I hate Filofaxes.
Glossy leather, delicate paper inserts, high price tag -- I hate all that. And what I hate more than anything is the Meaning of the Filofax, because if you think that $150 leather-bound six-ring binder you found under your tree yesterday, packed with two calendars and three types of note paper and four kinds of delicate little envelopes and a fold-out map of the world with time zones marked and all the rest is just a fancy date book, you are wrong.
The Filofax is to the '80s what drugs were to the '60s: the promise of a more acute form of perception, a higher level of existence. You will never be the same, the Filofax says.
Which is right. Just take a look at the addicts.
When they hear a friend is going to England, where the supplies are both more plentiful and varied as well as much cheaper, orders are placed with a ravenous energy usually reserved for junkies cornering an acquaintance on his way to Colombia. In preparation, they devour the catalogue from Harrods in London. A fascinating document it is, too.
For the moderately busy there's a diary with a week on each page, for the especially busy a diary with a week on every two pages and for the UNBELIEVABLY BUSY a diary with a whole page per day.
There's the "Horizontal Year Planner" and the "Vertical Year Planner." There are special inserts for doctors and special inserts for members of the clergy and special inserts for estate agents and special inserts for the military ("Sub Unit Personnel Qualifications," for example.) There's the "Function Planner" for people who host a lot of parties and a Golf Record and tables with information on sunrises and sunsets, radio frequencies and international holidays. There's a "Don't Forget!" series and a "Special Reminder Record." There's something called the "Semi Log, Triple Scale," which comes under the category of "Logarithmic" and about which I want to know no more.
And for those who simply can't stop ordering inserts, there are filing boxes and cabinets in which to store the extras.
"It's not a date book, it's a way of life," a British man who has observed the Filofax phenomenon for decades told me recently. The books and their stuffings only appeared in the United States three years ago, but Filofax was born in Britain, where it managed to do quite well even though there are no yuppies (the best candidates for addiction) there.
My British source says the thwack of leather hitting the table opens all business meetings these days, as the assembled bring forth their Filofaxes. The Fake Faxes now proliferating here offer a slightly less luxurious sound effect. True Filofaxes have discreet and quiet snaps, but the fakes, which cost about 15 percent of a real Filofax, crkcrkcrkcks open with Velcro.
Fake Faxes? Of course.
My feeling about the knock-down Filofaxes is that the odiousness of the object decreases as the price falls. They also offer some interesting social commentary. The American creations are a bit more touchy-feely than their restrained British counterparts: One vinyl-clad line offers inserts labeled "Goals and Priorities" and "Journal/Insights" ("Had any insights lately, Louise?" "Why, yes, let me just check my list").
I have been told I can't understand the Filofax because I am too young -- no kids, no marriage, no country house to keep track of. Perhaps I am just jealous of those with lives more interesting than mine, but I don't believe it. This stuff about the world being too complicated a place, our lives too busy for string around the finger is a story we mutter to make ourselves feel important. Look at it this way: Do you really need to be able to check the time in Kuala Lumpur without leaving your desk, or do you just like to think you do?
Unfortunately, like all luxury items, the Filofax has great seductive powers. It fairly sings, crooning a siren's melody tempting you to shop, to acquire, to dream of a better tomorrow.
The leather's so smooth, it goes, the paper so pretty. And look, there's a little envelope for this, and a little pocket for that, and remember the time one week before Christmas when you lost the tattered piece of paper on which you'd written the phone numbers, addresses, shirt sizes and favorite colors of every last friend and relation? If you had me, the Filofax says, you would still have the list. You'd probably still have the love of all those present-deprived friends and relations, too.
So you get one, and suddenly your every free moment is occupied with writing yourself little notes, stuffing things in envelopes, categorizing, alphabetizing, just for fun checking when the sun will rise on Feb. 6, clipping new paper in, taking old paper out, and you've never felt so organized.
And then the inevitable happens. You lose the thing.
This is when the addiction can become ugly. Your entire life has just disappeared down a memory hole and what is left? The Visa bill with a charge for $150 plus tax. CAPTION: Picture, The $150 leather-bound six-ring Filofax, complete with a fold-out world map.