Unresolved Issues

For some reason I’ve started getting the magazines Ebony and Jet delivered to my house. This is a mistake, of course. Though the magazines are addressed to me, I did not subscribe to them. They are targeted at a black audience, and as you may know, I am not black. It is one of my deficiencies.

I believe the errant periodicals are the result of a mix-up at Delta Airlines. A few months ago, they sent me a notice saying I had unused frequent flier miles that were about to expire, and I could trade them in for magazine subscriptions. I do not know why frequent flier miles would expire. Do they go bad after a while? Was there a risk of my spoiled miles contaminating the other, fresher miles stored with them?

Anyway, they gave me a list of about 45 magazines to choose from, each worth a certain number of points based on whether it’s a weekly or a monthly publication, and how popular it is. I had 1,200 points to work with; a typical magazine cost about 400. It was like the old “Wheel of Fortune,” where you went shopping after every round and spent the money you’d accumulated on gaudy junk, when what you really wanted was for them to just give you cash.

Now, already something was strange. I went through this process with Delta a few years ago, trading in my unused points for a year of Premiere and Spin magazines — and I have not flown on Delta Airlines since then. How did I rack up 1,200 new points? Someone suggested it was probably a batch of points that was still fresh a few years ago but has expired now; I prefer my theory, which is that the 10 or 20 points I had left over from last time were left unattended and somehow reproduced.

However it happened, I now had another 1,200 points with which to purchase magazines, and while I don’t remember all the titles I chose, I know that Ebony and Jet were not among them. I probably chose magazines geared toward white culture — Golf Digest, The CBS Network Newsletter, Bad Dancer Weekly, etc.

The one title I do remember requesting is the other one that has started coming to my house, and it’s Details. Many of the available titles were flat-out unappealing to me — Socks Weekly, Clam Enthusiast, George Bush’s Highlights for Children, Mexican Soap Opera Digest, etc. — so I eliminated those. That left me with a few, like Details, that I wasn’t particularly interested in but that I figured I wouldn’t mind leafing through during my idle toilet-based moments. I knew Details was very popular among men, and I knew I was a man, and I knew it was free, and so what the heck.

So I’ve read the last few issues of Details, and it turns out that if Ebony and Jet are for African Americans, then Details is for posers and tools. I used to wonder what my mailman thought delivering Ebony and Jet to me, but now I’m more concerned about how the Details subscription reflects on me. The December issue has a story entitled “Are you turning your kid into a douchebag?,” which is like Sports Illustrated running an article called “Are you turning your kid into a sports fan?”

Like many men’s magazines, Details is 90 percent ads with a few shallow articles sprinkled in between. These articles are generally on topics like “You should learn how to tie a bow tie” and “All the cool people are drinking flavored tequilas this year.” This month there’s a hard-hitting one-page exposé on the subject of “why we’re tired of fake breasts.” Sometimes there’s something about current events in which the writer paraphrases whatever Jon Stewart said last week.

There are also a lot of articles that are really just ads in disguise. Usually these are multi-page features displaying the latest fashion trends among thin, high-cheekboned men with unlimited disposable income. Helpfully, the pictures are accompanied by lists of the clothing articles featured, along with where you can buy them and, often, how much they cost. This is the most eye-opening. I’m sure I don’t have any friends who would spend $800 on a pair of pants. I’m reasonably confident that even if one of my friends became a millionaire, he wouldn’t spend $800 on a pair of pants. How could I be friends with someone like that? I don’t think we’d have anything in common. What can you talk about when you’re wearing $800 pants? If it were me, all I’d be able to talk about would be the fact that my pants cost $800, and how I was terrified of spilling food on them. Or farting! You can’t fart in $800 pants, especially considering that if you’re wearing $800 pants, you’re probably also wearing $75 underwear!

(If you are currently my friend and you would, in fact, spend $800 on a pair of pants, please consider this our final correspondence.)

The bottom line is that in my effort to help deplete the world’s natural resources, I now have three magazines coming to my apartment regularly that I have no interest in reading and that are merely occupying space on the back of my toilet. I would recycle them, but I refuse to use the recycling bin outside my building until the landlady replaces it with one made by Dolce & Gabbana. I mean, honestly. What are we, savages?

Not all the ads in Details include the prices, but I added up the ones in the December issue that do. A total of 77 items are listed, totaling $23,601, or $306.51 per item. Bear in mind that many of these are simple things like ties and belts. I mention this here because I couldn't find a good way to incorporate it into the column and I didn't want to let all my math go to waste.

At first I thought it was odd that not only was I getting two wrong magazines, but I was getting two wrong magazines that were related to each other. Turns out Ebony and Jet are a package deal, published by the same company. In fact, their website is EbonyJet.com.