I am a non-fiction junkie. While in my youth I may have curled up with a good book, these days I curl up with a good dose of information, via magazines mostly, and the occasional email newsletter. I devour page after page, always coming back for more, poring through magazines from cover to cover (I’m not much of a skimmer). You may wonder why this could be construed as a negative thing – why, in fact, I am using the word “junkie” to describe something that I essentially enjoy doing. Simply put, I wish to offer a narrative concerning the vast amount of information that is available to us on a daily basis, particularly to women via the magazine industry. Is it possible that we’ve become non-fiction addicts? How do we mediate the vast amount of information available to us?
I have three magazine subscriptions (my guilty-pleasure, “isn’t-it-great-to-be-a-woman” reading): Self, Domino, and Real Simple…oh, and Vegetarian Times, but I consider this magazine to be in a different category than the others since it is not as much of an “indulgence” for me reading-wise (though it does offer indulgent recipes). I also read our local newspaper daily, and with the remainder of time I have in my day for reading (which isn’t much) I peruse the web for political and environmental issues, news headlines, petitions, and blogs. If I find I am slacking in any of these areas, I begin to fear I might be missing out on key pieces of information, without which my journey “through the goalposts of life” will be miscalculated somehow, drop-kicking me into vast, unknown regions of ignorance and despair. If April comes and my March magazine issues have not been read, I resolve to read more vigilantly until I get caught up. I get frustrated when I don’t have enough time to read interesting articles on the web or sign petitions. I want to be able to read my friend’s blog, know what’s going on in Africa, and save the world all at the same time! This addiction to information is fueled, of course, by the fact that it is in endless supply. I often picture the world wide web as that ever-expanding universe we call home (how can something that defies time and space be expanding?!?!). I will never be able to read everything there is to read. So why do I care so much? Why does it matter that I read every gosh-darned magazine each month?
I am particularly drawn to the topics of exercise and nutrition. I have done enough research on these subjects to warrant a degree in them, at least that is how it feels. Thanks to the information I have gleaned over the years, I am proud to say that I have never succumbed to diet or workout fads and have managed to maintain healthy habits overall. A caveat, however, arises when I am out for a run and start to wonder if I am pushing myself above my “heart rate threshold” and therefore burning muscle instead of fat (oh, no!). Or I will happen upon an article stating that running compacts muscles, and thus the thighs that I have been known to obsess about will not, after all, get thinner because of this form of exercise (oh, my god). My head wants to explode at this point. But I love to run! And darn it, I'd rather be strong than skinny any day! But what do I do with all this information? Then I look at my husband, who just runs for the fun of it and doesn’t give a moment’s thought to whether or not he is burning fat or muscle. When I run with him, I sometimes think to myself, “That’s not fair! Why do women have to worry so much about such stupid things?” I will save pushing the gender argument for now, but the fact is, having so much information at one’s disposal can be more menace than help.
So, will I stop reading these magazines and try to wean myself off my non-fiction addiction? Well, no, at least not for now. What I need is to find a way to enjoy reading about these topics while moderating how the information affects me. I appreciate that I am interested in many different things and perform daily activities like reading and learning whole-heartedly. As always, it’s about balance; knowing when you are “reading” into things so much that you have trouble getting out and recreating for the joy of it (like riding a horse!). How do you moderate the information in your life?