Redbook - The Other Good Book

I sat in the doctor’s office waiting to see the man who I was sure would tell me that my broken finger needed to be removed from my body. He would hand me a damp washcloth to bite down on and bring out the hacksaw which sat right next to the tongue depressors and cotton balls in one of the mystery drawers he had in his office. I had to dream up scenarios like this as there was surprisingly very little to occupy my mind during the eternity of waiting. On the wall opposite where I was standing hung a truly inspirational poster of a baseball player sliding into second base. “RISKS: While others wait for chances, winners take them.” I found it odd that it was exactly because of a risk that I took that I was making a rare visit to the doctor’s office, awaiting amputation.

With nothing else to do, I glanced toward the sterilized counter where I saw a copy of Redbook magazine. It goes without me saying that doctor’s offices are notorious for outdated magazines. The crinkled pages, which have long since been separated from their perfume samples and any semblance of relevance, are there for your only amusement in what is often a very unamusing situation. Want to know the most exciting prospects for the upcoming football season, even though next week is the Super Bowl? Try this slightly damp Sports Illustrated. They are usually the only escape from staring at the horrific, pastel-infused, nautically-themed artwork created by some coke-addled struggling artist in the 1980s and reprinted by the thousands exclusively for waiting rooms. That or staring at bitterly ironic motivational posters.

The Redbook that happened to be in my exam room was dated July 2001. On its cover, it featured a smiling Janet Jackson. Among the article teasers on the cover (10 things your man really wants in bed, 71 ways to eat slim this summer, 430 ways to use that little black dress as a weapon against a potential rapist) was information about what I would find in the Janet Jackson article. She would apparently dish on the strains of her second (secret) marriage as well as an eating disorder, or something.

This is the actual cover of the magazine. I do tell the truth, occasionally.

July 2001 was, of course, before Janet Jackson’s right nipple would find its way onto America’s television sets—and into our hearts. It was truly a more innocent time where we actually cared about the things that were written in Redbook magazine. From such a far off date, we never could have imagined that we would have been in the current economic catastrophe that we are in. We wouldn’t have known that America would be involved in two ugly wars which would cost hundreds of thousands of lives. We wouldn’t believe that the little red-headed girl from The Parent Trap would become a recovering addict and a horrifically untalented actress who was difficult, at times, to even look at. Hayley Mills, where did you go wrong?

We also could have never imagined that only two months later, four hijacked planes would not only destroy lives and landmarks, but would come to change just about every part of society. I was about 3/4th of the way through my two-year tenure as a missionary for the LDS church on the morning of September 11th, 2001. The day started in typical fashion; indoctrinating ourselves and planning our proselytizing activities for the day. My companion and I rode a few stations away on the Montreal metro to get to our appointment at 10:00 in the morning. We were meeting with a Chinese woman that we had contacted a few days earlier and who had expressed some interest in learning more about the church. We sat down at her kitchen table and began to offload the religious paraphernalia from our backpacks as she went to answer a phone call.

She started talking in Mandarin, and, soon, the intonation in her voice made her sound like an Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas record playing backwards at a high RPM. She got off the phone and ran over to us at the table. She tried to explain something to us, only her English, in this moment of panic, failed her miserably. “Planes fall down! Into New York! Five-angle building! Big rush, Times Square!” She went to turn on the T.V. and we were confronted with the image of smoke billowing from the World Trade Center.

We would spend the next hour or so glued to the television set, a device that we had grown unaccustomed to in our temporary life of technological abstinence. We would watch in real time as both of the towers collapsed. We didn’t say much, the three of us, as we viewed the tragedy with unbelieving eyes. We packed up our things and left our contact on the couch with teary eyes, hers and ours. We rode the metro home where the usual crowd of loud-mouthed dredges of French-Canadian society were silent.

Our apartment, situated in the middle of the area of Little Lebanon (sandwiched between Little Iran and Little Azerbaijan) was equally silent. The next few days would be interesting indeed. We were not allowed to proselytize or carry our trademark backpacks around town. My companion’s neo-conservative views came out of the woodworks in several angry tirades, just like so many other middle-of-the-road Americans. Once our missionary efforts began again, we were bombarded with the question, “How would God allow such suffering?” Though my companion and other missionaries had some set answers they used for just such questions, if given the chance, I would typically respond with, “I don’t know.”

It wasn’t that I questioned my faith or any of my beliefs. I just didn’t know why this happened. Nearly eight years later, that suffering has been magnified across borders and into the homes of nearly everyone on the planet, in one way or another. Now, Redbook teases about articles like “47 secrets to living off of .47 cents a day” and “121 ways to report to authorities that your neighbor is a terrorist without later receiving an envelope full of anthrax from the Islamic extremist camp in Pakistan that you are pretty sure your neighbor was training at in the summer, even though he said he was going to Branson.” So many problems that I don’t know why we are suffering from and July 2001 Janet Jackson is completely oblivious to.

I wish I knew how to make the world a better place. We may be heading that way, slowly but surely. Maybe all that we need are some motivational posters to get us moving there quicker. Realizing the innocence of the past, I nurse my broken finger, a trifle of a thing compared with other tragedies, and flip through the innocent pages of Redbook to find out just what exactly guys like me really wanted in bed.