Part of the preparations for our recent wedding involved setting up a “wedding registry” at some local stores, in order to suggest a few gift ideas to guests who would otherwise be stymied. Like many Canadian couples, our main registry was at The Bay, one of Canada’s largest department stores. So far, so good.
Then yesterday we received an unexpected item in the mail. It was a copy of something called 2Magazine, which advertises itself as “The Magazine for Couples”, and an accompanying note stated that it came to us courtesy of The Bay, in thanks for our having registered with them. We really don’t need a new magazine, and usually unsolicited print matter goes straight into the recycling bin, but because I had a handful of other mail as well I just carried everything, magazine included, upstairs to our flat and dumped it on the table, intending to sort it out later.
When I did get around to perusing the magazine, I was in for a few surprises, all of them unpleasant. Let’s start with the cover: it shows a young couple in bed together, apparently naked beneath the sheets, smiling up at the camera. I am aware that this is rather tame by modern standards, and I know that couples do from time to time lie naked beneath the sheets (though not normally, to my knowledge, with a photographer), but still I was somewhat surprised to see it coming — at one remove — from a stolid institution like The Bay. Then I noted that scattered around the perimeter of the cover photo were brief summaries of the articles contained therein: a “couple’s makeover” and a guide to “recession-proofing your relationship”, but also, a little more sordidly, a feature on “naughty getaways”, and, in closest association with the cover art, the magazine’s fourth annual “Relationship and Intimacy Guide”. I opened it up to have a look.
What can I say? I learned a lot. In the book review section I found a recommendation for The Good Girl’s Guide to Living in Sin, a book that gives “smart, funny advice” for those planning to co-habitate (apparently this magazine is not just for newly-weds), followed by a positive review of Where’s Dildo?, an activity book of sex games. A few pages further in was an entire page devoted to various sex games bored couples might try. Another article is titled “How to Have Sex in Public Places”, and it suggests cultivating carnal relations at Ikea, or in an elevator, or atop a Ferris wheel. On the advice page I discovered that I should “think about whether the pain will be worth it” before waxing my short and curlies, and I learned that if my wife doesn’t keep pace with my sexual appetite she should see that I “take a time out” with pornography, because, you know, whatever. And in the “Relationship and Intimacy Guide” is a full page devoted to the merits of “open marriages”, which are apparently great for “people who know that they’re in a great relationship”. It’s all so counter-intuitive.
I know that I am out of step, and profoundly out of sympathy, with the culture on these matters, but even I am surprised to see that it has come to this. Has it really come to this? All the sluttery, the banal fascination with tab A and slot 2B, is served up without any apparent self-consciousness, without a sense of transgression, mixed in with ads for toothpaste and coupons for The Bay. The final irony is the assumption that this has anything to do with intimacy.
This magazine is going back to The Bay, with a strongly worded letter attached. In the meantime, couples in search of a real guide to relationships and intimacy could profitably spend some time together in the pages of Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar: Readings on Courting and Marrying. That’s what we’re doing.