I got a wonderful idea from a quick glimpse at the cover of the Oct. 1 issue of First: I'm going to cram my imitation of the magazine's approach into one tantalizingly lengthy blurb at the start of this column. Here it goes: Alarmist sentiment, couched in pseudo-science. Severe overstatement? Clause that diminishes its severity! Question that seems rhetorical... but isn't. Too-easy-to-be-possible balm - promise of easiness and possibility. Shocking news! Shocking news!

What's that? It's hard to tell what the dickens I'm saying? Ah, but apparently such a hit-the-reader-early-and-often strategy works for First, which plasters 129 words on the cover of its October 1 issue, not including the title and price. In this context, the 11 exclamation points feel almost understated. By the time people likely to buy this publication -- non-city-dwelling women with no common sense or self-esteem -- have taken it all in at the supermarket counter, they'll likely have slumped into a diabetic coma. Medic - 600 CCs of Milky Way, stat!

Holy lord, the people behind First have some 'splainin' to do. I'm down with magazines like All You and Quick & Simple, First's obvious competitors. But where those other titles attempt to educate and entertain in an almost pathologically gentle manner, First goes the alarmist route. Tonally, most of the issue resembles the teases for late local newscasts during November sweeps ("Three packed movie theaters fire-bombed this evening! We'll let you know which ones... after 'Men In Trees'!).

First tells its readers that copper makes them chronically sleepy. It warns them about the pitfalls of drinking orange juice. When it runs out of canny advice of its own, it imports dullard-sitcom luminaries like Reba McEntire and Kimberly Williams-Paisley to pass along tips about stress-management (be humble) and making new connections (send more email... just not to me, okay?). The oh-the-humanity! content doesn't stop there: First runs a "Smile File" bit from Dave Barry, one of the three people who, should I ever encounter in person, I will slam to the ground and beat senseless for his Crimes Against Funny (the others: Robin Williams and Sarah Silverman).

Meanwhile, don't get First started on the topic of weight gain. Just about everything, it seems, can transform a happy, healthy woman into a quivering mound of custard: using a cell phone, watching her favorite TV shows, sleeping in a cluttered room, you name it. The mag senses no disconnect in serving up recipes for lard-tastic grilled cheese, "5-ingredient yum!" and "Soulful southern yum" shortly thereafter. Then it posits that the real key to "amazing" health is not a balanced diet and regular exercise. No, it's cabbage, which supposedly helps you sleep, cranks up your metabolism and simonizes your car. Spread the word.

Additionally, in one of the more loathsome tactics I've encountered, First appends several of its ludicrous assertions with a "science proves it!" blurb. In fact, "science" proves three of the following grand declarations. Can you guess which one is false? I bet you can!!!

1. "Pet owners are healthier!"
2. "Electromagnetic forces are making women fat!"
3. "Grape juice is filled with toxins!"
4. "Walking outside is better than Prozac!"

I can think of any number of other questions to pose here -- Is the magazine's official title First or First For Women? Why isn't the anti-aging spread in the back clearly labeled as advertising? -- but you get the point. Pity anybody who reads this magazine; express your contempt for anybody who works on it by beating them about the torso with a slipper. Simple declarative sentences are for simple declarative people, but there's no other way to end this transmission than by stating it flatly: First is a reprehensible mess.


Note: the fake First declaration is number 3.

Published by: Bauer Publishing
Frequency: 17 times a year (a "triweekly")
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