ModernBride beauty & fitness

Like many of my fellow NYC gals, I've made two resolutions for 2007: get fit and get hitched. So yesterday morning at precisely 6:42 a.m., I shoo'd the sailor from my boudoir and headed out to test-drive my brand-new gym membership. After scrubbing the bioluminescent club stamp off my hand and shrouding myself in makeup and jangly jewelry, I perched myself atop an elliptical doohickey. Sweating is icky! It didn't take: After dabbing my glistening brow with one of the coarse gym towels (double icky!), I retreated back to my beauty cave, whereupon I surrendered to the sweet familiarity of lather, rinse, repeat.

I'm too lazy to exercise. I can't curb my carb cravings. My eyes are perpetually puffy and my skin sags like a deelasticized sock. What's a bride-in-training to do?

Not read ModernBride beauty & fitness, that's for darn sure. I have no particular contempt for any woman who wants to glam up in advance of her big day; I'm not sure that the well-manicured patooties behind beauty & fitness feel the same way. In its every simplistic item, the mag practically screams, "We're going to help you because you're too clueless to help yourself."

In the Winter 2006/2007 issue's editor's letter, beauty & fitness notes that "the idea that you want to transform yourself into the best you can be is laudatory." Okay, no problem there. But while the mag offers all sorts of beauty and fitness resources for brides-to-be -- checklists, diets, regimens, etc. -- few display the slightest smidgen of respect for the reader's intelligence.

The beauty and fitness Q&As, the questions of which sure don't sound like they came from readers, suggest that the bride's goal "should be to eat and train the smart way." What? Heresy! Sillier and even less instructive is "10 Sneaky Ways to Lose 10 Pounds." If drinking water, eating smaller meals and hoofing it around town truly qualify as "sneaky," color me a calorie cat burglar. The product picks include an iPod, surely an unfamiliar contraption to anyone who finds herself paging through a mass-market publication; the "Modern Makeovers" succeed in making pretty girls look pretty.

That's what bugs me most about beauty & fitness: its laziness. The Winter issue careens between beauty and diet and fitness content haphazardly, with seemingly little thought given to organization. It repurposes generic diet/fitness dreck in any number of ways, slapping on bride-baiting titles ("wedding dress workout," "the wedding day diet") for good measure. And there are celebrities -- 33 of them, in fact, force-fed under the editorial hook of "hairdos to choose from... walk down the aisle with red-carpet flair." Apropos of nuthin', I wonder whether Piper Perabo's publicist agrees with the description of his/her client's look as "beachy."

From a design perspective, beauty & fitness falls back on the easiest trends (those adorable lower-case headlines) and most tired illustrations (for a story on a week's worth of primping- and preening-related activities, it presents a planner, complete with scribbled annotations and business cards tossed about ever-so-casually). And once again, I understand that nobody likes looking at non-fetching people: not me, not you, not the falafel vendor on the corner. But heck to Betsy, a mag targeting all brides probably should expand its image base beyond emaciated white folks; the first non-celebrity black person, in either ad or edit, doesn't appear until the issue's 49th page.

For lack of a more creative segue, here's the part of the review where I say something nice about beauty & fitness. The "i was a beauty diva" romp through hair and gym appointments alike flashes needed personality, at least until its flat and tonally inconsistent final sentence ("I never thought of myself as high maintenance, but now I know that being a beauty diva -- especially a few weeks before the wedding -- suits me just fine"). The diet success stories bring a bit of quirk and seeming authenticity to the table, though the otherwise didactic taste-test (okay, bad choice of words there) of six weight-loss programs falls short when the mag fails to provide any kind of definitive verdict or recommendation.

In short, bridal mags should stick to what they know best: planning for the big day, not the beauty/diet/fitness buildup thereto. Short of, say, CosmoGUY!, it's hard to envision a less useful publication than ModernBride beauty & fitness.

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