The new and better you!

| Staff Columnist

If I were to tell you that I know everything there is to know about fungal growth in the Amazon rainforest, you’d either think I was incredibly knowledgeable, quirky and interesting, or you wouldn’t believe me. You would be right not to believe me. If I dispensed some information on the best new bands of 2010, however, you’d be far more likely to believe me. Despite the fact that I listen to music far more than I research vegetation in foreign jungles, I have no more right to tell you anything about the best bands of 2010 than I do about fungal growths in the Amazon. This apparent contradiction brings up a question that I have recently been thinking about. Why do we love to be told how to live our lives?

I don’t mean told in the sense that there is some oppressive drill sergeant harping on your every move. That role is reserved for course syllabi and parents. What I am talking about are the cultural phenomena of the “quick and easy” this or the “10 point plan” that. Every magazine, blog or newspaper has a resident expert that seemingly knows how to live life better than you do. It’s not surprising that they do either, because it seems like we eat it up. The latest tips and tricks are as seemingly irresistible as 3 a.m. chicken fingers after a long night of (not) drinking.

I am quite guilty of supporting the “tell-me-what-to-do” movement in journalism. I am an avid reader of the lifestyle magazine GQ, and somehow Men’s Health has found my e-mail address and decided that my sexual performance is terrible and needs boosting, and that my pectoral muscles are lacking in definition and ripped-ness. I don’t mind that GQ tells me how to dress or where to eat. I even catch myself reading the “Six easy steps to rippling abs,” or “10 easy ways to satisfy her NOW.” Do I listen…? It’s hard to ignore the pretty packaging, and sure-handedness of the advice, so I’ll almost always read it. Do I ever implement the readymade magazine lifestyle tips into my actual existence? Rarely.

The staff of Men’s Health probably knows some solid exercise methods to keep you in shape. Do the writers look like the people they put on the cover? I doubt it. The dudes at GQ probably do have cooler clothes than I do also. And they probably have better taste in everything that’s culturally relevant. How I yearn to be a journalist hipster. Really, what it all boils down to is that when Cosmo tells girls “what guys really want, but are too afraid to tell you,” coupled with an airbrushed picture of some incredibly sexy movie star on the cover, they are capitalizing on insecurity. And the fact that the guys probably didn’t tell you: same thing goes for GQ. They are putting out a product that we are digesting, because they say they know what’s best and we, the consumers, don’t trust our own opinion. While we all could use a little advice now and then, we don’t need pre-packaged lifestyles dictated to us through various forms of media. In reality, who’s better at telling you how to live than yourself? Who’s better at knowing what you really want? I’ll tell you who. Me. Not those amazingly cool hipsters at GQ.

P.S. Do 50 crunches a day and lose five pounds in two weeks. Also, supplement your workout with a rare fungus from the Amazon. I can’t tell you the name though, cause it’s a secret, you know, for those in the “know.”