Being male never really came naturally to me, so I started reading Maxim back when I was still in the Air Force. The AF was an environment where it really paid off to make sure people saw you a real manly man, well, unless you came in there looking like a woman, but I didn’t have that advantage. I know you Army ground pounders and Marine jar-heads will guffaw at the very notion of the importance of being a tough guy airman, but that is mainly because you all picked on us so much for being wussy. Yes, I left the Navy out on purpose because let’s be honest, you put a dude in a white bell bottom sailor suit and he has to work twice as hard, especially thanks to the Village People. Anyway, I sucked at this, so I started reading Maxim.
Maxim is a magazine conceived in the late 90’s to fill the niche market of providing men something to read in a typical 2 hour bathroom stay. The niche used to be occupied by Playboy, but that led to a lot of unsavory speculation about what was taking so damn long anyway. While Maxim does contain the obligatory T&A, the advent of the internet rendered lingerie and bikini shots to dustbin of self gratification along with the Victoria Secret catalog and that issue of National Geographic with the half naked Zulu women. Aside from cheesy posed pics, it contains lot of articles written at a 6th grade reading level dealing with topics like women ( how to get them, please then, not piss them off, and get away with stuff with them), grilling, sports, amazing true tales of adventure, bawdy jokes, and how to do things a guy should presumably know how to do. Essentially, it’s Cosmo for men.
I thought Maxim was a gold mine. I didn’t know how to do any of this shit and it showed. I was baffled by my woman problem. I understood women just fine, I never quite understood the whole big mystery guys were always talking about, but that didn’t translate into actually attracting them and such. I looked to Maxim to teach me and even bought the supplement ‘100 Ways to Pick Up Women’. It didn’t help. In fact, the majority of it involved a lot of trickery and made me feel slimy to even contemplate trying. In the end, I used one tactic. I spritzed a tiny bit of my cologne on to my ex’s pillow before leaving (it was a long distance relationship) so she would think of me. I’ve never been totally sure if it worked.
I also didn’t know how to do other manly stuff, except for repair related activities my dad showed me. I could whip up a perfect quiche, but put me on the grill and you were looking at either a hockey puck or nice little case of e coli poisoning. This troubled me for many years because I understood mastering the grill was essential in guy culture, and managed to tout myself as a certified grill-meister in spite of the endless string of fuck ups I attributed to increasingly unlikely circumstances. This was my secret shame for many years, and it was ever so gratifying to unburden myself from the yoke of the BBQ tongs and hand them over to someone who knew what they were doing.
Maxim also painted a compelling picture that as a guy, I was expected to know how to survive extreme wilderness hardship and possibly fight bears, sharks, and mountain lions. It seemed this was a relatively common thing because there was a new story every issue and I could only assume they picked the best out of hundreds available. I found this worrisome. I had been camping many times before and clearly wasn’t doing it right. How manly could I possibly be if I didn’t have one story in my repertoire that involved a showdown with a cougar? In either sense of the term for that matter. I wasn’t exactly jazzed to have this happen, and it put me in a real pickle as I knew my tale would carry less weight if it involved me wetting myself or running off screaming. I resolved to camp less.
It took several years, but eventually I was able to admit to myself I was never going to be a Maxim Man. I was married, presumably forever, and since the majority of the information revolved around getting girls I felt I no longer needed this advice. I also found a reduced need for information regarding pub crawls, hunting, bear attacks, and anything involving fast moving balls flying at you. It just wasn’t a fit, though at the time I was in no way ready to admit why.
I will admit though, that early in my transition I did become a Cosmo Girl for at least a bit. It was fun, made me feel good and there were absolutely no articles about grilling to rub salt in the old wound. Cosmo girls don’t grill I guess, or maybe there is big minefield I’m about to walk into when it pops up that women are born with such a natural gift, reading about it is pointless. I eventually gave this up as well. I’m no longer 25, and really don’t care what ‘he’ is thinking about in bed or otherwise, and the fashion advice was making me look like a badly aged Olsen twin. Now it’s just me and Buffalo Spree.