I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise—you know!
I have been successfully target-marketed.
Do you know that feeling? It’s a bad feeling. I like to think
I live on the edge, below the radar, outside the box, off
the grid. I like to think I’m unique, just as I’m sure you
There’s a pair of us—but don’t tell, they’d advertise!
But I’m in that demographic group—a woman in her 40s who has
a few degrees and a good job—that is supposed to be the most
lucrative to target. We are ripe for the picking because apparently
we have more disposable income (we do?) and we are shoppers
(we are? OK, some of us are) and we buy both online and in
Yet even though I fit so snugly into my demographic niche,
I like to think I can resist target marketing (as opposed
I avoid chick-lit. I won’t shop at Coldwater Canyon. I have
never had a pedicure. I don’t do drumming, aroma or magnetic
therapy. I don’t use the word ‘journal’ as a verb unless I’m
referring to what other people do—the ones sitting in Starbucks
with their leather-bound diaries and low-fat lattes. I don’t
Who am I kidding? The day I subscribed to Real Simple
I realized I had been successfully target-marketed.
If you are a man, you may not know what Real Simple
is—though if you’re a man you’ve probably stopped reading
today’s column by now—so I will tell you.
Simple is a gazetteer for the new century woman.
It’s a life guide disguised as a shelter magazine.
It’s a how-to for the on-the-go.
Simple,” as my daughter, who is 18 and fits another demographic
niche entirely, observed, “has all the answers.”
OK, we exaggerate. It’s really just a hybrid of The Sun
and Woman’s Day, a magazine for women who know they
can’t have it all, but they would at least like a little peace
of mind—not much, but some.
It all starts with the spine of this thick, hefty monthly
tome. Every issue has a different quotation running its length.
Stack a year’s worth of Real Simples on top of each
other and you have some serious food for thought.
you shout at a lion, be sure you can shut the door.” (Tongan
a horrid thing to follow, but a charming thing to meet.” (Henry
one likes foolish people for their folly, better than wise
people for their wisdom.” (Elizabeth Gaskell)
Big bold letters on the cover draw our attention to the feature
story. It’s never about beauty, celebrity or politics. It’s
about saving money, saving space, saving time. I can get into
cleaner house in less time—23 breakthrough tools and tips.”
money manager: secrets to saving $3 to $3,000”
your space: solutions for every room.”
But Real Simple isn’t just about telling you how to
live better. It’s an interactive magazine, an experience.
Readers write in to share their tips and insights on a different
topic each month. House cleaning, for example:
A reader from Apex, N.C., writes, “I stash microfiber cloths
in drawers throughout my house so there’s always one nearby
in case anything needs a quick wipe-down.” A reader from Milwaukee
cleans her house in her underwear. A reader from Newton, Mass.,
(a true Real Simple town—I used to live there) says
she and her husband use “the Zamboni technique,” sweeping
their house for clutter the way a Zamboni sweeps the ice.
I don’t think my housecleaning skills have been improved by
reading Real Simple. But I do have a better broom and
some microfiber cloths now.
It’s the same way with all the money-saving tips. I’m still
paying late fees on DVDs, buying too many take-out coffees
and getting my Internet access and telephone service from
different providers. But knowing that I could be saving
money (if only I could first save some time in which to start
saving all this money) is sweet.
Every month there are some thoughts, listed in a column called
“Thoughts.” These are the kinds of quotations you can post
on your refrigerator to think about as you cook, or copy into
your leather-bound journal if you’re into inappropriate verb
There is also usually a reflective piece—Rick Moody on contemplating
fatherhood, Sue Miller on visiting aging parents, Jonathan
Safran Foer on vegetarianism—and common sense advice like
what to say to the bereaved or how to switch hair stylists
and what to do with an annoying neighbor, co-worker or boss.
Simple doesn’t really make big claims. It doesn’t promise
you’ll be in swimsuit shape by May or drive your man mad with
never-before-discovered sex tricks. It’s modest and that’s
its immodest appeal.
Because it just kind of makes a prettier life seem possible—for
blue-state, middle-class, decently-educated 40-something women
with spending money, shopping habits, families and careers.
Nobody. Who are you?