Going Cold Turkey

June 22, 2007 at 2:25 am (Uncategorized)

In January, as a kind of resolution, I started weaning myself off certain reading material. I stopped buying celebrity weeklies. Actually, I’d only ever bought one weekly (in addition to a monthly), but I bought it regularly for a looong time, more than a decade, and I even freelanced for this same publication for a fifteen week stretch this time last year. I was, and had been for a long time, hooked. Reading it was my version of blobbing in front of the TV and tuning out. Because we don’t have a TV, reading this magazine was my way of doing something pleasurably mindless. I liked reading all the latest celeb goss (and, unlike all the other ones, which I could never bring myself to buy, the mag in question never, ever makes stuff up. I can vouch for that – I know from working there that they just don’t do it), and I enjoyed looking at the photos of stars on the red carpet. It was great for a short flight, great for a hangover, and great for a night at home alone with a box of BBQ Shapes.

Somewhere along the line, the magazine changed, and so did I. The world has changed, the culture has changed, the times have changed, so the fact that my magazine and I have grown apart shouldn’t come as any great surprise. But having been so loyal for so long, it wasn’t easy breaking the habit. Up until a few months ago, I’d cut back drastically, and was only buying special issues or on weeks when a certain cover seduced me in the supermarket queue. A profound hangover was also a good primer for sneaking a copy back into the house under cover of darkness. I was making real progress – down from one a week to one every month or 6 weeks. And then the last time I bought it, it was because I noticed a redesign of the cover. I don’t know if I noticed this because I used to work there or because I’ve been reading the mag for so long, but I thought the new look was an improvement on what they’d been doing – which was chase after the look of a bigger-selling but much tackier rag – and so I bought one.

It just didn’t satisfy in the way it used to. It is like having a cigarette for the first time in months – suddenly it leaves such a bad taste in your mouth that you just want to puke. And that’s kind of how reading my long-beloved mag made me feel. A little sick. I feel bad about this for all sorts of reasons, not the least being my incredibly fond memories of working there, and the respect I have for the friends and colleagues who continue to put that mag out each week. But then I realised that this change of heart wasn’t about them. It wasn’t even about the magazine. It was about me.

I think I’ve just glutted myself on this whole celebrity obsessed culture for too long. It’s all a bit grotesque and warped to me now, and I don’t think I can stomach it anymore. I have been buying into it for years; I’m definitely not saying this at any kind of remove from the addiction itself nor its seductive powers. I thought flicking a magazine’s pages and checking out who was going out with whom was all perfectly innocent and harmless, but now I don’t really think it is. Now I think it’s all a bit peculiar. I think it’s fetishistic. I think it’s part of a bigger problem in my culture in general, which is increasingly OBSESSED with surface and less and less inclined to even bother with substance. Not only that, but there’s a whole world of image creation and management going on behind all the gloss on the page, and it’s a little unsettling, a little unseemly, once you start to reflect on how filtered and sycophantic and manipulative and profit-mad that world really is.

So after I recycled that last issue, I decided to go cold turkey. And I know that I’ve come a long way, because they published one of their annual special issues last week, the kind of issue I’ve always just had to buy, and I didn’t even pick it up whilst I was standing in line. I just don’t think I have the time to spare on that kind of thing anymore. The worst of the withdrawal has passed, and it gets easier every day to pay no attention whatsoever to who’s doing what with whom. It occurs to me that I really, finally, couldn’t care less.

And if you’re suffering from a similar addiction, help is at hand. If you’re looking for the means to address your own malaise, have a look at this SLATE article.



  1. Addiction Treatment said,

    There is a website that may be considered useful. http://www.addicted.com is a resource for friends, families and those who suffer from various addictions. I hope this helps.

  2. doctordi said,

    Thanks, Addiction Treatment, people may find that link helpful if they are themselves battling an addiction. I should just say, though, that I was not ACTUALLY addicted to celebrity gossip…! I just adopted the language of addiction to make my point. I certainly USED to be addicted to smoking, but I stopped cold turkey and haven’t had a cigarette in nearly 6 years (yes, I’m still counting). Thanks for the link, someone may well need it for an area of their life they’d like to change.

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