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2003-09-23 | 8:28 a.m.

Duff's mother gave me a subscription to a magazine called Real Simple. It is the most annoying magazine I've ever read on a regular basis. I can hardly wait to give it away after I've leafed through it a few times (this is usually not the case with me; I tend to hold on to mags forever).

Most of the magazine is taken up with intelligence-insulting information ("Plant bulbs now; get spring blossoms later"; "Many women avoid dresses … [b]ut the right one can add flair without stinting on comfort.") I begin to understand the subtext of the whole "simple" concept. Insipid quotations accompany every article: "Good clothes open all doors." --Thomas Fuller, 18th-century English physician and writer. "…And away go troubles down the drain." --Roto Rooter. Perhaps the meatiest article in the book describes how a rich pediatrician with a patent-attorney husband and an au pair gave up her suburban practice to work in a public hospital "in the tough, upper-Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights." I'm reading it thinking, Uh, OK, is that IT? You've got to be kidding me.

Then there are the useless product comparisons. The products themselves are silly and the methodology is … well, there is no methodology, actually. In a comparison of drugstore teeth-whitening products, for example, they focus on ease of use, neglecting to mention whether anyone's teeth actually looked whiter after the test. That's because they probably didn't use the products long enough to draw conclusions. When discussing effectiveness, they repeatedly quoted a prominent dentist. But does the dentist use this stuff? Who knows!

There are also reviews of "the tastiest supermarket bacon," "the best mattress pads," and "eight great shampoos and conditioners for $8 or less." I want to scream at the editors: What are you, nineteen years old? I do not need your help figuring this out! I have already resolved these issues for myself!

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