Saturday, April 23, 2011

Culture Peeping

About 2 years ago I started filling out online surveys hosted by RewardsGold. The survey takes a couple of minutes and the magazine subscription that I receive as payment lasts a year. Sounds like a good deal to me!

At first I looked for magazines that interested me like Motor Trend, Car & Driver, Maxim etc. You see for as cultured and educated as I often pretend to be, my #1 interest in magazines was still pretty much exotic ladies and cars. This stage in my subscription habit could be called my “T&A and Car Porn” phase. And what is car porn you ask? Morgan Aero 8 pictured on a winding country road at sunset is 100% pure Car Porn.

Unfortunately there are only so many options for T&A and Car Porn. As time wore on, my options in these categories declined from slim to nil. In fact, more often than not I was forced to pick between magazines like Ebony, Woman’s Day and Home and Gardens. And that presented a dilemma. Neither of those magazines really appealed to me. I’d just slaved over a survey. What was I to do? I didn’t want it to go to waste. So Home and Gardens it was.

After 6 months or so I received Forbes, Maxim, Home and Gardens, Wine Spectator, Men’s Health and a couple of other magazines that I thought I’d probably enjoy. I didn’t. For the most part they ended up in the trash after a quick T&A and Car Porn check. For the most part they were all boring! That’s when I decided to quit choosing them and just pick them at random. The one that was offered first would the one I’d pick. Anything at all, I reasoned, would be better than Home and Gardens.

And I was right. You see on the 8th month, my highly overworked (and likely very confused) mailman delivered a magazine called The Advocate. I quickly flipped through it and decided that it was like GQ only better in every possible way. I left it on the kitchen counter and thought nothing more about it until the following day.

When I arrived home from work the next day, my wife Susan had the magazine splayed out on the counter. In a funny way, it reminded me of when my Mom found my porn stash when I was a teenager. Lots of “what is going on here”, “you’re disgusting” and “why” looks… Eventually Susan settled on a quizzical, yet unmistakably confrontational stance. Hands on hips, she asked why I was reading a gay magazine.

She continued to flap the magazine in the air and shoot confused looks at me. As it became clear to me what I’d done, I started to find the whole situation really quite funny. Never one to miss an opportunity to confuse and frustrate her, I replied that that the magazine “interested me”. Susan slapped the magazine on the counter that sounded like WHATEVER with an exclamation mark.

In truth, had I have realized before Susan had, that The Advocate was a gay magazine, I’d have trashed it. But now I felt pressured into actually reading it!

To my astonishment, I thought The Advocate was a great read (and still do). It reads like GQ or Men’s Health that isn’t trying too hard to be masculine…. Speaking of which, I must digress for a minute to explain my theory about masculinity. I think that too much of it turns one a little queer – like the Village People or the guy in my neighborhood with the massive, noisy, manly full-dresser Harley Davidson with tassels flowing from the handlebars and a studded saddle bag. If that isn’t camp (flamboyantly queer) then I don’t know what is. He’s gone ‘round the bend if you ask me. Take that Men’s Health for example; that’s just Out magazine in drag to me.

Anyway 2 years on and I have broadened my tastes to include a broad swath of culture. Along with my Playboy (only one I actually pay for), I get magazines as diverse as Maxim, Out, Ebony, Town and Country, Metropolitan Home and Conde Nast Traveller. All of which I have found to be insightful in their own ways.

I like to think of my little habit as culture peeping.

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