1. HAVE SEX ON A PLANE.
Normally, this kind of thing should be written by someone who has actually had sex on an airplane. But I have never had sex on an airplane, and I have come to the realization that I’m going to be okay. If I find out I have a rare blood disorder that will kill me in four days, I’m not going to sit around wishing I’d bent some woman over the sink 30,000 feet above Halifax. Well, not for more than like five seconds, anyway. Sex in public places is fun. (Like on trains.) But being expected to have sex on a commercial jetliner at some point in your life kind of takes the fun out of it. You’re just coaxing your girlfriend into the lavatory so you don’t feel like a loser the next time someone asks you if you’re in the Mile High Club. It’s one of many stupid things we weakly accept as a metric of manhood. It’s uncomfortable enough to even sit on an airplane, let alone grapple with complex anatomical physics near a vacuum-flush toilet.—Devin Friedman
2. TAME A WILD HORSE.
3. GO TO GRACELAND.
4. JOIN A FOOD CO-OP.
I know, I know. The prices are great. The vegetables are stunningly fresh—carrots brighter than highway cones, lettuce as crisp as Doritos. I know that a local food co-op is a good community business, one that supports small farmers instead of scary agribusinesses, like the big corporate supermarkets do. But I don’t have to mop the big corporate supermarket. To join my local food co-op, I have to put in a couple of unpaid hours a month, and I don’t want to do it. Not because I’m afraid of hard labor; I just don’t want to become one of those food—co-op people—you know, the folks who know too much about coffee-bean production and get a little righteous about shiitake mushrooms. I’ll stick to the big corporate supermarket, where what I don’t know may, in fact, kill me, but at least I don’t have to punch in.—Jason Gay
5. COME TO TERMS WITH YOUR ANGER.
6. GET A MOWHAWK.
I didn’t feel sick exactly, but nervous and spacey, as Damien, the haircut guy, shaved half my head. He sensed my confidence caving and boosted me up, said it would look great. He had a Mohawk, too, so obviously he liked them. “It looks very professional,” he said when he finished.
I walked outside, diaper bag over my shoulder, eating a free lollipop, and pushing the baby in the stroller. I could feel the air dancing on my skull, like a thick layer of cold cream cheese. It was Saturday night on 18th Street, and the sidewalk was packed, and I wanted to get home. I was 41 years old, I had a Mohawk, and I wanted my hair back.
That next morning, walking outside to my car, I couldn’t breathe. I moved frozenly, praying nobody would connect this head with me. My neighbor, a geriatric physician, his all-knowing, all-nosy wife, and their kids pulled up in their van. I went back inside and canceled my adjustment at the chiropractor. I couldn’t do it. Look at me. I’m ridiculous.
It has been a week now, and I’m shaving it off soon. It took me four days just to show the nanny, Blanca, who spends six hours a day in my house. I wore a corduroy ski hat until I couldn’t stand it anymore, and then called out from around the corner, with my head showing, and warned her not to be afraid. She laughed and said I needed an earring, so I figured nobody cared.
I guess there was a time, maybe around 1973, maybe in London, when the Mohawk stood for defiance. My senior year in high school, the toughest jocks on the lacrosse team gave themselves Mohawks, and ever since I’ve thought of it as an act of intensity and testicular showmanship. But in the twenty years since high school, I’ve come to see hairdos like this one as an admission of utter defeat, and I’ve come to hate people who walk around with overt hair or self-mutilation statements; I think, Hey, idiot, try getting attention from some real accomplishment. I’m not looking at you. But maybe the reason I ended up with this on my head is that I feel that defeat, too, a little bit more lately. I’ve had my ups and downs.
I guess in these past six days, walking to the grocery store, watching the faces of old men as I join them in the YMCA Jacuzzi, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the act of elective self-destruction. Now when I see the heavily tattooed arms of a waiter, I feel a twinge of recognition. It’s a sign, but not of defiance, or of defeat. There’s something about exposing the flanks of your head while the top stays hairy as a way to confess your suffering. Like scars from a real suicide attempt, it’s an admission of desperation and fragility, except that this, thank God, grows out in a few weeks.
And it will be gone soon. But even now, I’ll still forget I have it on my head until I catch my reflection. Then I’ll examine the peach fuzz on the sides and the rooster tail on top, and I’ll smile, the way you smile when you see a homeless person, passed out on the sidewalk, by some chicken bones, in a great Hawaiian shirt.—Matthew Klam
7. ATTEND BURNING MAN.
8. UNDERSTAND THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY.
9. DELIVER A BABY WHILE TRAPPED IN AN ELEVATOR.
10. BE A DRUG MULE.
There are tons of neat things about working for drug dealers: You don’t have to pay taxes, you never have to wake up before noon, and you can pretty much wear whatever you want. But I’ve worked for drug dealers, and honestly, most of the time it’s a drag. Though you do little more than wait around while other people talk and talk and talk on the phone, those people on the phone can be kind of uptight. In fact, they’re dicks. The pay’s okay, but it often comes in the form of white powder that disappears in a single, fuzzy twenty-four-hour period. And while it made me feel like a badass, I’m not really sure I’d recommend it. The thrill is short-lived, and all you’re left with is the pathetic little story about the time you were young and stupid enough to fly with a brick of coke in your carry-on. And do you really want to be the guy who’s still telling that story when he’s 53?—Alden Gunn
11. CHANGE YOUR OWN OIL.
12. REMEMBER WHICH ONE’S MONTANA.
13. BIG-WAVE SURFING.
Small-wave surfing’s fun, too.
