The Marlboro Gender-Blender

Cigarettes don't just wreck your health; they can be bad for your ego too.

Some foxy computer-clad marketer cornered me in the bar two weeks ago and asked what I smoke.

"American Spirits," I replied with what I think was aplomb.

"Okay," she said, already starting to make demographic notes and tick boxes on a screen for what seemed like awhile. "Let's just say Marlboro Lights." After all, that'd make her job easier.

Five minutes and a free pack of cigs I don't particularly like later, and I've completely forgotten the incident.

Until today's mail arrives. (address changed to protect your mama)

Why, I don't remember a letter calling me Alexandra since I was 14; I still remember receiving my invitation to enter the Miss Teen USA pageant. For the second year running. I felt so clever calling in and saying yes in fact my name is Alexander and I am a boy, thank you very much. If I was actually clever I'd have gone along in drag and probably suffered the best heart attack ever backstage.

In addition to this heinous assault on my masculinity, the wunderkinds at Marlboro have also sent me five $1 coupons towards more cigarettes. There's also a survey; if I complete and return it, they'll even mail me a dollar bill—which they encourage me to go right out and spend on cigarettes.

If the Marlboro folks have their way, in exchange for a free price of cigarettes I'll give them my personal information and buy six more packs at a dollar off—surely enough to generate a healthy affection (dare I say addiction?) to tobacco. This 'free' pack of cigarettes will end up costing me about $17.50, not to mention I'd have to smoke six packs of nicotine delivery systems by May 10, which would be a real ramp-up of my smoking, which up until now has been social at best.

Anything to save a buck, right?


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