath the surface of my seemingly sensible façade, and which, I fear, may be pathological: I am addicted to celebrity tabloids.

I have never even cracked open the New York Times. I could not tell you what the school voucher debate is all about if my life depended on it, or what it is that Social Security actually does, but I could tell you, with an embarrassing degree of accuracy, how many pounds Kirstie Alley has lost in the past year using the Jenny Craig program, how many boyfriends Ashlee Simpson and the Olsen twins have shared in common since 2002, and how many times Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee have been married . . . to each other. I waited with bated breath for Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher to tie the knot, followed Britney Spears’ pregnancy updates religiously, and cried myself sick over a pint of rocky road after Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston broke up. I know that Katie Holmes was only four years old when her fiancé Tom Cruise starred in Risky Business, that Madonna’s middle name is Louise, that Jennifer Garner’s in-utero baby is a girl, and that Prince William’s girlfriend’s name is Kate Middleton.

This unfortunate habit of mine, of course, necessitates some rather clever machinations in the supermarket aisles in order to avoid detection. The first step in the art of Surreptitious Tabloid Consumption is, of course, scoping out the surrounding territory for predators. Ensure before hitting the magazine rack that no one with whom you have interacted socially in the last two decades, or ever plan on interacting with ever again, especially in a romantic capacity, is currently within a fifty-meter radius. Once one is reasonably certain of being surrounded by disinterested strangers, one must next render the offending magazine as unobtrusive as possible by masking it behind some less objectionable periodical, such as Newsweek, Family Circle, or better yet, Modern Bride. If this is not tenable, one must at least maintain a convincing air of detachment when perusing the tabloid. This will serve to create the illusion that you are merely killing time in a not-particularly-enjoyable sort of way, and will serve to alleviate all suspicion that you really do have nothing better to do with your life than indulge in flagrant emotional voyeurism while vicariously living the lifestyles of the rich and famous. A few well-placed eye-rolls and frustrated glances around the supermarket as if impatiently waiting for slow companions to finish their grocery shopping will do well to further your cause.

Purchasing a tabloid is a stickier matter. One must never be spotted making a purchase solely of a stack of InTouch or People magazines, lest one be branded forever (quite understandably) as a pathetic social reject, and cast out into the outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. The clever Surreptitious Tabloid Consumer, then, must purchase only one tabloid at a time, and must master the art of making this look like an impulse buy. One may not, under penalty of personal castigation by the author, ever purchase a tabloid which one has previously been seen to be reading earlier on in the shopping trip. This would potentially indicate that you are entertaining some sort of genuine interest in what the tabloid has to say –- which would clearly be unconscionable. Thus, celebrity magazines may only be legitimately purchased at the end of a shopping trip in which you are purchasing at least ten other objects, ideally sensible, unremarkable items like baking powder and toothpaste. The tabloid must always be casually taken off the rack at the last minute with a self-deprecatory laugh. Moreover, the Surreptitious Tabloid Consumer must never buy a celebrity magazine if simultaneously purchasing any of the following objects: hair products, skin products, cosmetics, DVDs, or any celebrity-endorsed product. One does not want to look more like a shallow, superficial American consumer than is strictly necessary.

Really, however, the art of Surreptitious Tabloid Consumption, while considered pathetic by some, has served me well in my lifetime. In fact, everything I need to know about life I learned from the tabloids. For example:

1) Celebrities are people, too. Just because they get married every other weekend and spend the better part of their adult lives in rehab doesn’t mean they don’t deserve your respect as well as a $20-million-a-film salary.

2) Most celebrities are terribly shy and do not like attention. That is why their names are always splashed all over the headlines for antics like jumping on couches on the Oprah Winfrey Show, attacking Matt Lauer and modern psychiatry, and getting engaged with 12-carat rings on top of the Eiffel Tower to women twenty-five years their junior whom they have known for a grand total of four weeks. When said events occur during the same summer their new blockbuster summer release is coming out, it means they are trying especially hard not to get attention.

3) Eating is highly overrated. All men find platinum-blonde, emaciated bimbos attractive. Protruding ribcages are the form of sexy; brains are not.

4) Marriage means two people love each other so much they want to spend the rest of the year together.

5) The best reason to have a baby is to boost your ratings.

6) If you’re good-looking enough, you can get away with pretty much anything and people will still love you.

7) The entertainment industry is a worthy, fulfilling vocation to which many intelligent people are called, none of whom are in the least self-centered or arrogant.

8) Cosmetic plastic surgery is the greatest invention of the 20th century.

9) If your wardrobe doesn’t look like someone took a random assortment of feathers, sequins, and extravagant jewels and then superglued them to a piece of foully-colored toilet paper, following upon which Hurricane Rita swept through the vicinity, then you are clearly doing something wrong. If any skin is not showing upon having donned said outfit, you are also doing something wrong. The Fashion Police will soon be writing you up for this egregious faux pas.
10) No matter how big a loser you are, there will always be bigger losers out there willing to spend precious hours of their life reading tabloids about you in the supermarket line.

And that, my friends, is what they call a lesson well-learned. So if you’ll excuse me –- I need a few things at the supermarket.