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Excerpted from

One Thing On Our Minds

If Reality Were Based on Maxim Magazine

By Jeff Somers

Used to be that men didn't need magazines. We got all our information from newspapers and our drunken, misinformed friends. The rest we either didn't really need to know or gleaned from canny observation and imagination. This, of course, was back in the good old days when all a man had to do was live past the age of thirty to be considered a success of sorts. This was before we came into this sad modern age, where men are asked to dress well, appreciate literature, understand computer code, and not only know how to knock up some chick but how to make her enjoy it as well. Welcome, friends, to the Age of the Confused Male.

We suffering males of the human species are forced to look toward new horizons for our guidance, for our virtual tribe. And our weary eyes alight on the magazine rack, once the domain of chicks seeking wedding ideas and pathetic rotund fanboys seeking the definitive episode guide to Star Trek, once avoided by men except when purchasing pornography or Sports Illustrated. Now, the magazine rack is our friend, and one disturbing in its implications and attitudes.

You've seen the Men's Magazines. They're all pretty much the same: they have sexually suggestive titles like Loaded, Maxim, Gear, Details (which may be only sexually suggestive to me), and the mysterious FHM (which, unbelievably, stands for For HiM). They all feature naked starlets on their covers. They are all written in a smarmy, frat-boy style concerning all the major avenues of interest in a man's life (booze, chicks, clothes, cars, booze, and chicks) and seem to pretty much be the worst aspects of Playboy (the parts without pictures, filled with bad frat-boy humor and guides to some mysterious swinger lifestyle no one actually lives) amplified. They all have at least one article entitled "How to Make that Threesome Fantasy Come True Without Ruining Your Relationship" in each issue.

The dominant characteristic of all these men's magazines is their healthy fantasy life: reading these publications would lead you to believe a number of things about today's man, almost none of them true--but they are all things that we men would like to be true. We're looking for someone to tell us that we're not bizarre loners on the highway of life, that we're car-pooling with the cool kids. We're animals with animal instincts, but civilization came along and made a lot of those instincts poor form. We spend a great deal of time covering up those instincts, or, if possible, painting them with civilized colors, which is where the men's magazines come in. They try to tell us what is and isn't socially acceptable. The magazines, wanting nothing more than to keep us reading so they can try and sell us a lifestyle we probably shouldn't even try to afford, try and tell us what they think we want to hear. Their message can be broken down into three basic statements: 1. Sex is easy. 2. No one expects you to grow up too much; and 3. All you need is cash.

That men are simpleminded churls who buy into the whole concept of a virtual tribe of cognac-sipping, cigar-smoking, babe-chasing like-minded men is inarguable. We're not really all that far along from our knuckle-dragging days, you know; in evolutionary terms six to ten thousand years of civilization is a few ticks on the clock.

So next time you see some wet-n-naked starlet-of-the-moment who has to get her parents to co-sign the photo release on the cover of some magazine with a bunch of innuendo-laced headlines around her, don't roll your eyes about the simplicity of men and their hormone-soaked brains. Rather, consider the destruction and horror of a Thunderdome-world where men didn't have the comfort of these magazines to make them believe they're not wimps.

Trust me. Maxim is a small price to pay to keep us distracted.

Send zines to the Zine-o-File, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

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