While browsing the magazine racks in a bookstore over the holidays, I paused at a RealSimple headline with the following declaration: NEVER WEAR THE WRONG THING AGAIN. Generally I like RealSimple, but something about this struck me as off, almost aggressive — as if readers are supposed to expend serious energy worrying that they {gasp!} might not be wearing what someone else deems good enough at some sparkling holiday soiree. Isn’t the “right” thing to wear what makes someone feel confident and comfortable? Can it not just be that simple?

Similarly irksome was the email from Express that appeared in my inbox soon after, commanding me to BE THE HOTTEST GIRL AT THE PARTY. Naturally there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel attractive, but not only is this kind of ultimate attainment of hotness impossible, it shouldn’t even be a thing. If women’s magazines and advertising primarily encourage being the hottest woman, and men’s magazines overflow with advice for how to get her into bed, we all lose. Is this really supposed to be the focus of our lives? Our culture?

It’s like when a celebrity is described as being “pure sex.” Wouldn’t it be better to be “pure razzmatazz” or “pure kindness,” or — goodness, even “pure carbohydrates” is a worthier aspiration, I think. Now there’s a marketing gem: BE THE MOST CARBOHYDRATE-LADEN GIRL AT THE PARTY.

Here I raise my hand as the former ringleader of magazine addict parades, because the headlines that used to invite me in for fanatical page-flipping now just make me sad. The promises of perfection — the flawless body, wardrobe, relationship, and home — are exhausting, not alluring. It’s almost a shock when media voices attempt to connect to something besides our insecurities: tenderness, curiosity, and gratitude. These aren’t the things that sell, of course — but they’re the things that make a life.

I crave headlines about how to connect, how to forgive, and how to choose the right red bicycle. Please no more urging me to attain someone else’s version of perfection, physical or otherwise.

We’re all terribly misshapen pancakes, but golden, and it’s enough of a life just trying to shine without the vipers of competition or comparison. So how about this: you leave the perfect country estate to Martha, and I’ll pass on the sizzling designer wardrobe to someone with an actual hairstyle, and we’ll call it a blessed day over a plate of nachos.