From the wreckage of the revolution

September 24, 2008

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.

5 Responses to “From the wreckage of the revolution”

  1. Christina A. Says:

    Craig, As soon as I read the first sentence in the second paragraph, I knew exactly what this post was going to be about!

    I was similarly surprised last year when this magazine appeared at our home. It managed to cause such offense the first time it arrived that every subsequent issue has been postmarked “recycling”. I think there was an issue where they featured something on the unfashionableness of children and how offspring are not to be desired by married couples because of the inconvenience they add to one’s “lifestyle”.

    To me, this magazine was completely out of line as a PR piece from the Bay. What ever happened to articles like, “Hosting a Fun Cocktail Party” – using all that great glassware you just got for your wedding – or “Communication is Key” – now that you’re married, who does the dishes?

    The themes in this magazine sort of suggests that the wedding was just the party where you could admit openly to both of your parents that you’ve been “doing it” all those years you were co-habs and now it’s time for them to buy you both a Kitchen Aid stand mixer for all those meals that will never be made while the husband takes a porno break and the wife goes on an “intimate” holiday with another man.

    Perhaps you didn’t fit very well into the target audience and can be easily written off as an old-fashioned, prudish religious person who refuses to “get with the times” – hmm, maybe this is why I appreciate you so much!

  2. Matthew Says:

    As someone firmly on the other side of the “revolution”, I have to say, “What was the Bay thinking?” You don’t send out anything to a general mailing list that isn’t firmly in the mainstream. It’s just good business sense to stay mainstream and it’s respectful of your customers. Of course, the mainstream may still offend, but it’s likely to offend the least number of people.

    Sending out a magazine (which I haven’t read, but I recognize its Cosmo-like articles) to a general audience that promotes “alternative” lifestyles is wholly inappropriate. In fact, if you think about the state of marriage today with the rise of common law relationships (like my own), people getting married are, on average, more likely to be offended by this type of material then they are to be the target audience for it. If I were in your place, I would definitely complain to the Bay.

    I would also like to mention that most people I know on this side of the “revolution” aren’t the target audience for this type of material either (although they may read the article with sick fascination what some people think will bring happiness). Note that you don’t have to be religious to realize that a committed, monogamous relationship is the best bet for long-term happiness.

  3. cburrell Says:

    They’re going to send us another issue?! Good grief.

    It’s interesting to hear that the lurid content — and I didn’t nearly mention all of it in my post — isn’t confined to this issue alone. The thought had crossed my mind that maybe it predominated because this issue contained the “Relationship and Intimacy Guide”. But if this is a regular thing with them, then that letter I’m sending to The Bay will be very strongly worded.

    That’s a good point about the customer base for the wedding registry being particularly unsuited for this kind of material, Matthew. What were they thinking, indeed! I’ll ask.

  4. Jim Says:

    The thing that humours/saddens me is that they fairly regularly publish letters the editor making exactly the same points you’ve made, but yet keep sending it out. Often these same letters point out just how much it turns marriage into a lifestyle with “necessary” consumption habits as well, which I suspect is the Bay’s deeper reason for sending it out. Never underestimate the power of capitalism, I suppose.

  5. KathyB Says:

    Ha ha! We too received this magazine unsolicited for over a year. It seems to have stopped now. I don’t think I can beat either your or Christina’s scathing and witty reviews, but I feel the need to elaborate on the article she mentioned about the unfashionable-ness of children. It was far and away the most offensive thing in the magazine. The interviewee in the article was president of some sort of club of willingly childless couples, and continually referred to children as “polluting consumers” in his discussion of why smart people would choose not to bring such beings into existence. I don’t know what that says about adults, because let’s face it, no matter how scary his diapers may be, I’m sure that adults such as myself and Daniel produce much more garbage than our toddler.

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