15. DROP ACID.
16. MEMORIZE THE U.S. PRESIDENTS IN ORDER.
17. GROW A MUSTACHE.
Irony has its limits. And when irony takes the form of bushy hair that grows on your upper lip, it can become quite a nuisance. It’s not the maintenance so much—the brushing and the trimming and having to carefully shave around it. It’s the sight of your hairy, stupid self in the bathroom mirror every morning. (Do you know what it’s like waking up with a hangover and a mustache?) There’s also the shame you feel when you see an old girlfriend or colleague. And the persistent urge you feel to inform every new person that you meet that, hey, you know, the mustache—it’s really just a goof. A lark. Zany, right? After a few weeks, it isn’t the mustache that you loathe, it’s just you. Silly, vain, unfuckable you. But irony, in this particular form, can do more than inspire deep self-hatred. Sometimes it can stink—like six hours after you’ve eaten some organic yogurt or slurped a half-dozen Malpeques. And the beauty part is, you’re the only one who has to smell it.—Mark Healy
18. HAVE A KID.
Kids will change your life. But what if you don’t want your life changed? What if you like having the freedom to, say, jet to South Beach for the weekend? Which would be great, of course, but it would mean you’d have to skip that dinner party and pass on the chance to spend the evening with four other parent-age couples as they go on and on and on about nannies, and school districts, and poopie!, and how last night one father slept only two hours (seriously, dude, two hours!) because little Max had the worst ear infection. Is it selfish not to bring another child into the world, care for him, and give him a quality life? Maybe. But there are plenty of charitable things you can do with your time. And I imagine Marc Jacobs will get by without selling one more $200 cashmere toddler sweater.—Reid Bixler
19. SWIM WITH SHARKS.
My fiancée and I were in Australia, and she wanted to “swim with sharks.” I, of course, said hell no. Jews don’t swim with sharks. She begged and pleaded and obliquely questioned my masculinity, so I relented. But we didn’t do it the way she wanted to—which was in a shark cage in the open ocean. We did it my way, in a shark tank up on land. I figured I’d rather they be captive in my world than the other way around. And the sharks weren’t the kind with scary names like great white or hammerhead. No, these sharks were nurse sharks. And that’s because they might as well wear little white skirts to work. They don’t eat people. In fact, they were completely nonchalant. So, after our jaunt with the nurses didn’t quite ignite my ex, she decided she wanted the great whites in the open ocean. She actually said, “Isn’t that something you want to do before you die?” I answered, “The list of things I have to do before I die doesn’t include things that might actually precipitate my death.” So I called off the wedding.—Michael Seitzman
20. VIDEOTAPE YOURSELF HAVING SEX.
So you want to join the classy, classy ranks of people like Tommy Lee, Paris Hilton, and Colin Farrell? Hold up. Did you ever stare at a television and blurt out, “Why would the Nazis film their atrocities?” Or “Why didn’t Nixon just burn those tapes?” Do you see a pattern here?
You’re probably thinking that the production values will be, at worst, like third-rate porn. Wrong. Your videotape will have no zooms, no pans, and no movement whatsoever. Have you ever been turned on by a convenience-store surveillance video? Because that’s what you’re working on. You’re working on one of those, and you’re nude.
If that’s not reason enough, there’s the Discussion. It goes a little like this:
“I think I should keep the tape, because I’ll be more careful with it.”
“You? I’m more reliable!”
“Why is this even an issue? Are you planning on us not being together in the future? I want to break up.”
As for the nuclear option—showing such a tape to anyone else or releasing it into the permanent indictment that is the Internet—just put that out of your mind. Really, you might as well drive to her workplace, shoot her and everyone else you see, then take your own life. Actually, it’s my long-held theory that amateur sex videos are the direct cause of most office murders, but the FBI has ignored me for many years on this score, and shame on them. Though I guess that’s a story for another day.
(Special to Wendy H.: I destroyed that tape. I totally did.)—Marshall Sella
21. SAIL AROUND CAPE HORN.
22. ROAD-TRIP ON THE PCH OR OTHER SIMILARLY ICONIC ROUTES.
The Pacific Coast highway? Beautiful. And clogged with douche bags in rented Mustang convertibles. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a parking lot in the summer. And then there’s that old travel-magazine staple: the Mississippi Delta. Southern delicacies! Authentic juke joints! Binge drinkers in Duke hats eating $45 crawfish! Just like Robert Johnson did.—Josh Dean
23. MANAGE A HEDGE FUND.
24. RUN A MARATHON.
It’s supposed to be pretty amazing to finish a marathon—once the nausea and chills are gone and the blood has stopped leaking from various orifices. And to those who do it, we say: Bravo. But a man should not consider himself deficient just because he’s never run 26.2 miles on the same day. Obsessed people are meant to run marathons; the rest of us are meant to run for a half hour and drink a light beer. And not only does training for a long-distance race overtake your life, but it also may benefit you less than simply hitting a treadmill a few times a week would. So the next time you feel guilty, recite these facts:
• Jim Fixx, the author of The Complete Book of Running, who did more than anyone else to popularize jogging in America, died at 52, in midstride, of a massive heart attack.
