Friday, 24 August 2007

FiFi & Me

Lock up your money boxes, Mammonites. Not only was my last mastercard statement completely undastardly (thanks to my new doo-dah abstinence policy), but it came with a wee leaflet instructing me on How To Win Something. They told me banking could be fun, but did I ever believe them? More fool me.

I'm a serial game-show contestant, a recovering high school examination-addict, and I play scrabble on-line, which is to say: one sniff of a competition and I'm heart-poundingly, giddily there. "Win a year's supply of horse manure!" I'm there. "Confederate Flag Boxer Shorts!" Yes, please. "Half expenses paid trip for two to glorious Cesstown!" Beam me up, Scotty.

So what's going down with young Master Card? Well, this.* Each time I buy something with it, I'm entered into a competition to win a day with Madame von FiFi, celebrity stylist, and $5000 wherewith to be styled. I know for sure that FiFi and I would hit it off terrifically. "Fantastic," she'd say, "The natural leg hair look! I have just the handkerchief in mind." But more to the point, $5000 to frivol away on clobber! I could have a different hat for every day of the year, which has long been one of my more noble aspirations. When the critically-acclaimed $20 jeans de la Kmart I bought last year finally wear out, I could get NEW ones! Two hundred and fifty pairs, to be precise.

The downside of all this is not that I may not win my day with Madame von FiFi, but that I may win one of the thousand consolation prizes: a six-month subscription to Shop Til You Drop, the magazine for people who like to pay money solely to read advertisements. I cannot imagine a world where this would be an appealing prospect. Except our world, of course, where apparently it is.

* If any of you acquire mastercards because I have drawn your attention to the FiFi-o-rama, I will, in remorse, eat my entire hat collection.

4 comments:

TimT said...

Perhaps the remorseful eating of one's hats is akin to the sorrowful munching of one's cardigan exhibited recently by Bjork? I've never been one for the eating of clothes, I must say, although I have parboiled a shoe every now and then, lightly garnished with buttons...

Essayist S J Perelman gets such astounding results out of a simple reading of an ad, that - while not making you want to read a magazine collection of ads, he brings you perilously close to a feeling of gratitude that ads exist: for if they did not, then Perelman, the humourist, may not have existed either.

alexis said...

Not to be confused with J. Peterman, he of the lyrical J. Peterman clothing catalogue (for which [note to Seinfeldians] Elaine Benes briefly works). Some wag in the U.S. signed me up for receipt of said catalogue. It was an experience quite unique in my reading career: few and far are the occasions in one's life when one gets to read romantic narratives about quilted duffle coats.

TimT said...

Ah, you see, there are several things which Perelman might do with a romantic narrative about a duffle coat. He could, for instance, cast himself into the consciousness of the duffle coat and proceed to write several diary entries from this duffle coat (he was an ardent devotee of Joyce, and therefore quite familiar with stream-of-consciousness). He might also wonder at the author of such a narrative, and contrive an imaginary interview with such an author. As a third possibility, he could simply review the magazine in which this ad appears, as a whole.

He can take the merest hint of an absurdity to astounding extremes. In a swift perusal of an Indian newspaper, he once spotted a line about an Indian politician who 'sent his linen to Paris to be washed', and extrapolates this to imaginee a fussy and querulous Indian politician who is in regular correspondence with the finest linen washers in all of Paris; the Indian politician is a particularly difficult customer, and will not even let the inevitable language and geographical barrier stop him from getting his way...

The kicker is, it all appears in English that is so dense and impenetrable that you don't understand any of the jokes, but you feel smarter for merely having his books around the house.

In fact, the Elaine Benes/Mr Peterman working relationship ("Good morning, Mr Peterman!") is the sort of running joke about life in the customer services that you get again and again in New York Jewish humour; Perelman was neither the first to tap into this strain of humour, but nor was he the last...

(Says he, tediously, not to mention uffishly....)

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