Last year, I stumbled across a book of essays written by survivors—men who had experienced shark attacks, bull gorings, plane crashes, avalanches, volcanic eruptions, killer bees—you name it—and miraculously lived to tell the tale. Some were the kind of men you respected enormously; others you pitied deeply: Wow, I don't know how you ever got through it, you crazy bastard. I'm a guy who wakes up every morning, downs a cup of coffee, and rides the subway to an office made up almost entirely of women…53, at last count.
For the past four years, I've been part of the team that produces O, the Oprah Magazine. Officially, I'm the deadline enforcer—the big guy who makes the trains run on time. In reality I'm treated less like Mussolini and more like a furry mascot. Monday through Friday, I smile at nicknames (Slick, Thug, Bad Cop), eat leftovers placed on my desk by calorie-counting editors (grape leaves, guacamole, birthday cupcakes frosted in calamine pink), answer questions (How does a VCR work? Is there such a thing as a bad blow job?), deal with emergencies (temperature not right; funny smell in the art department; Starbursts are not chocolate, damn it—I need a KitKat!), sidestep combustible situations (The fluorescent lights wash everyone out. Really! I'd love to go out with you later, but my dog has sunstroke. Really!).
Ask me anything. I mean it. Lasers versus waxing? Gypsy versus The Vagina Monologues? I now have an opinion. Clogged milk duct? I'm your man. From hot flashes to broken nails, I feel your pain. You got the cramps, I got the Advil. Sure, a Navy SEAL might be able to defuse a percussion grenade under enemy fire, but I'd like to see him deal with Susan's creepy contractor, Sudie's paint chip dilemma, Pat's missing bathing suit, Amy's lost necklace, Lisa's screwed-up computer, the great nanny crisis of 2003, a Pap smear appointment here, an unfortunate hair highlight situation there, crummy boyfriends, husbands, mothers, diets.
But I have to confess: I like working here in the middle of it all. I enjoy being a fly on the conference room wall. I'm grateful for the unedited advice. To work here is to have 53 sisters, many of whom are willing to debate the pros and cons of the Rabbit vibrator. It's a love-hate thing. Freud said men don't know what women really want. But from the solitary comfort of the empty men's room, I think I can say I sort of do.
Nick Leiber may be job hunting.
From the June 2004 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
We Hear You!