Lost in the Stacks

I love pop culture. I cling to outdated, unread magazines until I get a chance to at least peruse them, rip out recipes, crossword puzzles and other clippings. There was a time when I subscribed to more than ten weekly or monthly magazines. Ebony, Essence, Jet, Rolling Stone, Vibe, Entertainment Weekly, O, The Oprah Magazine, People, Us Weekly. At the moment, I subscribe to the print versions of Essence and O, and digital version of Entertainment Weekly. Thanks to my cousin’s daughter’s Girl Scout Troop fundraising, I renewed Rolling Stone and O, which was set to expire in December. I used to watch Oprah’s Next Chapter and Lifeclass on OWN, but for some reason O didn’t draw me in as much as those shows did, but a few years ago I caved.

As much as I like to read I should’ve kept up without amassing a backlog, but I was in grad school for writing. And worked full time. And still read books. I told myself I’d catch up during the winter and summer breaks, but try to chip away at the backlog during Thanksgiving and Spring breaks. By reading on the train, reading before going to sleep, reading while watching TV, and even reading first thing in the morning when I wake up on weekends, I thought I’d be able to catch up in no time.

During school breaks or any small window of free time, I enjoyed sleeping, going to the movies, dinner with co-workers, concerts, binge-watching television shows and movies on DVR, On-Demand and Netflix. I was paying for these channels and services, might as well use them. I used the same logic when it came to my magazines. I paid for the subscriptions so I had to read every single issue, cover to cover. Never mind that the movies reviewed in the pages have long since come and gone from the theaters, some already available on DVD. Never mind that the art exhibit I would’ve liked to check out has already moved on to the next city. Never mind that the clothes featured are no longer available on the sites or clearance racks in stores.

I’ve been semi-loyal subscriber to Ebony, Essence, Jet and Rolling Stone since high school. Sassy and Seventeen were on my list back then as well. Sassy has since folded and it’s been over seventeen years since I was seventeen, so I had to let that go. Jet is no longer in print form. Countless times, I’ve let my subscriptions lapse. At the time I think nothing of it, but get lured back when I open my mailbox and am greeted with an envelope proclaiming “We miss you! Subscribe again for half price!” Feeling happy that I’ve been asked to rejoin the party, I mail back the pre-paid envelope or postcard with a checked box that says I want 12 issues and will pay later. If it’s the holidays, there’s a box that commits me to two years. Or, sometimes I receive an email with hyperlinks containing the same message. “Sherring, come back to us. Click here to renew your subscription.” There are the same promises of a year or two for half price and no obligation to pay until later. So I click.

As for other magazines–W, The Hollywood Reporter, Us Weekly, People, Marie Claire, Cosmo–I usually end up a subscriber as a complimentary gift for filling out an online survey that popped up after placing an order. “Help us improve our site. Take a quick survey.” So I do. Then I click on the magazines that I have a minor interest in reading. When the latest issue arrives, I add it to one of my magazine piles with the intention of reading, or at least skimming through it. Slowly but surely, the magazines stop arriving, but not the renewal notices. A few pesky ones keep coming because I fail to cancel the auto-renewal. The remedy: a quick call to customer service to cancel and get a refund on my credit card. Then, they offer me six months or a year  subscription at no cost.

I graduated from grad school over two years ago. Three of the four corners of my living room are occupied by magazine stacks that rise above my ankles. I bought magazine organizers to arrange by title and date so I can read them in order and understand readers’ comments in the front of the magazine. A magazine table I purchased from Pier 1 stands in my living room. The beautiful mosaic design for which I bought it is hidden. The gold and amber tiles are buried by two side-by-side stacks of magazines, and Victoria’s Secret, Crate and Barrel, Pier 1, Express and Bed, Bath & Beyond catalogs that I intend to look over for new finds. A few times a week, before leaving for work I grab a magazine or two, along with a novel that was probably featured in the books section of one of my magazine subscriptions to read on the subway.


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