Commentary

Psychology Today

I have this image of Psychology Today that's stalled in the 1970s -- what seemed like a time of assertiveness training, primal screaming, and messy sexual freedom.

I was reminded of the sex part when I saw the  latest cover boasting ''the Big Turn On,'' complete with a head to toe nude Adam holding an innocent looking Eve in front of him; she is also naked save for a strategically placed fig leaf.

Here's the first big nod to the changing sexual etiquette ( if not the booming personal grooming industries) of 2008: These people's bodies are rather hairless.

All the better to smell you with, I guess, since ''the Big Turn On'' cover story turns out to be about ''scent-based attraction.''

That's not exactly a new subject, to be sure, but the takeaway is that modern life (and hypergrooming) may actually be driving the sexual disinhibition of contemporary society. ''Every day, far more people may be subverting their quest for love with soap and bottled fragrances,'' the author writes. ''In ancestral times, smelling ripe was just a fact of life.''She then goes on to talk about ''The Great Stink of 1880'' in Paris, ''when the miasma of body odor grew so thick'' they had to name it. Some things don't change: I believe I was chez Paris for the Great Stink of 1990, but it's hard to remember. Bottom line: stop all that soaping and grooming, people! ''Hunters and gatherers didn't have to do a lot of kissing because they could smell each other from a few feet away,'' the article  maintains.

Interesting, but a bit obvious and narrowly focused, since we have obviously developed and brought our other senses into the mix since those days. Being stink-woman in the office is not a way to gather dates -- and anyone who has inhaled the special tang of a non-showering New York City cab driver is likely to seek oxygen, not more ripeness.

I found the other stories similarly pat. There's a column called ''Neanderthink,'' (clever) and I was immediately attracted to its 'Silence your inner critic!''  subhead, being a person with both an innie and outie critic.

But this paragraph stopped me cold: "Yes, your mullet hairstyle may have disadvantages, but no, it does not make you a total idiot.'' Sorry, can't agree. If you have a mullet, you should start feeling intense shame instantly.

Editorially, PT is all over the place; it's part healthy living magazine (offering recipes), part beauty book (shampoo advice), part relationship advisor.

Perhaps that has to do with the changing perceptions, and popularity, of psychology itself. In the 1960s and '70s, it was more a part of a new exciting social movement; now it's much more cognitive therapy, and psychodynamics are much more drug- and science-oriented.

I did find one article I liked, about the penchant for strange nicknames in the Phillipines. (Dong, HoneyBoy, and Girlie, to name a few.)

The magazine is certainly not stuck in the 1970s, as I had pictured it. But the downside of being thoroughly modern is that many of its contemporary subjects are already covered elsewhere, and the ones dealing with psychology pretty much, well, stink.

  
MAG STATS

Published by: Sussex Publishers

Frequency: Bimonthly

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