Real Simple... is essentially an aspirational-fantasy magazine about stuff that you could put in your house to make it cleaner, fresher, and more organized. And children are not very clean or fresh or organized. When you are reading a magazine and fantasizing that you are the sort of person who can shabbily-chic-ly put a bunch of daisies in an old Mason jar and stick it on top of a two-thousand-dollar side table, you do not want to be reminded that in your actual home the side table would have crayon marks on the legs and a heap of Spider-Man Legos underneath.And I have to say, wow, the Real Simple home is about the diametric opposite of mine: meals chez moi are more like, I'm sitting on the mismatched chairs I inherited from various roommates, looking at the heaps of magazines and knitting on my thrift-shop coffeetable, eating my homemade sweet-potato ravioli and profiteroles. And to be honest, maybe that's why my house will never look like a spread from Real Simple, because I care more about food than about decorating or organizing. In my experience, housekeepers are either cleaners or cooks, but not both. The people I know who have pristine, beautifully appointed houses are also the ones who tend to live on frozen veggie burgers and prebagged salad, because who wants to stink up the kitchen and mess up her hair slaving over a hot stove? I'm not hating, just saying everybody's different. And my apartment isn't totally hopeless either: I do have some nice art on the walls and the floor.
You might get a clue about the implied children of Real Simple readers when you get to the back of the book, where the ads are for minivans and juice instead of for cosmetics and where the recipes are often shockingly lowbrow. I find the contrast between the food and décor layouts jarring---one minute we are looking at a charmingly appointed living room, a place for everything and everything in its place, and the next minute we are being instructed to add some bagged shredded cheese to some frozen precooked chicken pieces, and things like that have just got to be an editor's idea of "kid-friendly cooking for busy moms" or some such shit. Because hell to the yuck, people with two-thousand-dollar side tables don't eat like that. I hope.
And then, for anyone who wants to die of Teh Cute, Mimi offers this, about her daughter Nora, who is maybe 4 or 5 now:
Nora [at bedtime]: Can you sing that reaper song?TGIF, all!
Nora: You know, [singing] don't fear the reaper...
Me: Where did you hear that?
Nora: In the radio.
Me: Well, that's pretty much all I know, that "don't fear the reaper" part...I guess I could look up the words if you want.
Nora: What's a reaper?
Me: Uh, it reaps. Crops. Like a tractor.
Nora: Don't be afraid of a tractor. But maybe yes. Because it could run over you and you could die.
Nora: It's a farm song! [giggles]
Nora: Old MacDonald had a reaper!