When I'm in the supermarket checkout line, I always look at Cosmopolitan magazine to see if the editors have made any progress in their ongoing effort to figure out men.
I'm sure you're familiar with Cosmopolitan ("Fun Fearless Female"). It's the one with the cover that always has a picture of a woman who looks as though she has a prestigious and rewarding executive career as a hooker. Roughly half the articles in Cosmopolitan are devoted to explaining how you, the Cosmo reader, can make yourself look like the cover model. All you have to do is follow the two-step Cosmo Beauty Regimen:
STEP ONE: Using a combination of fun and fearless beauty procedures such as the Eyebrow Yank, the Hot Wax Torture, the Hydrochloric Acid Skin Peel, the Hoover Vacuum Home Spleen Removal, the Cage of Thigh-Eating Wolverines and the Industrial Drain Cleaner Enema, you remove all of the physical elements that make you unattractive, such as your fat, hair, skin, fingerprints and internal organs. At this point, you are essentially a skeleton with eyeballs, or, to put it another way, Ally McBeal.
STEP TWO: You smear your entire self with a complex system of foundations, bases, creams, lotions, gels, powders, moisturizers, conditioners, mousses, sprays, mascaras, eyeliners, lip glosses, enzymes, lacquers, organic papaya-enhanced roofing tars, etc., until you are encased inside an impenetrable layer of beauty products thick enough that there is no way for anybody to tell, without giving you a CAT scan, what you actually look like. You could be a Shetland pony under there.
Once you have achieved this fun and female "look," it's time for you to get started on the other topic that is discussed endlessly in Cosmopolitan: Figuring out what men want. It's a tough one! Cosmopolitan editors wrestle with it day and night, and they're constantly announcing new breakthroughs. Pick up any issue, and you'll see articles like:
"23 Ways To Drive Him Wild In Bed!"
"127 Ways To Make Him Want To Get Naked Right In the Foyer!"
"387 Ways To Make Him Completely Lose Biological Control Of Himself While He Is Still In the Driveway!"
Over the decades, Cosmopolitan has printed literally thousands of sure-fire techniques for driving men insane with passion. If these techniques actually worked, by now the entire male population of the United States would have been wiped out by lust, literally exploding into little mushroom clouds of vaporized bodily fluids.
But this has not happened, except in the case of President Clinton. The problem, I think, is that Cosmopolitan is making this issue way more complicated than it actually is. I mean, we're talking about MEN here. You don't need rocket science to drive them wild in bed: All you need to do is to get in there with them. Or, just leave them alone for a while. Because men don't need much. Using a complex, sophisticated technique to get a man excited is like preparing a gourmet French meal for a Labrador retriever.
So I think Cosmopolitan is trying too hard. In fact, it may be doing women more harm than good. For example, the August issue has a feature entitled "What To Say To Make Him Ache For You Whisper these frisky phrases if you wish to drive him wild." One of the frisky phrases Cosmopolitan advises you to whisper to men is really "We'd better hurry home, because at midnight I turn into a vixen." This frisky phrase might actually alarm the man, especially if he knows that the dictionary defines "vixen" as "an ill-tempered, shrewish, or malicious woman." Basically, you're telling the man he could suddenly find himself in bed with Lorena Bobbitt.
Another frisky phrase suggested by Cosmopolitan is get ready "My bikini waxer went a little overboard." Listen, women: If you actually say those words to a man, he's going to assume you want him to take you to the Emergency Room.
So my advice to the editors of Cosmopolitan is: Just drop this subject for a while. Trust me: Even without technical advice from you, your women readers will have no trouble getting men excited, as long as the men are aware (and believe me, they are) that the women, underneath their clothes, are not wearing clothes.
And consider this: If you Cosmopolitan editors stopped obsessing about men, you could focus your brainpower on the Middle East Peace Process, health care, Social Security or the federal budget surplus. I bet you could give us some important insights into these issues! Or at least tell us how to drive them wild in bed.
Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald.