Monday, April 30, 2001

Reading 'Rosie'

One of the few remaining nice things about air travel -- especially if you are seated with the child who is happy to listen to her Aaron Carter CD for five solid hours instead of the child who mostly wants to talk, kick, fidget and scream -- is the opportunity for uninterrupted reading time. And so it was on our vacation last week that I finally got caught up on reading the magazines that had been piling high in recent weeks, including the inaugural issue of Rosie O'Donnell's new publishing effort, "Rosie" magazine.

When I first heard that the Queen of Nice was going into the magazine business, I had no intention of actually taking a look at it. First of all, who needed another celebrity magazine, or celebrity-led one? I've never read Oprah's or Martha's magazines either, and although Rosie is someone whose show I've watched and enjoyed from time to time, her foray into the written word seemed less an interesting brand extension than another step in a disturbing trend. Then, too, the fact that she did it by taking over the venerable "McCall's" made it easy to sniff about tradition and the dismantling thereof. Although, to be honest, I'd been less likely to buy the fusty old "McCall's" than about any other magazine on the newstand.

It was the kind of magazine my mother-in-law would read, and indeed she had a subscription, and since she lives downstairs her issue of "Rosie" turned up in our mail. I'd never have picked it up in the supermarket, but since it was there in my house, I flipped through. And what I saw made me ask my mother-in-law to send the issue back upstairs when she was done.

As I should have expected, the magazine nicely reflects not only Rosie's celebrity connections but also her causes, and that means a fair amount of adoption-related material. There was a profile of four waiting children, a story about a foster-care community, and a very nice essay by Rosie about adopting a foster child. There was a story on gun control, creditably enough a pro and con and not just a pro. There were the triumph-over-adversity stories, as required in a women's magazine, but in this case they both involved children, making them instantly of interest to this special-needs mom. And even the celebrity content was targeted, not fluffy: an interview with Fran Drescher centered exclusively on her battle with uterine cancer; an article featuring Uma Thurman was really about a program she supports for giving toys and supplies to parents who can't afford them; the parenting-advice column was staffed by guest celebrities Jane Seymour, Marilu Henner and Tracey Ullman.

It struck me that this was the parenting magazine I'd been waiting for since I adopted my kids six years ago. I'd always loved "Child" magazine, but when I finally had children I found that there was surprisingly little in its pages that applied to me. Lots about typically developing infants and precocious children, lots about post-pregnancy, little about adoption and special needs. "Adoptive Families," on the other hand, was rather too adoption-intensive; only a few pages in each issue actually applied to any situation I was dealing with at any given time, and I'd have to sort through pages and pages of information that was irrelevant to my children's age, origin and needs to find it -- not to mention pages and pages of ads for adoption agencies, which is like putting ads for fertility treatments in parenting magazines.

"Rosie" seems to me to strike a nice balance, though I wonder if people who have no children will be interested in it at all. It is really more a parenting magazine than a women's magazine, and while that pleases me greatly, it might not please my mother-in-law. Which means that when it comes time to renew, it might start coming to my part of the house first.

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