Monday, February 13, 2006

The devil in the demographics

Once I wrote an article entitled, Demon Demographics: How I Discovered My Potential for Poverty in Magazine Writing.

Looking for writing markets, I had picked my way through the newsstand selection trying not to gag at the covers of items like Modern Bride and Cosmo. I bought Esquire, Ms and More and began to research their target audiences.

One memorable piece appeared in Esquire – “Pol Pot’s Hand-Grenaded Mud-Fish Soup.” But as I said in the article, “If I’m Esquire’s ideal reader, I am a middle-aged, balding man with a healthy stock portfolio and a bar stocked with expensive scotch. When I’m off duty as Captain Capitalism, I buy expensive watches, stereos and cars. Or judging from the fashion ads, I am an anorexic young man, wearing scary makeup, a sneer and an Armani suit.”

Ms. left me feeling like I’d attended an angry, humorless lecture in Women’s Studies and More, targeting over-forty women, addressed such crucial issues as “His and Hers Spa Vacations.” Cheryl Tiegs tossed her hair in the fashion section under the headline “Going Grey.” Not her hair. Her clothes. And the only redeeming article was “The Dying of the Light,” one writer’s account of her mother’s last month. “Death, it turns out, “ I wrote, “is the only subject matter that cheers me up.

I declared myself demographically homeless.

It’s been about ten years since that article failed to be published. And I have yet to find my demographic – unless we resort to ridiculously broad categories like “human” or “organic life form.”

This is the list:

Age: 58

Sexual preference: Heterosexual but not overbearingly so.

Maritial status: Divorced (married three times – once for over 20 years.)

Children: No

Grandchildren: Well, obviously not.

Pets: No, unless you count my plants and stones.

Dating: No. I see someone very dear to me once a week or so, but you couldn’t call it dating and we couldn’t be considered a couple.

Future plans for marriage: Insert uproarious laughter here.

Favorite occupations: Writing, beadwork, reading, looking at the sky, being with close friends on a basis time-limited by my tendency to need huge amounts of solitude.

Politics: Left of center, I suppose. But only if you’re standing to the right. I don’t like fanatics on either side of the fence. More often than not, I feel the rapidly escalating deterioration of society is a necessary break-down allowing us to kick some of our crappiest paradigms out of the way and try to do things differently. Not that I expect “differently” to happen in my lifetime.

Religion: When it doesn't get in the way of having a decent relationship with the Universe. Or, as Marko would say, "The Great Magnet."

Friends: A small handful of treasured friends, ranging in age from twenties to seventies. Atheists, Evangelical Christians, Buddhists, Bahάǐs, Muslims, Jews and the very undecided. Rich, poor, in-between. Complete (and adored) wackos and supremely sane people. Artists, gardeners, teachers, actors, students and my very own Holden Caulfield catching the children in the rye.

Ambitions: To be present. And okay with that. To be myself. And okay with that.
To be mature the way the Scorpio defines it, meaning, A. To respect myself and others. B. To have the self-confidence to do what’s right for me, without allowing pressure from loved ones, associates or society to steer me in another direction.

It’s hard to find a demographic for that.

This afternoon, I threw myself a gigantic pity party over this whole not fitting in anywhere thing. (There was no one else in the demographic to invite.) And then I noticed the sky was very blue. The sunlight, at 4:00 p.m. was glinting off an emerald green bottle in my window, lighting it like a jewel. It was playing similar tricks with all the reflective surfaces and the whole living room was winking and glowing at me. Never mind, I thought, it snowed. And you hate snow. And your stomach is upset. It was a good try at maintaining gloom, but nobody, in any demographic, can resist a sun that bright or a sky that blue for long.

You have to be okay with it. It always comes to that.


Jess D'Zerts said...

Now I'm the one with Great Topic Envy. You are awesome!

Listen for the sound of breathing in the demographic...

LJ said...

Hey Jess. I started listening after you emailed me....thought I detected sounds of another organic lifeform.

Teri said...

I always feel like a sucker when I discover I am part of a demographic.

I absolutely LOATHE the idea of being sold to, that's it. That it's actually someone's job to figure out how to sell me a shirt or a car or a CD is sickening.

LJ said...

And then, Teri, when you slide out of all known demographics - you can't find underwear! So maybe your way.

Mary said...

I'm definitely outside a demographic ..

I was mentally ticking off each heading as I read this saying Yes, Yes, that's me ....

It's nice not feel so alone in Not Fitting In, lj. And this thing about needing solitude and at the same time wanting to be part of something ... if you crack it, let me know what the secret is.

I really like this post! I'll be back (could sound like a threat but is actually a promise :-))

LJ said...

Same here. If any of us in this dubious and strange demographic (and apparently I'm not alone)come up with anything that seems like insight - we'll share, agreed? And then we'll put out a magazine. (Title suggestions?)
And as you may have gathered, I'm kicking around in your neighborhood, too.

Melinda said...

I loved this post. And I'm going to start referring to myself as "heterosexual but not overbearingly so." So great!