They say that, when the economy tanks and you can't see any way through your pile of bills and are wondering who you'll look wearing one of those barrels with shoulder straps, women buy lipstick and everyone goes to upbeat, escapist movies to take their minds off their troubles. But I'm here to tell you that any lipstick worth having is nigh 'bout $20 or more and you'll just end up regretting it, and Hollywood has not caught up with the times yet. Plus, it's Oscar season, so once you've seen Slumdog Millionaire your choices are sexy Nazis seducing children, attractive suburbanites mourning the death of their dreams, and nuns and priests talking about child abuse. (That said, I hear Gran Torino is a good diversion with a message, and if you don't hate Brad Pitt as much as I do you could probably sit through that Owen Meany movie where he ages like he's from Ork.) And while I'm as big a Kevin James fan as the next person, you can't ask him to shoulder the whole burden. It's another few days until the Valentine's Day romantic comedies start hitting theaters....and you may need help before then.
Well, here comes the New York Times to your rescue. They have two great features that will fill the void, and they're both free as long as you have a bit of imagination and are willing to share a bit of demographic information by registering as a user.
Real Estate Porn: The Grey Lady doesn't call it this, what since that would be kind of tacky, but that's what it is. They have endless slideshows about cool dream homes and real estate around the country....you can read the article if you're like that, but I usually just skip to the money shots and spend some time looking at what $1.5m will buy me in Colorado or what $440k buys in Maine. I think about how I'd decorate differently (I hate that pretentious fake-Tuscan-new-money crap,) or where I'd drink my coffee if I lived there. Sometimes I plan parties in these houses. Or make fun of the poor sap who paid $440K for a condo in Telluride but has to sleep in a loft over the closet. I mean, all that money and he has to climb down a ladder to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Oh. And FYI, exposed beams attract spiders and other nesting insects...think of THAT next time you see a vaulted ceiling in a tropical paradise.
Real-life Romance: They make movies about this, and they're not nearly as fun as the actual column. I am not one of those women who dreams of getting married and plans her wedding a thousand times and lives for romance and true love. In fact, I've become quite a cynic about it all. Somehow, though, the NYTimes wedding columns make it past all my attitude. I love them. For the uninitiated, each week they feature one couple with a compelling love story. They interview them and their friends and family, and they write a column detailing their courtship, the obstacles they faced, and the things about their relationship that will tug on the heartstrings of the audience. They seem particularly fond of the rich and famous, people who work with the homeless or drug addicts and long distance relationships. And there seems to be some sort of bonus if you've given up on love.
Next time you're craving an escape, give these a try. They're cheaper and a lot less time consuming, and won't be affected by your tan. Or try The Sartorialist, because it's always fun to see high fashion walking on the street.