Developmental psychologists tell us that very young babies don’t understand the difference* between Me and Not Me–weeks and months go by before they can reliably identify where they stop and the rest of the world begins.
Let’s take that idea in a slightly different direction. In recent months I’ve had a couple of opportunities to demonstrate that I, being all grown up, have figured out how to make this distinction, at least when it comes to identifying what is Not Me.
In my mailbox one day appeared the August/September 2017 issue of Marlin Magazine.
Marlin Magazine’s advertisers include companies that sell all manner of high-end fishing tackle, as you would imagine, but also satellite phone systems, custom yachts, and special gloves that protect your hands from being sliced open as you struggle to land a fish that weighs twice as much as you do.
I assume that these advertisers have paid to have their glossy photos of squid lures and luxurious yacht interiors placed invitingly in the magazine because Marlin’s readers are the kind of people who are passionate about sport fishing, and are in the market for squid lures and yachts. It turns out that I have no trouble identifying whether this group sounds like Me or Not Me. Not only did I not find anything among the products advertised at all tempting, I found a few things whose use I couldn’t readily identify.
Maybe concentrating on the advertising is unfair, though. After all, I’m nobody’s target market, as I’m allergic to most shopping and spending. As a rule I’m quite unmoved by ads even in magazines about topics I’m interested in. So let’s consider a selection of the articles: an assessment of whether regional billfish management works (there was a picture, so now I have a sort of idea of what a billfish is), the advantage of fishing from a center console, a piece called “Chomping on Chuckers,” and one on the shift to light tackle. Next came a discussion of satcoms, then clarifications about duty vs tax for yacht owners. After that it was all ads for anything fisherpeople (very much Not Me) might want, and lots of classified ads for people selling their boats.†
I’d have thought it would be hard to find a better example of Not Me than Marlin Magazine, but that was before the November 2017 issue of Outdoor Life showed up. Chewing tobacco offered inside the front cover, followed by professional-grade machines to grind up your kill, then a Schrade hatchet, “titanium-coated blade, bomb-proof handle, because there is NO SUCH THING AS OVERKILL.” There’s a $2 coupon for something called Steel-Libido Red that I don’t want to know more about, and a Cigar Explorer Pack that comes with travel humidor and lighter.
There’s camouflage on a majority of pages, as well as an article to help me decide between five different scopes for my rifle, followed by advice on chasing down late-season rooster pheasants. There are beautiful photos of beautiful animals, and photos of many different tools you can use to kill them and cut them up.
The cover story promises to ensure that I “Master the Rut.” Merriam-Webster reminds me what that’s about: “a periodic and often annually recurring state of certain male animals (such as deer or elk) during which behavior associated with the urge to breed is displayed.” I’m worried it might have something to do with that coupon for Steel-Libido Red. Of course, I haven’t read the article to find out, because Not Me.
So how did I end up receiving Marlin and Outdoor Life? I wrote once before about a company entirely missing its target, but that was the sort of thing that got delivered to “homeowner,” very scattershot. Both these magazines had my name and address, and someone had subscribed. Perhaps it’s a case of an odd kind of identity theft, except that when I contacted the publications I was assured that they had no credit card information, the subscriptions would not renew, and they didn’t know who had signed me up. It seems like a very odd sort of joke to play on someone, signing them up for magazines as Not Me as could be imagined. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the bottom of it.
I wonder if there’s such a thing as a hunting fairy?
*How do developmental psychologists come to such conclusions, when newborns are notoriously unwilling to fill out questionnaires? They use some pretty ingenious experimental designs, often involving tracking what babies are paying close attention to, signaled by the change in how hard they suck on a pacifier when faced with something new and interesting. It’s not as hair-brained as it might sound.
†You may have heard the claim that the two happiest days in a boat owner’s life are the day he buys his boat, and the day he manages to sell his boat.
[Images: El Guapo, Marlin Magazine, animalspot.net, Outdoor Life Magazine]