Letter from the Editor

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Learning women, via magazine rack

The fitness center in Storm Lake is a great place, but the magazine rack leaves something to be desired. By the second day of the month, I have sweated upon the one ragged men's magazine and the one dogeared sports mag on the subscription list, and satisfied my FDA daily minimum requirements for testosterone.

By day 3, what's left is Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, Allure, Glamour, Shape, and a whole variety dealing with shopping for groovy accessories, reducing gas during pregnancy, surviving PMS - okay I do need that one - and of course, ad nauseum, which Hollywood hotties are banging boots with whom.

I have decided to make the best of it. Slightly over half the world's population is reportedly of the female persuasion, and I've never been able to get much of a grip on what they are all about, especially the ones who matter the most to me.

So as long as I am scaling flippin Mt. Everest on a cardio bike designed by the Marquis de Sade to bite me in places you don't want to hear about, I might as well expand my horizons.

Sure, I get a few funny looks from the muscle-pumping peers when I swagger off with the chick stuff, but they can go sniff my gym shoes. I'm on a mission of understanding.

It's been good for me, in a way. I try to learn something new every day. I've read some things about women's health and needs that I've never thought to know before. I've come to look at the world in a slightly different set of eyes, albeit I will pass on the mascara.

Raising a girl (or is that girl raising me?) I had better understand the dating scene, women's nutrition and the must-have holiday gifts for female teens.

I am the man. I am prepared to engage in office hen talk, or to offer thoughtful discourse in the coffee shop of choice. I need not cringe at conversation over feminine hygiene products. I have facts and figures. Polls and horoscopes.

It didn't take long to learn a couple of things. One being that women, or more specifically the women who write about women, have amazingly dirty minds.

There's stuff in Cosmo that one would never encounter in Men's Health, Esquire or ESPN The Magazine, trust me. Even the innocent-looking housekeeping and women's fitness issues are filled to the brim with how-to guides that honestly would make Calligula blush. There's something in Cosmopolitan gleefully called The Carnal Counselor, for gosh sakes. What do you list on a resume to land that gig, I wonder.

Most of them have some regular feature about how to read men: "Top Secret! What your guy really wants from this romance!! Make that Bad Boy into your Love Slave!!!"

I'm here to tell you, don't believe it. I've never heard such hogwash in my life. Or seen so many exclamation points!!!!

One would think that all men care about is food, football and, well, that carnal stuff...

This is not true. Some men also like basketball.

No, seriously, it all seems pretty superficial and manipulative. Do women really think men are such uncomplicated puppets? (We may be, but don't think it.) I suppose this is not dissimilar to how women have felt for generations about those articles on understanding women that have appeared in the crappy men's magazines the boys steal from the dentist's office.

What, you mean females don't live to be draped in wet outfits across the hoods of 1970s musclecars? That they don't thirst for leather bikinis the size of dental floss? And you say that a box of chocolate isn't all they need out of life? Who knew?

Not the magazine editors, I think.

Now that I've seen the world from both sides of the magazine rack, so to speak, I come to one conclusion...

I need to bring a darn book to the gym from now on.

If a woman wants to understand what a man is thinking, she should put down the silly magazine and go ask him, I suppose.

If a man wants to learn about women, he should listen to them, not count on either Maxim or Cosmo to fill him in.

A wise friend of mine likes to start every conversation by asking a simple question: "So, tell me something interesting."

I've adopted the trick. Whether it is your kids, someone you've known for years, or someone you meet for the first time just that moment, it makes a person think, and if you are patient and persistent, you often get something more enlightening than the typically mumbled "um, fine, you?" response.

Try it yourself. You might learn something.

It seems my quest for enlightenment in the cardio room magazine rack has gone somewhat astray. But my heart was in the right place, ladies. And hey, I've not got some killer recipes for low-carb pasta dishes.

And should we collide, friends, male or female, I might not understand you one iota, but be prepared. You may have to tell me something interesting, and that is a decent place to start.