You know that commercial for the new movie “Confessions of a Shopaholic”? The one with the cute girl, prat-falling her way around New York City in sky-high Jimmy Choos, pink Chanel suits, and cascading copper tresses… all to an upbeat, poppy score? 

  When it invaded our TV screen for the umpteenth time the other night, Jeff said to me, “Doesn’t that movie seem a little… tone deaf?” My husband and I aren’t always of one mind, but this time, he had taken the words right out of my mouth.
     It’s a fascinating phenomenon. Under our new economic circumstances, the national zeitgeist has shifted dramatically. Things that seemed perfectly fine – appealing, even – a few short months ago suddenly seem… inappropriate. Even a little gauche. A year ago, the “Shopaholic” movie might have made the top of my “must-see” list — it reminds me of “Sex and the City,” of which I’ve long been a fan – but now, just watching the 30 second TV trailer makes me squeamish. It may be a perfectly delightful movie – the books on which it’s based are quite popular – but I doubt I’ll rush out to see it. I actually feel sorry for the poor producers who snatched up those movie rights not so long ago, expecting to sail to success on the coattails of SATC and its ilk…
    Am I the only one who’s noticed that, all of a sudden, the landscape’s littered with mainstays of American culture that seem out of sync with the times? A few that have recently given me pause include:
     Oprah obsessing about weight. Again.
I was scanning Oprah’s latest lamentation about her weight gain in “O” magazine last week. Oprah opining on this topic is nothing new, and normally, I’d be all over the story, gleaning any wisdom I could. (Hey, I’m a female. We worry about fat.) But as I read the following, I felt myself cringing inside…
    Oprah: I don't have a weight problem—I have a self-care problem that manifests through weight. As my friend Marianne Williamson shared with me, “Your overweight self doesn't stand before you craving food. She's craving love." Falling off the wagon isn't a weight issue; it's a love issue.
     Ew. Has psychobabble always been this annoying? I realize even filthy-rich, crazy-successful, ultra-popular celebrities can have “self-care problems,” and I feel for Oprah, I really do, but… Oh, I don’t know. When people are struggling to put food on their tables,  Oprah’s “love issue,” with all its attendant navel-gazing, suddenly seems… less than weighty.
    Celebrity Tabloids:
Actually, these rags wore out their welcome with me a long time ago, but instead of just silly, I now find them bordering on the obscene. Check out these headlines: Lindsay Lohan and Gal Pal in Cat Fight! (A Love  Story);  Who Wore It Best? (Paris or Angelina?); How Are The Stars Like Us? (They buy their own groceries! They love their kids!); Knife Styles of the Stars (wherein the “experts” guess who has and hasn’t gone under the blade…)
    Need I go on?
      Since there seems to be a theme emerging… Women’s Magazines in general.
     With their incessant focus on clothes, hair, make-up and men, these newsstand staples feel a little off to me right now. Even the “serious” articles seem superficial.  I recently perused an “in-depth interview” in Marie Claire with three stars  of “He’s Just Not That Into You” (another tone deaf title!) – Jennifer Anniston, Drew Barrymore, and Gennifer Goodwin. The design was lovely, the photos were artistically rendered, but the piece could not have been more vapid. These accomplished actresses – two are in their 30s and one, 40 – dished about guys, game-playing, and girlfriends as if they were a narcissistic trio of high school cheerleaders. I kept waiting for somebody to say something… substantial. Even a Team Obama-style “Yes, we can!” or the obligatory “pray for world peace” would have been welcome. Instead, it was all boys and shoes, all the time. In this Age of Austerity, that’s just wrong.
     Botox, and all the other pricey substances women have injected (via actual needles!) into their faces.
     Is it too much to hope that this new era of seriousness and frugality will bring back the traditional definition of “aging gracefully?”  Probably. But a girl can dream.
These were never a good idea, and it’s never been more obvious.

    Black Tie Affairs
Though not my typical milieu, I’ve been to two in the past two weeks. And they were both fabulous! But I had to keep reminding myself the whole time: It’s for charity.  My internal dialogue went something like this:

Me #1 – “I can’t believe you spent all that money on tickets, a dress, a babysitter… What were you thinking?”
Me #2 – “It’s for a great cause!”
Me #1 – “Why didn’t you just write a check, if you care so much about the cause?”
Me #2 – “Because, um… I love getting dressed up. And I love parties. And that man over there just said I looked pretty…”
Me #1 – “Aha! So it is all about you, not the cause!”
Me #2 – “Shut up, you puritanical wretch, and pour me another glass of wine.”

     As the conversation above illustrates, it’s not always easy to know when you’ve crossed that fine line between joyful light-heartedness and shallow air-headedness. A couple of months ago, when we added “The Happy Winos” & “Your Lowcountry Home” as regular features to this publication, I worried they might be a bit too frivolous for the times. But Terry Sweeney and Lanier Laney have managed to stay on the right side of the aforementioned line with dash and aplomb, thanks, mainly, to their humor and good-heartedness… and to their savvy recognition that Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous are less relevant and interesting, at this moment in history, than Lifestyles of the Struggling but Optimistic.
     I may have made my own tonal faux pas last issue, when I attempted to mix Politics and Romance in my valentine to President Obama. I was shooting for something both witty and sincere (and, yes, slightly tongue-in-cheek), at a time when we all seemed caught up in a rather unprecedented national swoon.  Some readers got it, but plenty didn’t, and I’m willing to admit the fault may have been my own.  (Though I don’t think the piece was so bad that I should be “banned from breeding” or “locked up before I hurt myself,” as a couple of online readers suggested!)
     The truth is, it’s difficult learning to navigate this new American zeitgeist; the old rules no longer apply, but nobody’s quite sure what the new rules are yet.  Here at The Lowcountry, we’ll just keep doing what we do, as well as we can do it, and hope that we’re getting something right. Thanks, in advance, for sticking with us as we steer, however imperfectly, into the future.