Eva Bradley: Being good just exhausting

By Eva Bradley

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Overt happiness is the new subject of magazine photos. Photo / Shutterstock
Overt happiness is the new subject of magazine photos. Photo / Shutterstock

Ever since the first caveman picked up a charred stick from the fire and scratched out the lanky stick-figure shape of a female on the limestone walls of his home, women the world over have had an issue with their self-image.

Apart from a brief period during the Renaissance when creamy, full-bodied curves were fashionable, we all want to be skinnier, smarter, fuller of lip and thinner of hip. And we all look to magazines to set the impossible examples by which we all live (miserably) by.

Or at least until very recently we did.

As I sat in the hair salon this week sipping an organic, ethically-sourced, not-tested-on-animals herbal weight-loss tea while flicking idly through a bunch of glossy new women's magazines, I realised we are in a new epoch.

Being good is all very well, but what women need to remember is that, just like sugar and coffee won't kill you in moderate doses, a little bit of bad isn't really such a bad thing.
Eva Bradley

Gone are the glossy covers featuring airbrushed, pint-sized blonde models with perfect white teeth and suspicious curves in only the right places.

Instead the usual titles and a bunch of new (age) ones featured frolicking children, easy-breezy campers with deckchairs and remodeled VW combi vans at the beach and - universally - people in varying degrees of overt happiness.

Most of the covers had the matt feel of recycled paper and the models looked beautiful in a healthy and wholesome way rather than in a surgically enhanced one.

Read more: Richard Moore: Reasons to be cheerless

While my colour developed, I speed-read features on fighting depression through exercise, avoiding skin cancer during summer, being mindful, building libraries for children in the Third World and going vegan.

Instead of feeling uplifted and inspired as I apparently should have been, I felt utterly overwhelmed with the sheer goodness that was presumably expected of me as a modern woman.

It seems that being happy and healthy is the new size 6 and frankly, the way the women's magazines spin it, this is just as unachievable.

While it might be a lofty and lovely goal to live the best life you can and be your very best self, how the hell do we squeeze in real life around all of this?

I personally can't think of anything better than always eating raw food, making my own animal-friendly cosmetics and meditating for two hours a day. If only pesky little things like holding down a job and raising a family didn't get in the way.

I suppose with titles like 'Mindfood' and 'Good', the magazines in question are being upfront about the dream they're selling. But what concerns me is that these titles are mainstream reading now and as a result they've created expectations and pressures that are potentially just as damaging as images of starving models and stories on how to tone your tummy in 20 days.

I used to read magazines to relax. To take a few moments out of real life to escape into somewhere a little bit aspirational and removed from reality. Now it's hard to pick one up without feeling like a failure for not finding time to become a master of yoga and booking a 'holiday' to volunteer in a Cambodian orphanage. What on earth happened to learning 'ten top sex tricks to make your man happy' while you enjoyed your full-fat cappuccino with chocolate on top?

When I was a girl, Cosmo ran stories about the dangers of drugs and smoking. Today's modern miss learns instead about the risks to life and limb from too much coffee and processed sugar.

Being good is all very well, but what women need to remember is that, just like sugar and coffee won't kill you in moderate doses, a little bit of bad isn't really such a bad thing.

- Eva Bradley is a photographer and columnist.

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