for the first time in my life, I felt like a Cosmo Girl. Braving the evident disapproval of the sullen clerk at my local White Hen, I had just purchased a copy of Cosmopolitan: All About Men, the legendary gal mag's annual guide to real guys. Opening the magazine, I felt like a voyeur at some secret all-gal sleepover. "Here are 90 awesome available men," the editors gushed. "We'll take you inside their heads, inside their hearts and yes, inside their pants, which isn't such a bad place to spend the summer."
Unlike, say, Playboy's Playmates or Esquire's Women We Love -- expert creations of plastic surgery, photo-retouching and more-or-less unbridled male fantasy -- Cosmo's guys are actual human beings, with real jobs and addresses and everything. Now, I had no great interest in getting into any of these guys' mailboxes, much less their pants. But the magazine seemed to offer me something even more valuable than that: the chance to see the masculine ideal in the flesh. I've always wanted to know what women are looking for when they give guys the once over twice. Cosmo's All About Men promised me an answer to that old question -- I think it was one of Freud's: "What do Cosmo Girls want?"
Well, after studying the magazine for some time, I remain as baffled as ever by the elusive ingredients of the masculine mystique -- mystified as to what it is that these guys have got that I haven't. Sure, some of Cosmo's "Great Guys" look like they've just stepped out of a Calvin Klein underwear ad, or perhaps the set of "Baywatch" -- partly because several of them actually have, including the cover boy, "Baywatch babe" Michael Bergin. True, they seem rather excessively active, skiing and snowboarding and doing those outdoor activities that I've heard so much about. And most of them seem to be earning perhaps a little more than the average amount of green.
But for the most part these fellows look, well, suspiciously ordinary -- unmemorable characters leading mostly unmemorable lives. There's a sales executive from Atlanta who likes women who are "beautiful and outgoing." A salesman from Wisconsin who "really love[s his] mom" and doesn't like gals with "a bunch of phony stories to tell." A stock trader from New Orleans who's turned on by a "confident, happy woman who knows who she is and where she's going." Mr. Arizona, a sports television producer, "love[s] to laugh, can't pass up ice cream, and my two favorite people in the world are my parents." Mr. Michigan, a "Ford team-process leader" (whatever that is), admits he's "turned on" by "athletic women" -- though he's quick to add that "I'm not into 'Crying Game'-type surprises." (Apparently he's had some problems with former Eastern Bloc athletes.)
I put the magazine down discouraged. Was this what women really wanted? With my sedentary life, my love of bad television and bitter women, my sheer overwhelming negativity, was I destined to remain forever outside the boundaries of the masculine ideal?
Then I realized the problem. These "great guys" are only "great guys" to Cosmo Girls. I don't know any Cosmo Girls -- at least none who make a career of it -- and, heck, I don't even want to. For women with more varied reading tastes, I realized, the male ideal would be a little more capacious.
I began to look about the magazines littering my apartment and to wonder: What if, say, the Nation adopted the "All About Men" formula and put out its own special issue? Or, I don't know, Social Text? Or Tikkun?
THE NATION: All About Men
Name: Victor N. Occupation: Thrifty editor
I'm turned on by: Ethel Rosenberg
I'm turned off by: Whittaker Chambers
My ideal woman: Can name all of the Scottsboro Boys from memory.
My dream date would: Take place in a society free of classism, sexism, racism and all other forms of oppression.
My motto: "The Rosenbergs were framed!"
Nobody knows that I: Have a secret crush on Arianna Huffington.
SOCIAL TEXT: "All" About "Men" (Recognizing the Constructed Nature of All So-called "Gender Categories" under Patriarchal Corporate Capitalism)
Name: "Jurgen" Occupation: Hermenuticist
I'm turned on by: Legitimization crises
I'm turned off by: Postmodern consumer capitalism, Alan Sokal
My ideal woman: Would have to be approved by the entire Social Text Collective.
My dream date: Would adopt a concept of "positionality" that allows for a determinate though fluid identity of "woman" that does not fall into essentialism. After that, dinner and a movie. (Dutch treat, natch.)
My motto: "The sudden fluorescence of the tribal, therefore, rests on a certain break or rupture with the powers of some putative universal reason which has been invested, in a Weberian turn of phrase, with a certain disenchantment, a radical doubt that ultimately undermines the symbolic order upon which reason rests."
Nobody knows that I: Don't really know what the word "fluorescence" means.
THE GLOBE: All About Men Celeb Sex Romp Shocker!
Name: Frank G . Occupation: Former sports great, celebrity hubby
I'm turned on by: Steamy hotel sex romps with blond former stewardesses.
I'm turned off by: Steamy hotel sex romps with blond former stewardesses who have been wired for sound by supermarket tabloids.
My ideal woman is: Perky.
Nobody knows that I: Have steamy hotel sex romps with blond former stewardesses. Well, until recently, nobody did know.
My dream date would be: Not captured on videotape by a supermarket tabloid.
My motto: "I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. I'm really really sorry. I'm really really really sorry. I'm really really really really sorry. Boy, oh boy, am I sorry."
TIKKUN: All About Mensch
Name: Michael L. Occupation: Moral and Spiritual Inspiration to Millions
I'm turned on by: The Politics of Meaning, the sound of my own voice.
I'm turned off by: Mean people, my declining influence on certain highly placed officials.
My ideal woman is: Committed to a world in which loving and caring and solidarity are no longer so marginalized, in which the ethical and spiritual truths that we affirm in our personal lives are no longer dismissed as "idealistic" and in which corporations no longer discourage people from recognizing each other as miracles who deserve love and respect. Also, she should have big boobs.
My dream date: Due to the financial exigencies of publishing a caring, progressive journal in a time of me-first cynicism, it would involve a certain degree of fund-raising.
Nobody knows that I: Like to write letters to myself and publish them under assumed names. Well, nobody did know.
My motto: "Don't let's talk about the letters. Let's talk about you and me, baby."
ESQUIRE: All About Manly Men
Name: Esky Occupation: Mascot
I'm turned on by: Gals young enough to be my daughter, the fact that Rogaine is now available over-the-counter.
I'm turned off by: The passage of time, the price of Rogaine.
My ideal woman is: Somewhere between Jeane Kirkpatrick and Gene Simmons, between Christie and David Brinkley. A diabolical hybrid of Joan of Arc, Bettie Page, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Aileen Wournos. She's just discovered that she is a lesbian. There's nothing pretentious about her; there is something that is all woman. She's not only quite a horseman but reportedly also adept at riding two-legged animals. She's vulnerable, worn-out, shell-shocked by the assaultive publicity. She makes me look like a genius. She can post and toast. I know what life would be like if I bumped into her on the way to the bathroom. She brings to the screen incandescent glimpses of some luminous, deeper knowingness. She's naked. She's 16 going on full Diva. I ejaculate her name whenever I ejaculate. Also, she should have big boobs.
My dream date would: Kiss like Kathryn Harrison.
My motto: "Come to papa!"
Nobody knows that I: Haven't had an original thought since 1968.