Gated Reflections #4

Or why in November I bought hothouse flowers instead of A magazine

She introduced me to the benefits of eight glasses of water a day as she sipped from a glass between interview sessions in the Chicago studio. She inspired me to take up keeping a gratitude journal. She wrote in her gratitude journal reclining in a bay window, bathed in calm and light, accompanied by an inspiring soundtrack.

Since her talk-show first came to our screens in the late 1990’s, I fell for the grand vision of ‘Live Your Best Life’. Self-help and do-gooding as a lifestyle package. Love your neighbour as you look stunning in the most flattering fashion, and feast on the finest food, perhaps even holiday in Hawaii. This was my best life? I scheduled in the afternoon episodes and took mental notes from the re-runs. When the spin-off magazine came out, I was ready to subscribe. Only then I was a student, and buying magazines was an indulgence. Having recently started earning a steady income, I decided it was time to buy my monthly glossy map to living my best life.

From August’s issue I tore out some inspiring pictures with quotations: three young monks in orange walking across the green grass in front of a Tibetan temple with the words “Everything is your teacher” above them. I sighed with best life contentment when I gazed on this picture (yet continued to grumble at social injustice and the beggers on the street). I enjoyed the regular self-help column and the spring recipes in the September edition, which I paged through in the local airport while drinking my coffee. The October issue hit the shelves. From the cover my Best-Life Example goddess ablaze in orange, hair flaming, smiled at me. The headlines vibrated with good-life energy. When pay day came, I bought my shiny copy.

At home, in my quiet flat, I reclined on my couch with tea. New magazine smell intensified with every page turn. I was intoxicated with the sheen of things, clothes, food, inspiring people, lifestyle, interiors.

Until I turned to a three page spread of jewellery: gold and silver watches, rings, bracelets and brooches encrusted with sparkling diamonds, all layered on model hands and ears. With a jilt, I fell from Best Life Land.

Did I not often wonder about an economy built on the labour injustices of the diamond and gold industry? Were there not hundreds of people without access to running water and many either illiterate or barely functionally literate down the road from me? How could I have not realised that five o’clock comfort tv, whether soap-operas or talk-shows and their magazine spin-offs, was not in the business of politicizing consumerism and the consumerist lifestyle? I sat up in fiery indignation. No longer shall I subscribe to this navel-embellishing, sham-Best Life!

So, in November I bought a bouquet of hothouse flowers to the value of the magazine. My bright beacon against injustice; my colourful political protest. Absorbed in admiring the blooms and trying not to crush them, I didn’t notice the mamas begging on the pavement.