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Whenever I have a hard time coming up with subject matter for this column, I either write about the dog, my most recent trip to the commissary or something from the deep, dark past that I’m finally willing to reveal.

This week, I am taking option Number 3.

Now that more than four years have passed, I’m no longer embarrassed to write about the time I accidentally subscribed to a "men’s magazine," and there wasn’t even a man living with us at the time!

The boys and I were on our own for a second year in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, while Ron spent a year on Okinawa. It was cold and a little bit lonely, but we made the best of things and tried not to get into too much trouble.

Still, there are probably more stories to tell from that year than any other in recent Zich history.

For example, I had no idea when I ordered Stuff magazine from a salesperson at our door that it would arrive in a plain brown wrapper. From underneath that wrapper peeked a curvaceous young beauty in a very uncomfortable-looking position.

Jimmy, Tommy and Ronnie were 11, 9 and 6 at the time. Jimmy was the only one who showed the slightest interest in the matter.

He found it hilarious that his mom had subscribed to a "dirty" magazine and couldn’t wait to tell all of his friends.

What actually happened is that I had misinterpreted the name of the magazine. When I ordered it, I assumed Stuff was a shopping magazine and was looking forward to checking out all the pages of the latest fashions.

Instead, what I found were lots of articles and ads for men’s cologne, beer, video games and cars. It was basically a magazine for grown-up men who are still little boys at heart.

When Ron called from Okinawa and I told him about my subscription to Stuff, he informed me that it was one of those magazines that was only offered under the counter at the PX.

Later, I discovered it had also been banned at Wal-Mart because it published photos that were "as close to nudity as you could get."

Instead of cancelling the magazine, I let curiosity get the best of me and just waited for the subscription to run out. Every month, I would thumb through it, read the celebrity interviews and try to figure out what is so fascinating about computers and wide-screen TVs.

And do civilian men really worry that much about their hair?

My one-year subscription to Stuff magazine ran out about the same time Ron came back to the United States and we moved to Virginia.

I later found out that the magazine went out of publication and is now occasionally featured as a special section of Maxim magazine.

With the holiday season approaching, I would not be surprised to find Stuff reappearing in the middle of that magazine to guide readers into making the wisest selection of this year’s colognes, video games and electronics

Personally, I will resist the urge to pick up a copy and see for myself. It is just not the right kind of Stuff for me.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has been married to a Marine for 18 years and currently lives in Springfield, Va. You may e-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or visit her Web site at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.


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