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[whitespace] The $imple Life

Don't try this voluntary simplicity stuff by yourself. There's help available in four-color, glossy pages.

By Kelly Luker

IT'S TROUBLESOME, all this talk of living simply. It brings a shudder down my spine as I remember the last time this fad reared its ugly head. Also known as the "back to the land" movement following the Summer of Love, it consisted of yurts, natural childbirth, brown rice and butt-ugly dresses.

Thank God, the marketing forces remembered it too, and have quite wisely presented us with a much better alternative this time around: living simply without giving up conspicuous consumption. Just check out two recently launched magazines, Real Simple and Simplycity.

Their fluffy content interchangeable, the two slicks tell us what we knew all along. The Real Simple life is real hard work. And it doesn't come cheap.

A glance at Real Simple's table of contents practically reeks of incense. Calmer Bedrooms, Low-Maintenance Nails, Serenity, Rituals. Makes you want to curl up in your calmer bedroom and savor each delicious word. Which, by the way, wouldn't take much time since Real Simple is real short on verbiage and real long on white space and advertisements.

But get that Visa ready before lighting up the Punjab. The calmer bedroom Shaker cherrywood bed will set you back around $1,500 and its matching console table another $2,000. The linen duvet cover is another $270 and don't even ask about the cherub lamp.

While Real Simple goes for the minimalist cover, Simplycity understands the importance of celebrity face. This particular issue features Julia Ormond, who waxes eloquent on what simplicity means to her. ("Balance--Less is more," preaches the Gandhian starlet.)

Apparently, the magazine changed from its original name Simplicity. Replacing the "i" with "y" reminded urbanites that they too, could throw money around and pretend life didn't suck so bad.

But Simplycity has the cure for that frenetic pace: Read "The Healing Art of Forgiveness," "Yoga Simplified," or what every budding Thoreau needs to know, "Spa Etiquette." I imagine Henry David himself, soaking his tootsies in Walden pond and pondering some of these tips: "Get hairy. Wait two weeks after your last shave before a leg wax ... you need longer hair to get a clean wax!"

For what it's worth, the faux pauvre movement--where the rich and greedy pretend to be poor and simple--has enjoyed a long and illustrious history. Although this particular pretension just might be at an all-time high, one of history's better-known practitioners was Marie "Let them eat cake" Antoinette. If you travel to France, be sure to check out her former digs at Versailles, one of the most opulent palaces in the world. Apparently, when she tired of buying new chateaux, new diamonds and new lovers, the queen had a miniature peasant village built nearby, sort of her own personal Disneyland. While the rest of France was starving, Marie and her consorts enjoyed dressing in rags and pretending to be poor, simple folk.

Fortunately, those days of feigning poverty while much of the world starves are behind us now. Otherwise, come the Revolution ...

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From the July 27-August 2, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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