Just when you thought we had reached peak emoji, an actual – sorry, IRL – aubergine arrives in the post, to remind us that the human capacity for doing ridiculous things “because internet” knows no bounds. An aubergine, to be clear, is the euphemistic emoji for a penis. And it is now possible – or it was until Monday – to send a customised “real-life penis emoji” in the post. And what the hell is a customised real-life penis emoji? An aubergine with a rude message written on it, presumably in permanent marker that won’t wipe off its smooth, shiny flesh.
The UK-based eggplantmail.com – which charges users £6.99 to post someone a personalised aubergine – has gone viral and the owner of the site is struggling to cope with the success. “I put the site up on Friday,” says Jack Kenyon, a PR director, who started Eggplant Mail as a dare. “Within days I had tons of emails and 62 orders. I had no idea anyone would be interested in buying an aubergine. It was extremely stressful trying to manage it all. Last night, I put the site up for sale and I’ve had three bids already.”
Many orders were for “strange and graphic” birthday messages and the majority came from the US. That’s perhaps unsurprising: last year, the United States used the eggplant emoji more than any other nation. “Mailing aubergines from the UK to the US is illegal because it’s a fruit,” Kenyon confesses. “I organised someone to send them internally, but that fell through.”
Even so, considering you can buy an aubergine for 49p from Lidl, the price is a hefty markup. And you can’t eat the thing either because, to quote the site: “They have ink on them and can pick up germs during shipping.” So when life deals you aubergines, you can’t even make baba ganoush out of them.
It is not the first time we have got a kick out of paying people to send perishables in the post to loved (or loathed) ones, and it won’t be the last. The novelty potato mailing market made headlines earlier this year, and there are now at least three companies offering to send spuds with David Shrigley-esque messages printed on them. Last year, a similar web service, which offered to mail envelopes filled with glitter to your enemies, went viral, crashed from the demand and ended up being sold for $85,000 (£60,260).
So it was only a matter of time before the aubergine entered the gimmick-laden arena of people-posting-stuff-for-no-reason. Since 2010, when the eggplant emoji made its American debut, the suggestive power of the purple fruit has continued to rise and rise.
The banana used to win in the rude fruit and veg stakes, closely followed by the turnip, but now the aubergine has exclusive rights on penis representation in the world of emoji. It is the Adonis of sexting and has been banned on Instagram. So sending one in the post is highly metaphorical, amusing, romantic … or creepy.
Eggplant Mail describes itself as: “100% Phallic. 100% Anonymous. 100% Disturbing”. Of sample messages provided on the site, one reads: “I watch you when you’re sleeping.” Misogynistic aubergine, anyone? It is all about as far from an organic veg box as you can get.
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