Volume 76, Number 34 | January 17 - 23, 2007

Talking Point

A few words to President Bush about reading my mail

By Tim Gay

Dear Mr. President:

I understand you want to open and read my mail.

The last person to open my mail was Mom, when I was 15 years old.

I suspected that Mom was opening the gushy love letters mailed to me by Marlene, also age 15. The envelopes were opened and taped shut. I told Marlene that she better cool it because Mom was nosy.

So one day, I came home and Mom was really mad. She was holding an envelope addressed to me, but on the inside was a letter that read, “Dear Mrs. Gay, I think it is horrible that Timmy has such a snoopy mother….”

President Bush, did your Mom open and read your mail? Or didn’t you care? (Maybe that’s what happened to your draft notice.)

Perhaps you weren’t bothered, being a preppie party boy at Yale and all. But I dreamed of the day when I would be an adult with my own mailbox, TV, phone and apartment, with no invasion of my privacy.

Back in the 1970s, for me that’s what being an American adult was all about — life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, an apartment with a double bed for trysts and a mailbox that was no longer watched by Mother J. Edgar Hoover.

Now that I’ve been an adult for over three decades, my life is an open book.

Marketing consultants with high-powered computer networks anticipate what I’ll buy, when I’ll buy it and how much I’ll pay for it. They tell me so by sending me catalogs filled with things I really don’t want.

These marketers have pegged me as a gay urban male who spends a lot of money dining out, going to the theater and traveling.

Instead, to really throw the marketers off my trail, I buy almost everything with cash. I spend a lot of discretionary income on repairing my 20-year old Ford Bronco, camping gear and flea market watercolors.

Somehow, though, the airlines know where I want to go on my vacation. That’s why they make it impossible to use my air miles to get there.

When I turned 50, AARP reminded me immediately. Their mailers leaped out of my mailbox ahead of the birthday cards.

Political consultants know I’m a “prime voter” and they freely give out my home number. There was nothing more heartwarming than coming home last Labor Day to 18 messages from Hillary, Chuck Schumer, Jerry Nadler, Eliot Spitzer, Tom Duane and Christine Quinn. I even had a call from Susan Sarandon!

E-ZPass tracks my every move on highways, tunnels and bridges from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania, from Albany through Delaware and Maryland to Washington, D.C. I know they know when I’ve been speeding.

Anyone can take a Google look at my apartment building on 17th St., or peer down at the Missouri farm I grew up on. I imagine there is a satellite photo or two of me browning my buns on the beach at Sandy Hook.

(Speaking of search engines, is there a single Manhattanite who hasn’t Googled her- or himself and, if not finding any references, gone into a deep despair?)

I simply assume some unknown counterterrorism marketing agency (Home Depot/Homeland Security? Dow Chemicals and Fragrances? Department of Disney & Defense Administration?) is reading, deciphering, analyzing and setting to music my e-mails. There’s probably some bored technocrat tracking my Web searches for used Bronco parts.

Still, sometimes late at night, paranoia slips over me: “Why is someone stalking me with e-mails about Viagra?”

Virtually every aspect of my life has become an open book. There seems to be no end to what “they” know about me. Big Brother is watching and we dance before the Web cam.

And, of course, there are the volumes of mail that accompany a consumer-driven life. Mine piles up so high that a couple of years ago a friend sent Ralph over to dispassionately sort through the mess. Now, once or twice a month, Ralph tosses catalogs, pays bills, fills out insurance papers and sends empty postage-paid envelopes back to politically incorrect entities. Ralph even found a donation form for Ruth Messinger for Mayor 1997 among my papers.

But Mr. President, I gave Ralph permission to open my mail, not you.

If you ask me, Mr. President, our national security would be better off by spending the money on making our ports safe and eradicating Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Since you plan to open my mail (and you are probably doing it right now), please be kind enough to do the following:

Don’t toss the catalogs until I’ve seen them, especially the J. Crew and Brooks Brothers sale catalogs.

Laura Bush may have the Elle Home Décor only after I’ve read it.

Be careful to shred all the “funny money” checks that offer debt consolidation for 5.9 percent interest for three months, and 12 percentage points above prime after that.

Tell your mother to get her own subscription to Cosmo.

If you are looking for some porno and titillation, don’t bother. I have a very happy time in real life.

And DON’T tear out pages of the really cute hunks in Out Traveler. I know your twins like beefcake, but these are gay guys — real, out, gay guys, not like those in the Republican administration.

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