I love Sundays.
It's the one day of the week I get to sleep as long as I can, potter around the flat, catch up with Hollyoaks, and inevitably get crushingly disappointed by Homeland.
There is, however, one stressful part of every given Sunday.
The Sunday papers.
I'm not talking about red tops. I'm talking about the big, thick, clever papers.
The ones with all the pull-outs.
The ones with magazines dedicated to decorating one's second home the country.
The ones with articles advising us as to the best Arga to purchase.
The ones with handy sections on the wisest way to invest in stocks and shares and bonds and yields. Or whatever.
The reason for my weekly angst? They make me feel utterly CRAP about my life.
We read so much about the influence the media has over our sense of wellbeing, but the criticism always falls at the fluffier end of the market. Gossip and fashion mags have long been associated with giving young women an unhealthy body image and unrealistic expectations of life.
The weekend papers though are a different beast, are they not? They're full of Important Things. But if reading the red tops and glossy mags give us a sense of superiority, can't it follow that the broadsheets can make us feel just a little bit inferior?
Now don't get me wrong. The content and quality of the weekend newspapers is second to none. Anyone with any interest in the world should absolutely read the broadsheets. The journalism is world class. Where else can we find in-depth reporting from far-flung corners of the globe and special reports shining a light on the forgotten and ignored the world over?
So what it is about these recycle-box-breaking buggers that gets me so down?
Within all news, and fancy holiday destinations, and theatre reviews, and obscure book recommendations, and interior design tips for perfect properties, and interviews with really successful people..... is that subliminal message that I'm Not Living Up To My Potential.
They make me look at my life and panic. Every time I read the lifestyle supplements, I'm reminded of something I heard when I graduated. A friend was told not to confuse a career with a lifestyle. Did they genuinely want a career in 'x' industry, or a lifestyle straight out of a Sunday supplement? That thought has come back to me time after time, and it's never more impactful than when reading the weekend papers.
Page after page of other people reaching for the stars and touching them. Whether in the fields of 'serious news', sport (ok, not bothered about that so much) the arts (who wouldn't say yes to being in Cats?) and politics (we all want to change the world), these tomes seem to be full of people who are doing jolly well, thank you very much.
Life is short and it makes me wonder if I could have done more yesterday, or done something different 5 years ago.
Then thoughts (and pages) turn to the cash and lifestyle that could potentially follow from such success. Products I'd feel just so guilty buying. Property which makes me dribble. "Important" books which would make me sound oh-so-well rounded should I bump into Germaine Greer.
The Sunday papers are a sensory overload of aspiration and inspiration. A smorgasbord of all the things we feel we should have in our life to make us a well rounded person.
And there, behold, is the key.
A smorgasbord. A well rounded person.
For some people their day-to-day life will be a living embodiment of a Sunday Supplement. They'll know about inflation, drug mules, and the history of Colombia. They'll have a house in London and a house in the country and make their own jam and know where St Bart's is on a map. And they will genuinely, genuinely want to read poetry.
I, on the other hand, enjoy gruesome crime novels, have musicals and trashy pop tracks on my iPod and don't own a rolling pin.
Monday to Saturday I can happily live with this way of life.
On Sundays though, I'm reminded I could be so much more. Better. More intelligent. And do some cooking once in a while.
I've come to the conclusion that I'll never live a life straight out of a glossy weekend mag. But, if on a Sunday I'm inspired to buy a book I'd never read, get last minute tickets to a play which sounds pretentious, or brush up on the best Argas known to man, then I'll consider that a small step on the path of self-improvement.
When it comes to my lazy Sundays flicking through the papers, in a choice between style and life, I'll still choose life. Just a slightly more well-rounded one.