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The World of Women's Magazines

by Stephen Lautens

May 21, 1999

I'm always fascinated by women's magazines.

You know the kind of women's magazine I'm talking about. They're the ones with an impossibly thin model on the cover and a story inside about why you should be content with your body size.

I'm married to a very modern woman, but every month she brings home a half dozen women's magazine. She blames her upbringing. Her uncle was a pharmacist and after hours she was allowed to sit in the magazine rack at his store.

I'll often go through them to learn what secrets I can about the other half of the world's population.

No such luck.

Like women themselves, women's magazines are a complete mystery to men. To begin with, the stories seem to always be in some kind of female code, like: "What To Do About THAT Problem", or "New Hope For Down There." I've read the articles, and I still can't figure out what they're about.

And every issue has a big headline on the cover about revealing the sex secret guaranteed to turn men on and drive them wild. When you finally find the half page article, it usually involves lighting candles and pretending to be pirates and princesses.

Wrong. The way to turn a man on is to look at him and say: "Oh, all right."

You see, men are very basic creatures, and our magazines reflect that. We don't worry about our relationship with our mothers, or whether our sons will grow up to like us or inherit an eating disorder.

We feel there are already more than enough kinds of salads to choose from without using green beans, fennel and endive. And there's nothing worth eating that can't be barbecued.

I can't help seeing the differences between women's and men's magazines. Not the "men's magazines" like my barber keeps behind the counter for his best customers, but magazines geared to the admittedly few other interests men have.

First of all, you'll notice that men's magazines are mostly about things. They're about cars, or cigars, or golf or wine. Sometimes they're about fitness, but only if the muscle-bound guy on the cover isn't too pretty, and we don't actually have to do any of the exercises.

Women's magazines usually have a story about a mother's heroic struggle against some rare disease. Men's magazines usually have a story about a man's heroic struggle against a fish. Sometimes a bear. Occasionally a carburetor.

And the men in these inspirational stories never seem to learn from their experiences, except maybe to pack more ammo or beer next time.

Something you won't find in men's magazines is self doubt. Or even self improvement. We're perfect, so there's nothing to doubt or improve.

Men also hate taking tests. We hated it at school, and sure don't want to take them for fun. Or even worse, tests that are supposed to reveal our innermost secrets. Men's biggest secret is that we have no secrets. We are incapable of keeping secrets, so we don't need any tests.

We will take pointless tests, like: "How Big A Dude Are You?" or: "Ten Facts About Beer." But don't ask us to rate our level of commitment, compatibility or cuddliness. Checking off question boxes and adding up scores is too much like doing your taxes.

Besides, you could be spending the time playing princesses and pirates.


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