Fitness magazines addicting for the dreamy possibilities
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By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer
The other day, I was flipping through the pages of a men's health and fitness magazine, and hoping no one could see what I was reading.
It drew me in, and I was sort of embarrassed by the experience. You'd think I was reading a Playboy in church or a comic book at the public library.
And yet, I kept looking. Heck, I couldn't turn away. It creeped me out.
The men and women in this magazine lived on a fantasy planet. Nobody I knew looked or behaved like them.
I couldn't decide if this is what men were all about or just what they dreamed about.
The worst thing you could say about them, at least in polite company, was that it appeared that they had shaved just about all the hair off their bodies, giving them an oddly effeminate quality.
These people were too perfect. Perfect abs, perfect biceps, perfectly outrageous sex lives.
And if they had a problem, any problem at all, this magazine appeared to have an answer. Solutions were splashed on nearly every page with breathless exclamation.
"Look Your Best in Two Minutes or Less!"
"Seduce Her in 60 Seconds!"
"The Better-Sex Diet Plan!"
"25 Quick Fixes for Stressed-out Guys."
What would prompt anyone to read this stuff?
More to the point, why was I reading this stuff? I didn't know. Maybe I had ab envy.
Later on, at home, this sent me to the bathroom mirror for one of those mid-life gut checks that guys engage in, whether they admit it or not.
It wasn't too depressing an experience, but it got me thinking.
Nobody wants to read about regular guys living ordinary lives. We're too boring.
Nobody wants to read about someone's pony-keg-shaped stomach or how fathers juggle a dead-end job, life in the suburbs and their family's mundane demands.
They don't want to read about a guy's prostate cancer or his vasectomy. I know I don't.
Then I figured it out.
Men are addicted to the dreamy power of possibility.
Every page I turned to was a testimony to hope and discipline. If you followed a plan and worked hard, beautiful women would fall at your feet and the world would be yours.
Well, at the very least, you'd have a better body and a whole lot of nice clothes.
This wasn't about accepting who you are and what you look like, because, let's face it: For most of us, that's how it's always going to be.
This magazine, and those like it, was escape, but you'd always wake up from that dream of a better life.
Perhaps, like some late-night infomercial, this magazine needed an asterisk and a fine-print cautionary statement on its cover: Results Not Typical.
Not that any men would read it. We men are vain. Gullible, too. And we don't want to know the truth all the time.
So why was I reading this stuff?
I still don't know. But I don't subscribe.
Reach Mike Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-8012.