Southern Lady magazine…
I remember the first time I encountered her over a decade ago—and how I slowly devoured her content. Page after page of feminine beauty and elegance. Her stories appealed to the “hopeless romantic” in me… and the fact that they were well-written passed muster with my inner writer.
I was hooked.
Over the years, the love affair grew stronger—and my spirit noticeably quieter—each time I sat in her presence. To this day, I cannot imagine ever discarding a single issue of the restorative glossy.
You see, I’m a gal raised in the South. I own the requisite string of pearls, monogrammed stationery, and set of “good silver” albeit one acquired from someone else’s ancestors. I am caretaker of more linens and dishes than most people will ever see in a lifetime, and I know the importance of faith, family, and good manners.
I wasn’t born into affluence, but I began at a young age to notice “the finer things in life,” and Southern Lady is an amazing read for someone like me. Beauty, grace, and romance co-mingle on virtually every page with enticing recipes, glorious tablescapes, and invitations to delightful travel destinations.
For years I’ve eagerly awaited her arrival in my mailbox. I’ve given her as gifts. I’ve perused past issues for inspiration to turn into beautiful weddings and bridal and baby showers. I’ve enjoyed the common thread she provided for memorable conversations with family and friends alike.
Last year, I canceled my subscription.
More accurately, I let my subscription run out. Admittedly, I held off the inevitable as long as I could because the decision felt so final. I didn’t really want to end the relationship, but there was something missing, and I could overlook it no longer.
What could possibly be missing in a beautiful publication so rich in tradition, hospitality, and all things Southern?
Balance. Balance was missing.
This lover of beautiful things could no longer ignore the message of excess that seeped from the pages of my dear Southern Lady. Neither could I ignore the discomfort in my no-longer-calm spirit even as I turned page after beautiful page. Twelve hundred dollars for a single throw pillow? A charger plate for one hundred twenty-five dollars—knowing that has to be multiplied by at least four, but probably eight… or perhaps twelve?
Don’t misunderstand. I love—love!—beautiful things in my home, and I own some amazing treasures, most purchased at auction where the dollars stretch farther. But the older I get, the more I desire to downsize my pretties. Why? Because several years ago I began to feel like my life needed a better balance. (There’s that word again.)
Interestingly, I find I’m not alone.
You see, for the vast majority of Southern women in the prime readership age of Southern Lady, going to church was simply part of our growing-up years—and a respected part of our communities. But along the way, I realized that the stereotypical-but-true pension we Southern women have for charity work… and taking casseroles to bereaved families… and blessing people’s hearts just isn’t enough.
I noticed I could do all those “good deeds” and still not focus very far beyond my own little world.
If you aren’t a Southern Lady reader, you may now have the impression that the magazine is simply a compilation of pretty pictures and overpriced little luxuries to give yourself—or others. Well, that’s simply incorrect. One thing I love most about Southern Lady, led by admired editor Phyllis Hoffman DePiano, is that she unapologetically contains a quiet, steady element of the faith that courses through the veins of many a Southern woman. May that never change.
So what’s the problem? This is: The staff of Southern Lady has, like many of us Southern women of faith, sipped the proverbial Kool-Aid. They have produced a gorgeous and compelling magazine that, sadly, encourages the self-indulgent side of Southern women. While I was always blessed to read the occasional feature on a woman-of-faith artist or entrepreneur, by the time I reached the back cover, my take-away was still the focus on excess… and why I “needed” all of those beautiful things.
There was an alarming disconnect between my faith that professed to love “the least of these” and subscribing–asking, no less–to be bombarded by encouragement of self-focus.
And so, with admitted grief, I ended the relationship. I still dream of being friends again…
So what would a true-to-herself Southern Lady magazine look like? What would need to change for me to once again become a devoted subscriber? Quite honestly, not much.
Yes, it’s true I’d like to see more realistic prices on featured products because, if you’ve visited here much at all, you know my heart is burdened for children who live in desperate situations. I am wealthy beyond measure compared to them, and if my faith means anything at all, I must become willing to spend less on myself and more to meet needs in our world. BUT, that’s a choice each woman has to come to terms with on her own, and it’s not a magazine’s responsibility to dictate how a reader’s money is spent.
However, here’s where the need for balance comes in…
It’s not enough for me that faith is embraced within the pages of Southern Lady if we readers aren’t encouraged in our own.
I dream of seeing something like, perhaps, a Creative Caring feature in each issue. Not a heavy-handed “you should be doing…” but a thoughtful, gentle article that gives readers encouragement to look beyond themselves to a hurting world that needs what we have to offer.
The focus wouldn’t even be “Christian” because, whether we want to admit it or not, we now live in a post-Christian world, and there are surely Southern Lady readers who don’t share my faith. But they do share my world… and my concern for humanity.
Whatever the source of our motivation, we strong, independent Southern women should be known for more than food delivery, shopping, and occasional tongue-in-cheek blessings.
We (and all women!) have the ability to step up and improve the lives of our fellow world citizens, even if it means inching out of our comfort zones.
I’d like to see Southern Lady encourage us to do that.
And while I’m dreaming–and because it would keep me focused and accountable–I’d like to write the articles. 😉
Have you ever experienced a pervasive sense of “excess” in a magazine? Does it bother you?