Last week The Simple Man came home with this book for me. We may or may not have had the tiniest of disagreements before he left for work and he knows I love to read, so it was very sweet of him to be thinking of me even after I might have possibly refused to say goodbye and stomped all over the house that morning. And then I looked at the book and I was torn between making a contemptuous sound like, "Fie!" and being overcome with how generally awesome The Simple Man is, barring his choice of books for me. Why? Because one look at the cover made me suspicious that this book was not my cup of tea, unless I liked my tea highly predictable, saccharin, and with a side of heaving bosoms. Reading the back just confirmed it. I asked him why he bought me a romance novel and he looked surprised.
Him: Huh? I thought it was about a strong woman. I thought you liked strong women. (I'm not sure why in his mind romance and strong woman are incompatible. Must think on that.)
Me: Where are you getting this strong woman stuff from? Did you even read the back?
Him: No. (Picking up book and reading from it) Look, it says: #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author! (He has no idea how little that means to me. If anything, it probably means I won't like it.)
Me: Can't you tell it's a romance novel from its cover?
Him: What? No - it's a little cottage. I thought you liked cottages!
Needless to say, he would not believe me until I was forced to read out loud a passage involving a woman that looked like a Barbie, a man with a cleft chin, and contained the words lush, nuzzle, and heavy, nestled among more salacious adjectives. I think I made my point.
Now here is what fascinates me, it might bore you though, how did I know the moment I saw it that it was a romance and he didn't? I'm guessing it's gender marketing and advertising. As an American woman, have I been so saturated with these types of messages my whole life that I'm now programmed to instantly recognise whether something geared towards women will interest me? Probably. It's the same reason that when I see pink handled household tools for women I want to weep and smash things. I know they are marketing these tools for me as a woman, and even though I reject them they do attract other buyers. There are plenty of women (and possibly men?!) to whom this kind of book speaks to immediately. Which is what that use of soft sunset colours and meta-messaging in the plot description on the back are for. The book tells them they will like it just as it told me I would not like it. I find it very interesting that The Simple Man took the book at face value, something I would not be able to do. He is either completely immune to gender marketing messages when it's not for his gender, OR it wasn't strong enough to break through his man barrier to inform him. I think it's the latter because I know he wouldn't have come home with a book depicting a couple passing out from desire for each other on the cover; that sort of advertising is bold and obvious. My book was definitely more coy and less graphic, but a romance all the same. And he knows I don't enjoy them.
Also, I just want to say that I have nothing against romance novels. As much as I love good literature, there are times I'm tired and I just want to read something entertaining. I really enjoyed the Steig Larsson novels, but I'm not going to pretend they are great literature. Far from it, the dialogue tended towards agonizing at times. I am not judging the readers of romance novels. I don't think women who read romances are stupid or unrealistic, I think they want to escape for a short while and romance is their choice. Me, I prefer a dead body, adventure, history, and moderate psychosis for escapism.
All this made me think about my own buying habits. While it's clear that I avoid products that clash with my interests, it's also been obvious to me for a long time that I'm totally susceptible when it comes to packaging I like. Case in point. I spent two more dollars buying hot chocolate in this achingly adorable little bottle when I could have had the organic kind in a tin for less.
I tell myself that the bottle is reusable and I do have plans for it, but that doesn't mitigate the affect the packaging had on me in the first place. I have a background in retail and often attended seminars during natural food conventions about advertising and marketing when I was a buyer blah blah blah and I still cannot help myself. It is powerful. I am very conservative when it comes to spending money, and I do try to remain immune to advertising and good packaging unless they fit all the qualifications for what I need and want. Mrs. Meyer's cleaning products come to mind. I find them hard to resist because of how they smell and the way they look on my counters. I could buy less expensive products or even make my own in some instances, but I am weak. After all this uncluttering, minimalism, simple living and/or frugalness, do you feel like you are still affected by marketing and advertising?