“YOU’RE in GQ,” an acquaintance told me. About time too, I thought. Just as a stopped clock is right twice a day, eventually my particular style was bound to come into fashion, despite the opinions of the many naysayers I meet.
“What am I doing in GQ?” I asked. I did not actually remember taking part in a fashion shoot, but they can do all sorts with computers these days.
“You’ve got a joke in there.” Oh, I thought, mildly deflated for a moment. I didn’t remember submitting a joke for publication in GQ. I haven’t submitted a joke to a magazine since I was six. It was to Cheeky Weekly and, without being too hard on my six-year-old self, it does not hold up very well. In any case it was not printed.
However, I did get a picture printed in Twinkle when I was four. This was back in the days when Twinkle was considered suitable for both boys and girls. I won a small packet of crayons but never saw the copy of the comic with my picture of a red rocket in it, and it still rankles.
That was not going to happen this time. I was going to see a joke I wrote on Twitter in print. Finally, a triumph. Nothing could possibly go wrong.
I am not what you might call a natural GQ reader. I have never had a made-to-measure suit, unless you count the Spider-Man outfit my Auntie Mary ran up for me. I do not know how to play backgammon. I do own a pair of deck shoes but I have never been on a yacht. I am more Rolo than Rolex.
Consequently I rarely read the magazine. But I decided I’d pop to Tesco, have a leaf through, and, if I approved of the positioning of my joke, might actually buy it.
I had a look at the magazine shelves and saw the magazine and sighed. The swines had polybagged it. I am not the sort of vandal who will use a hooky finger action to rip open the polythene casing of a magazine in a shop to get at the contents. I was going to have to buy it, and hope that my acquaintance was trustworthy and not some sort of black ops sales rep from GQ.
I picked it up and was confronted by a picture of a comely woman in what I can only describe as her pants. And the large headline “The Sex Issue.”
I am a man of the world, I thought. I can brazen this out.
And then I became aware of the mother and small child standing next to me. I did the only thing I could possibly do in the circumstances: I dropped the magazine as if it were lava and looked intensely embarrassed. I cannot swear that I did not shriek so I will not.
I waited until the mother had bundled her child away to safety and picked up the magazine again, holding it against myself so only the advertisement on the back cover would be displayed to the many other customers. Brazening it out was no longer an option, smuggling it out became my only hope. And I was going to be safe.
A self-service checkout was available. I have a complicated relationship with such devices, but this was going to be my saviour. I swiped the barcode and dropped the magazine face down in the bagging area.
That was when the alarm went off. “Assistance required! Assistance required!” shouted the stupid machine. Presumably it had scanned the cover, found a largely uncovered bosom, and decided I wasn’t going to be allowed to get away with it.
An assistant came over to the machine, young and female, all the better to make me feel like Uncle Disgusting the Seventies-style Pervert. “Please don’t pick it up! Please don’t pick it up!” I thought. She did not. Calmly she typed a security code into the checkout. Then she looked down at the magazine, sniggered just a little, and walked off.
And I looked down at the magazine, the polybagged magazine, with a safe back-cover after shave advertisement, which was completely obscured by a picture of an entirely naked woman.