Go home, expensive subscription boxes. This isn’t about you.
There’s nothing quite like waiting for, receiving, and finally reading a print magazine. The ritual is equal parts blissful nostalgia and optimism. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid and month after month, it still brings me delight and — dare I say — hope. If you’re not currently subscribing to any magazines, I urge you to consider it. A simple, tried and true magazine subscription. That’s it. That’s all it takes.
I know how much the magazine industry has changed in recent years. Articles are online, delivered to your inbox, and we can read everything that’s ever been written with a click of the mouse. That’s all well and good. But despite all the email newsletters I’ve signed up for, I’ve never experienced the same visceral joy from seeing (1) new message that I feel when I see a physical magazine waiting for me in my mailbox.
“But wait!” you might say. “I’d rather subscribe to something else. I’d rather get a box in the mail.”
My answer to that is, sorry, but no. For this to work, it has to be something that could also be found on a newsstand. I don’t make the rules. I even tried to break them, too! A few months ago, I went on an a search for a monthly box that I might look forward to in the same way as magazines, and that wouldn’t break the bank. I mean, a monthly box of presents? Sounds pretty great. But not only did I never find one that fit my requirements of “not breaking the bank”, but I couldn’t bring myself to commit to so much uncertainty. What if I didn’t like the products? And then I just had a extra stuff hanging around my house? And boxes only come with a handful of items, not a hundred pages like a magazine. That just won’t do.
It doesn’t necessarily matter which magazine is coming, only that a magazine is coming. There’s a sense of promise. Will the features solve all of my problems, like the covers often claim? How many new things will I learn? Will any of the photos or articles be amazing enough to tear out? Will I — and this is, perhaps the most relevant one — enjoy the magazine during a 90-minute period of uninterrupted, peaceful bliss, like the people in stock photos do?
Even though I have never actually read a magazine in a sterile flat lay, that doesn’t mean I won’t. Each time a new issue arrives, it brings potential. Not the kind of potential that Pinterest and influencers and expensive vitamins promise — the attainable kind. Maybe this will be the month that I enjoy an entire issue cover-to-cover while slowly sipping coffee that never cools. Maybe this will be the month that I read by the light of the sun on my favorite spot on the couch, and no one interrupts me. Maybe they’ll even be a succulent within reach!
But even when those things don’t actually happen, and I flip through haphazardly while cartoons blare and someone small climbs on my feet, it’s still pretty nice. The magazines I subscribe to are one of the few things in my home that are entirely for me, that no one else has any interest in. And that’s something to appreciate.
I recently tried making a list of all the magazines I’ve ever subscribed to, and I gave up out at 20, which was a nice round number to stop at (the full list is below, if you’re curious). Currently, I have just two: Real Simple, my ride or die, and Conde Nast Traveler, which I get for the opposite reason as men who’ve commit to Playboy — not for the articles as they all claim, but for the pictures. Travel magazine photos are an unsurpassed source of delight for me.
Part of the bliss that comes with magazines is how stable and reliable the relationship is. They’re not expensive, since most subscriptions average to less than a dollar a month. They show up, as expected, with few surprises. And even after I’ve finished with a particular issue, there is always another one on the way.
And I will be right here waiting, like those unopened newsletters in my email inbox.
The list of magazines to which I’ve subscribed, I think: Real Simple / Marie Claire / Teen People / Seventeen / Teen / YM / Sassy / Mademoiselle / Conde Nast Traveler / Oprah Magazine / Disney Adventures / American Girl / Poets and Writers / Better Homes and Gardens / Where Women Create: Business Entertainment Weekly / Teen Vogue / Taste of Home / Sunset / Redbook
Honorable Mentions (aka, I don’t think I’ve ever actually subscribed, but I lived with someone who did, or I’ve received multiple issues when someone has finished with them, or I’ve bought them multiple times): Cosmopolitan / Girls Life / Martha Stewart / Highlights / Brides / Magnolia / InStyle / DoItYourself / Allure / Cooking Light / Food Network / HGTV / People / Self / Shape / Dwell /Domino / Elle / Good Housekeeping / Country Living / All Recipes / Rachel Ray / House Beautiful / Architectural Digest / Readers Digest
Dena Ogden is a Pacific Northwest writer whose work has appeared in The Atlantic, Refinery29, Bustle, Romper, and more.