Before I go, I have something to say

My Big Fat Magazine

This is an apology to my mail carrier. My abject apology. It happens every year, mid-August. It’s bad enough that I subscribe to, oh, a dozen or so magazines, but we’re talking about The September Issue. Of Vogue. Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s the biggest issue of the year, and for some reason, I’m supposed to be thrilled to receive it.

The cover of this year’s big fat fall issue trumpets, “916 pages of spectacular FALL fashion for all.” But not for me. I swear, I subscribe to Vogue for the articles. I realize this sounds like my cousin saying he buys Playboy for the interviews, but I’m serious. Most of the clothes seem designed for size 0 aliens. There was a big controversy not long ago about the way models were forced to lose unhealthy amounts of weight in order to get work, either strutting down the catwalk or posing in magazines. Supposedly, things have changed. You coulda fooled me.

Lady Gaga dominates the cover of this “Special Anniversary Issue,” celebrating a magazine that was born about 100 years before she was. I’m sure she would say she can’t help it; her wasp waist just won’t get any bigger.

But I digress. My concern isn’t with some artificially flavored singer, but with my mailman. I think he’s a man, if we have the same one we had last summer and I was home for six weeks recovering from surgery. It’s him I feel bad for, hauling around these four-pound catalogues of mostly ads to all the households on his route that subscribe. I also get Elle – for the articles, I swear – and it’s like Vogue’s little sister, puffing along with 600+ pages, the little engine that could.

I mean, really. What if the September Elle and Vogue arrived at the post office on the same day? Surely they could hold one back, not forcing the carriers to lug seven pounds of fashion and beauty (and articles!) on the same backbreaking day. But maybe not; we’re talking about the government here, after all, and there’s probably some code in the Federal Register saying “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night nor the ridiculous weight of several September issues of magazines stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds as soon as those monstrosities get to town.”

By the way, the USPS does not have an official motto or creed. One of the architects of the New York City Post Office on 8th Street enjoyed reading Greek history, and found a very similar creed in the history of the Persian Wars by Herodotus. So now you know – the Persians had quite a postal service, long before the United States were united.

Of course, I could absolve myself of any guilt about this annual chore by reminding myself that our carriers no longer have to deliver the backbreaking Sear’s Christmas catalogue. Which is a loss, if you think about it. The more they have to carry and deliver, the better, right? If we would just stop sending emails and tweets (the email of twits) and posts on Facebook, we wouldn’t be putting our wonderful postal service out of business, or deeply into debt, would we?

Back when we had the first bad recession within my memory, I remember feeling kind of sick as I watched my favorite magazines get so small they began to resemble pamphlets. Some of them disappeared altogether. I wish I had kept a copy of the September issue of Vogue from that era. It was probably as waifish as the models inside. But it never ceased publication.

But this colossus, the biggest issue ever, it’s embarrassing. It’s bad enough that someone my age, with my common sense, reads it (but it has articles about Rwanda and climate change and great films; this one devotes half a page to my favorite poet’s new book!) Still, how in the world does one read something this unwieldy? My lap isn’t big enough, and besides, it leaves big red marks on my thighs. Setting it on the kitchen table takes the weight off, but then the light does funny things on the shiny pages. (The paper is coated with clay – take my word for this – so it has twice as much heft as the gossamer newsprint on which you’re reading this.)

Not long ago, someone made a documentary film named simply “The September Issue.” If you knew anything about fashion – or publishing, which, as a librarian, is more my camp – you knew it was about Vogue. Though revealing nowhere near as much cattiness as “The Devil Wears Prada,” a fictionalized view of the magazine, it was revealing. What is never mentioned is that the issue is so big because it’s full of advertisements. It must cost a pretty penny to get a full-page spot in September.

Some magazines let you subscribe to a “fragrance-free” version, with none of those annoying fragrance strips hawking Kate & Ashley’s latest scent. I’d love to sign up for the ad-free September issue. What a tiny booklet that would be!

And how much kinder a burden it would be in my mailman’s bag. If he is the same one we had last summer, I want to thank him for all the stuff he places on our front porch. We met once, when I was home recovering, reclining on the sofa on the porch. We said “Hi,” and he asked how my recovery was going. Startled, I said, “Just fine.” Then I realized he was one of my readers. But how do you thank a mail carrier? Subscribe to less mail? More? Let me know if you figure it out.

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