They say you can tell a lot about someone by looking at her garbage, but you can also tell a lot about someone from looking at her catalogs.

Consumer buying guides reflect our gender, age, interests, and observing from my neighbor Jerry’s recycling bin, weird fetishes for Japanese adult action figures.

When you subscribe to a magazine, sign up for a credit card, or buy something from a catalog such as Lands End, your personal information is reported to a national data base like WikiLeaks which notifies other catalog companies about your preference for flannel jammies, 500-thread-count cotton sheets, and Starbucks coffee.  Before you know it, you’re part of a direct marketing campaign designed to match you and your buying preferences with offers for free linens with the purchase of a Peppermint Mocha Frappuccino.

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But how well are we matched with our catalogs?  I began to ponder this one morning when, while walking through my neighborhood, I noticed a Victoria’s Secret Catalog atop someone’s curbside recycling stack.  It occurred to me that I hadn’t received my Victoria’s Secret catalog in over a year, maybe two, okay—since the Gulf War.

To be fair, I hadn’t patronized Victoria’s Secret in over a decade.  Not since the time I was strolling the mall pregnant, and stopped in front of a Victoria’s Secret window display.   I stared wistfully at the mannequin’s scanty lace bra and panty ensemble.  I weighed them against my own expandable underpants and nursing bra.  I felt envy.  I felt desire.  I felt . . . a flow of milk gush through my breasts.

It must have been about that time that Victoria’s Secret gave up on me, knowing I had left them for Destination Maternity.  It was the same way Toys “R” Us gave up on my kids when they lost interest in Easy Bake Ovens and Nerf guns.   Exactly when that happened I don’t know; I was too distracted buying stuff from Pottery Barn Teen.

More recently, I’ve moved up a notch on the catalog timeline.  According to the national database service, I’ve now aged out of Victoria’s Secret, staged out of Destination Maternity, and ripened into JCPenny’s Woman.

But who said I was ready to trade in my tight jeans for stretch denim, or replace my sexy tees with embroidered tunics?

If Victoria’s Secret could register the complexities of the human experience, they would understand me better as a consumer and realize that my age alone doesn’t determine how I think and act.   Just because I don’t fit their 18-35 year old target audience doesn’t mean I don’t fit their product.   I have needs too, and right now I need a push up bra more than ever.

I may have moved on in years . . .but that doesn’t mean I can’t keep Victoria’s Secret.


When Jersey Girl Lisa Tognola traded her job as freelance writer for that of full-time mother of three children, it didn’t take long before her writing was reduced to grocery lists, notes to school nurses excusing her kids from gym class, and e-mails to her husband reminding him to call his mother.  Daily life as a suburban mom was fraught with challenges and unexpected dangers like adult dinner groups, town hall meetings and home shopping parties.  Rather than fight her fate, this mom embraced it by unleashing her inner columnist.  Her weekly column, Main Street Musings, reflects on life in the suburbs—the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Visit her blog  Follow her on twitter @lisatognola