How do you feel about catalogs? Or as we used to spell them, “catalogues,” before we got too busy to type the “u” and the “e.”
My attitude toward them is love/hate.
Weeks pass in which I don’t feel an urge to buy anything except for necessities: chocolate, toothpaste, printer paper, chocolate, books, aspirin, and chocolate.
That’s because no one’s trying to sell me things. I don’t listen to commercial radio or watch commercial TV. Ads appear in the The New Yorker, but they’re mostly for pointless things I can’t afford, such as Louis Vuitton luggage and Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. (Note to Merrill Lynch: if I do acquire any wealth, you still won’t be asked to manage it.)
Then the mailman brings me a catalog and ordinary logic succumbs to “catalogic.” I think, “Egyptian cotton sheets might cure my insomnia! A few cashmere sweaters and I could turn down the central heat! If I don’t buy this hummingbird feeder, the hummingbirds will STARVE!”
Strange catalogs from another planet
But occasionally I get a catalog in which I don’t want anything, a catalog that baffles me because the “target demoraphic” doesn’t share my interests. (Books and chocolate, in case you’ve forgotten.)
At the moment I’m trying to get a grasp – metaphorical, I don’t really want to touch them – on the people who would buy things from Catalog Favorites.
A guy who’d wear a T-shirt labelled I’M SO OLD I FART DUST must be keen to tell the world about his bodily effusions, so he’d probably also like the wall plaque (made of durable stoneware!) with the proclamation: “Sometimes I laugh so hard the tears run down my leg.”
Apparently the world is also well stocked – or do I mean well hung? – with men who are anxious about their genitals. They’re the market, I gather, for the Christmas boxer shorts that depict a wrapped gift and the words NICE PACKAGE, and also the T-shirt labelled PROTECT YOUR NUTS and illustrated with a squirrel pointing a rifle.
More toys for the boys
I’m guessing that men are also the market for the hoodie with the beer-pouch pocket, the golf ball holder in the shape of a scrotum, and the Big Rig Alarm Clock, guaranteed to rouse the chap and his loved one with lights flashing, an engine revving, a horn honking, and a trucker shouting “Time to get up!” (Batteries not included.)
Women who are living with men like this probably need the “Comfort Cross” made out of olive wood from the Holy Land, and are perhaps well advised to wear the long black night-shirt labelled: “This is my sexy lingerie.” Or in other words, “Don’t expect to get laid tonight.” They also wear a lot of pink.
By now we’re beginning to spot a theme, aren’t we? So we shouldn’t be surprised by the T-shirt with a picture of George W. Bush and the words: MISS ME YET? HOW’S THAT HOPEY-CHANGEY THING WORKING OUT FOR YA?
Still, our eyebrows might go up when we turn the page and see the Obama Inflatable Punching Bag.
Made in China
Most of this merchandise — and also the merchandise I buy, though not from Catalog Favorites — is made in China by people working 12 hours a day in appalling conditions with no benefits. Do they wonder why Americans need this stuff? Do they think we’ve lost our minds? Or do they wish that they too could buy punching bags in the shape of their leaders?
Also — hey, the mailman’s here! Maybe he’s brought me a catalog!
Would you like to hear more from me on the subject of catalogs? Of course you would! So check out Mess-o-Catalogs, written during the First Gulf War. I wonder how many children Clem and Myrtle have got by now.