Cosmo and Maxim teach us the skills of loving.
Each month like clockwork, men's and women's magazines hit the newsstands, bursting with terrible sex and dating advice. And each month, we pick out the worst tips and mock them for your edification.
About a week ago, I was having dinner with a group that included a couple in their sixties. They were fun; the kind of oldsters who still have dinner at 9:30, drink wine ‘til they blush, and flirt with young waiters. The woman was reminiscing about some youthful misadventures — eating caviar in the ‘80s, a hotel in Portugal with clawfoot tubs — when she paused for a toast of sorts: “You know, kids, we should all be so grateful. Because there are so many people who never get to travel, or eat at nice restaurants… or have really incredible orgasms.” The last word teetered for a second on the edge of funny and uncomfortable. Then she followed it up with a motherly admonishment: “You kids are having great sex, right?” like a gentle reminder to quit smoking or take more vitamin C.
For a moment, all us youngsters gazed sadly into our soup, shamed by her radiance. Was it true? Were we not just the first generation likely to be poorer than our parents, but also the first likely to be pruder? And then we dispensed with the oldsters and had a magnificent four-gy on my Polynesian fuck-swing, replete with laughter, communication, and lion-like orgasms.
Not really. My apartment isn’t even zoned for a fuck-swing. But it did get me thinking. Sex is important. Relationships are important. We should all be trying our best to do our best.
In that same spirit, Maxim and Cosmopolitan are focused this month on teaching us good relationship skills. They are also shaming our forebears.
In something of a surprise move, Maxim has devoted several full pages (sorry sexy freshwomen, try again next month!) to actual relationships — teaching men how to be better boyfriends. With things like this:
Buy your way out of woman trouble. Gone are the days when you could just say “I’m sorry” with a boombox serenade.
An article listing the mistakes you might make, and the compensatory gifts that will help you recover! I’m going to try to write about this without harping on the stupid-if-not-insulting premise (men can trick women into liking them with gifts) in an effort to not be dull. Instead, I’d like to know if Maxim’s readers even know what a boombox is. The iPod came out over a decade ago. If you're old enough to remember what a boombox is, you should not be reading Maxim. Fact.
Screwup: “You forgot to pick her up at the airport at 2 a.m. — because you were drunk.”
Gift: Tickets to a show. Live near New York or LA? Suck it up and finally go see Wicked.
I’ve noticed that all of these screwups are presented in obnoxious contexts to make it seem as if you’re secretly awesome instead of absent-minded or thoughtless (“You forgot her birthday, because you were hijacking the Truckasaurus.”). Picking your girlfriend up is kind of lame, but getting drunk is totally rad!
But that’s not the crime here, folks. Wicked? Is your girlfriend actually a nine-year old who still thinks she’s going to be a professional ballerina? Are you on that reality show where they try to get on Glee?
Screwup: She found out you weren’t really sick the day of your cousin Danny’s bar mitzvah: You stayed home to watch the ball game.
Gift: This gift requires the gift of time, so schedule a trip.
Again, the editors obviously phrased this to portray the guy who stayed home as a kind of lawless ubermensch. But you can watch a ball game and be sick. I don’t really think this counts as a screw-up unless you had a party or went to one of those ball-game watching bars. Because then you’re not telling a little white lie to get out of something you hate (which, used sparingly, can be a good relationship strategy), you’re just plain hurting feelings. Which makes you a dick.
Screwup: You slept with her sister… by accident! It was so dark!
Gift: Nothing says “I’m a dog” like a puppy! They’re cute, require constant attention, and referring to it as “our puppy” is the ultimate sign of commitment.
I really want to think that this is a joke. I want to think that because I’ve noticed there are a lot more sister-affairs in magazines than in the real world. They’re setting up an archetypal cheating scenario, so obviously, the gift-giving thing is similarly in humor, right?
Because, holy shit, an actual living dog is the worst, least responsible gift that anyone could ever give anyone — except for an actual living baby that they stole in a shopping cart from the supermarket. Also, saying “our puppy” is not the ultimate sign of commitment. Saying “I’ve never had penetrative sex with any of your blood relatives” is the ultimate sign of commitment.
On the feminine side of the magazine rack, we’re also learning about love. This month’s lesson is called
“Love skills: Feel closer after a fight.”
So skip the pouty phase and get right back to the orgasms you’ll remember when you’re old.
Bad news: When you’re pissed at each other, your bodies are pumping with adrenaline, which can leave you both on edge.
Good news: Eating carbs can take away that jittery feeling, since it ups the serotonin in your brain which stabilizes your mood. To get the healthy benefits, heat up some nachos (made with reduced fat cheese)…”
Is it good news to know that — scientifically — eating makes you happier? Also, you have reduced-fat nachos sitting around in your fridge waiting to be reheated? That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.
“The move that makes him forgive you… ”
Tilt your head so that you’re gazing up, exposing your neck. This is a submissive posture that lets him know you genuinely understand you’re in the wrong….
Or you could just go full-out supine, and lie on your back in front of him, pawing at your chesticles with limp wrists. This will arouse and bewilder him, or excite his canine sense of superiority. (And, bonus! If he takes it too far and bites your neck, he totally has to buy you a Beanie Baby.)
“A little mind trick that helps you move on… ”
It can be tough to forget about an obnoxious thing your guy did, even when you’ve forgiven him. So let yourself replay it in your mind twice. After that, when you start to dwell, close your eyes and tilt your head back. It takes a few seconds for your head to adjust, so it’ll be easier to let go of the thought.
This seems belittling to me. You know what else finds it easy to forget things after a few disorienting seconds? A goldfish. But if that’s really where you’re at, put something shiny on your ceiling, so that when you open your eyes, you’ll go from, “He’s jerk, he’s a jerk,” to “Ooh, pretty!”
And that’s where we’ll leave it this month. There’s so much more we could talk about, but in the spirit of making our grandparents proud, we should all get off the internet and go find real people. See you next month.