Monday, January 16, 2012

Why I.D.I.O.T.S. Should Read YA

I ran through the secret underground facility clutching an armful of YA books. At the end of a long hallway I slid to a stop at a command center filled with the biggest bunch of I.D.I.O.T.S. in the world.

I.D.I.O.T.S: Intelligent Dudes Interested in Order, Tidiness and Structure. Most guys belong to their local chapter.

Our secret society developed uniform policies and minimum standards so that all I.D.I.O.T.S. behaved the same way. Thanks to us, a wedgie delivered in Spokane had the same “flavor” as one administered in Detroit.

I took in the room. Monitors displayed live feeds from all over the world as staticky chatter streamed from squawk boxes at each station. Supercomputers at the back of the room crunched numbers continuously, deciphering important man-questions:
  • How many weeks without a shower before a guy develops sepsis?
  • Can a dude die from not trimming his toenails?
  • Why can't you wash dishes in bong water?
I dropped the books on a conference table.

“One, two, three, eyes on me!” I yelled.

“Did we finally aerosolize bacon?” asked a British teen, his face lighting up with childlike hope.

“No, Albert, not yet. Guys, at oh-eight-hundred this morning I completed work on Project Z.”

“What eez thees Proyect Zeta?” asked Juarez.

“Project Z was started a few years ago when we realized guys were reading fewer and fewer young adult books.” I pulled a thumb-drive from my pocket and plugged it into a nearby computer. A chart popped up on their screens. “This will explain one of our earliest discoveries related to that question. As you can see, if current trends continue, by 2020 teen male intellect will begin to retrograde. We'll start losing I.Q. points. Eventually, our average score will fall below zero. This is very serious.”

“So's my Johnson.” This was greeted with laughter and raucous high-fiving; a few guys did the robot.

I grabbed a PA mic and keyed it twice near a speaker. The screeching feedback got their attention.

“See, this is exactly what I'm talking about. We're missing the big picture because we sit here in our little bubble joking about epic senior ditch parties and how funny the name of that burger place is.”

“der Wienerschnitzel?”

“No.”

“In-N-Out?”

“No.”

“Fuddruckers?”

“That's the one. My point is, if we spent less time burping the alphabet and more time reading YA, we could achieve one of our greatest goals.”

“Aerosolized bacon, wot?”

“No! Sit down, Albert! I am talking about intimacy with a mate.”

They looked at me with silent, wide-eyed stares. Then came the drool.

“Yes, that kind of intimacy, too. But what I'm talking about is something more important. True intimacy, friendship, real communion with another human being.”

I saw the “herp?” in their eyes; I was going to have to draw them a map.

“Look, every single one of us expends inordinate amounts of money and time on things like Axe Body Spray and subscriptions to Maxim because we think those things make us irresistible to girls.”

“Derp,” they mumbled in agreement.

“But Project Z says that's all wrong.”

“But women are on every cover of Maxim! Those guys must understand them!”

“No, Basilevsky, they don't. No more than Axe knows what sexy smells like. Turns out women think Axe smells like the butt end of a butt. Project Z tells us we should focus our efforts elsewhere.”

“There is no elsewhere!” someone yelled.

“Yes, there is. We could remember anniversaries, watch something other than torture-porn on date night, treat our girlfriends to a nice meal now and then, one that doesn't come with a toy surprise. I'm telling you, it is possible to fathom the nature of what girls like.”

Conflicting, angry voices screamed out “Impossible!” and “Girls are inscrutable!” and “They're like an Atari wrapped inside a Playstation wrapped inside a Wii wrapped inside an X-Box!”

But a few had their mouths open, their minds struggling to find purchase on the slippery slope of realization.

“How do you know all this?” asked a kid named Hideo.

“It's all right here.” I pointed at the books scattered on the conference table. “Project Z analyzed them. Initially it was to figure out what was missing, why we weren't reading them.”

“I thought we already knew why,” a guy named Rubio said. “Not enough car chases, boobies, beer, explosions, boobies, Fight Club, and boobies. Plus no dinosaurs.”

“We thought we understood the problem. But as Project Z dug deeper, we found this.” I pressed a button and a second chart replaced the first. “Comic books have been amping up exactly what we said we wanted and yet look at this downward slope. Male readership of comics is also declining. I assumed there must be something else missing. To find out what it was, I read these books myself.”

“All of them? There's gotta be at least a gigantillion words in there!”

“That's right, Winslow. And gigantillion isn't one of them. I'll admit, it was hard going at first. There was talk about feelings--”

“Ewwww!”

“--and romance--”

“Ackkkkk!”

“--and love.” A few of them wretched into their Slurpee cups. “But as I kept reading, I discovered that, not only are they great reads, but everything we claimed was missing has been there from the beginning.”

“Car chases?”

“Yes.” I pointed to one of the books.

“Drugs?”

“Uh-huh.” I lifted four books from the pile.

“Violence?”

“Yup. I realized 'what's missing from YA?' is the wrong question. So I asked a different question: 'what are we missing in YA?' Project Z answered that question and discovered something monumental in the process.”

“Aerosolized bacon? No?”

“No, Albert, it was this: within these books lies the secret to what women think is cool. Since most YA is written by women, reading lots of YA gives us a picture of what women appreciate and value, what they think is sexy. It's like having access to their collective wisdom.”

I looked around the room. Even with the air conditioning, sweat beaded on every face. Some of them clutched themselves to control the shakes. These I.D.I.O.T.S were on the edge.

And it was time to give them a shove.

“Women know what they want. And we ain't it.”

The room exploded into chaos. A brawl broke out. Winslow shook a two-liter bottle of soda and sprayed it up his own nose. Albert jumped on a table and screeched like a monkey, throwing donuts at anyone who came near. Juarez just kept yelling “Soylent Verde es gente!” over and over.

There was no uncutting this cheese.

I keyed the mic, stood on a chair and raised my fist. “Listen to me! We've been trying to match a male ideal promulgated by I.D.I.O.T.S.! But we can change! Read these books! All the way through, not just the table of contents. That's like only ironing the front of your shirt and then keeping your hoodie on all day. Read these books and look up the words you don't understand! You will finally know what a real man smells like! And guess what? It ain't Axe!”

A primal growl echoed off the walls. Hideo threw a chair at the mainframes. Sparks and blue smoke filled the room. As small fires popped up and spread, Rubio made warpaint out of ground pencil lead and spit. Several of the smaller guys stripped naked, lifted themselves into the overhead ducts and scampered away into other parts of the facility.

Through the smoke, those who remained looked like Neanderthals, hooting and howling as they burned the hive-mind to the ground.

Project Z had opened Pandora's box. But as I had read in one of the many books now being scooped up and leafed through by hairy-armed proto-beings, the last thing to emerge from Pandora's Box is hope.

Well, that and the faint smell of body spray.

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