Stecen likes Playboy magazine. Stecen gets hair removed from unknown parts of his body. Stecen may even want to buy a grand piano. I’m getting a feel for Stecen. Are you?
Companies think they know him. They keep sending him mail to my address. The thing is, Stecen doesn’t exist. He’s my alter ego, of sorts, created when my friend Bob secretly signed me up for a subscription to Playboy magazine. Bob didn’t ‘fess up to the crime for a full year. “I know it objectifies women,” I said to my wife after receiving it for a few months, “but don’t blame me, it just keeps arriving of its own accord.”
Stecen spells his name with a ‘C’ in the middle. I spell my name, Stephen, with a ‘PH.’ Somebody at Playboy subscriptions hit a wrong key when taking down my information from Bob.
Soon after the Playboys started arriving, a number of companies thought Stecen would enjoy their products, too. The name Stecen on the mailing labels was like blood spreading in water, like monarch butterflies tagged in Mexico and found in Canada. I’ve never seen the list of subscribers sold by Playboy to other vendors, but Stecen proved its existence.
The sad thing was that after a while I wanted to be Stecen. He sounded like more fun than me. Oxford University Press sends me, Stephen, their annual offerings of literature. How dull. The New Yorker must have sold them my name and address. Stecen, however, recently received an invitation to an island resort, where, judging by the pictures,
hot, naked women go wild over normal looking guys who subscribe to Playboy. Wow, to be Stecen, the man I never was.
But somewhere the logic went awry — why would a man who subscribed to
Playboy also want hair removed by electrolysis? No, in my mind, Stecen is virile, hairy, and happy. And a local music store wanted Stecen to know about a sale of baby grand pianos. Are men who want to learn Nineteen Ways to Take Off Her Panties, also known to plonk out Chopin’s
Nocturnes before taking a nap on the bear rug? I don’t know. But big companies spend billions on marketing each year, so they obviously think they know our proclivities better than we do.
So my friend Bob can find out what his are, I signed him up for Sticky Buns magazine the other day, calling him Bobbert. Now Bob can have an alter ego, too. We’ll have to see what Bob’s wife thinks of that.
IN WASHINGTON, THIS IS STEPHEN MURDOCH FOR MARKETPLACE