• Of 488 runners studied at the 2002 Boston Marathon, 13 percent developed hyponatremia, a potentially fatal condition caused by drinking too much water.
• To quote the Harvard Health Letter, “Long distance running can cause gastrointestinal bleeding.” That’s not to mention the bleeding nipples.—Nate Penn
25. BANG A HILTON SISTER.
26. EAT A BLOWFISH.
27. EAT SHEEP TESTICLES.
Or any other testicles, really.
28. RIDE A MOTORCYCLE ACROSS A CURRENT OR FORMER COMMUNIST COUNTRY.
You always say you want to ride across a country on your chopper before it’s all over, preferably a really romantic kind of place, maybe Vietnam, possibly Cuba, definitely someplace that used to have a politburo. But before you fasten your leather helmet’s chin strap, consider the following question. Have you ever ridden your bike on anything but nice, smooth, First World blacktop? Because in, say, Cuba, the roads will leave you bruised and battered. You will go days without an Arby’s or even a Cracker Barrel. On a good day, you’ll perhaps get to poop over a hole in the floor of a shack. I once drove across much of Russia, and it was horrible—exciting and sort of thrilling in its peril, yes, but even in a country with abundant concrete and toilets that flush, the journey was harrowing, and nearly fatal to my vehicle. And that was an SUV.—Josh Dean
29. JOIN A REVOLUTIONARY PARTY.
30. LEARN HOW TO DRIVE A STICK SHIFT.
Every girlfriend I’ve ever had has the same two complaints about me: I’m not totally in touch with my feelings, and I can’t drive a stick shift. I’m still working on the former, but I’m giving up on the latter. Because, seriously: Who cares? People tell you that a manual transmission makes you feel more in control of the car, more “at one” with the machine. I’m sure that’s a neat sensation in a Bugatti. But I don’t need to be more “at one” with a piece-of-shit Subaru. Not knowing how to drive a stick shift is one of those things that seem like a big deal when you’re young but turn out to be pretty meaningless when you’re older. Like trigonometry or Christmas.—Jason Gay
Your audience at the company cafeteria is bigger than what you’ll have on the Internet.
32. BOMB THE HAHNENKAMM.
The hahnenkamm’s streif, the infamous Austrian downhill ski run, opens with a forty-five-degree fall and features a life-threatening 180-degree turn. Even snow-grooming machines can’t traverse its angles. Oh, and the maintenance crews spray the whole mountain down with cold water, turning it into a giant luge. It’s the ski run perhaps most famous for its tendency to nearly kill people. And that makes it really attractive to more than a few ding-dongs out to prove their willingness to be killed.—Mickey Rapkin
33. STOP WORKING FOR THE MAN.
Everyday you drag your ass to work in your monkey suit and get served up a big, steaming pile of humiliation by your boss. And what do you do? You eat it. It’s like The Matrix, man! It’s like you’re a zombie, an automaton with the psycho-emotional breadth of Keanu Reeves! And that ain’t you, man! You’re a free spirit! You know everything would change if you could just tell the boss to fuck off. And sure, there may be some truth to that. Especially if your job is marketing cigarettes to teenagers. But for most people, quitting sets you free for five or six days max. Then you’re like: What happens if I get a cavity? Or: Hey, I like flat-screen TVs. Just remember how much you enjoy talking shit about your coworkers. And fantasizing about quitting. Why would you give that up?—Devin Friedman
34. FIND THE VILLAGE IN IRELAND WHERE YOUR GREAT-GRANDFATHER WAS BORN.
35. READ ‘ULYSSES.’
36. MARDI GRAS.
37. RENOVATE YOUR HOUSE.
A couple of things occurred to me in fairly quick succession as I was changing a light fixture in my kitchen, taking down this extraordinarily ugly fake Tiffany stained-glass hanging shade the size of an SUV tire and putting in its place a little $20 track-lighting job from Ikea. I was standing on a stool, one whose seat spun around, balancing the very heavy fruit shade on one outstretched arm and reaching up with the other to disconnect the knot of wires exploding out of the ceiling.
Here’s what occurred to me: (1) I’d forgotten to turn the power off at the fuse box down in my basement. (2) I had no idea which wires were hot. (3) My wife and kids were out and wouldn’t be back anytime soon. (4) It was impossible to get off the spinning stool without either falling or dropping the monstrous fruit shade, which would shatter all over the kitchen floor, or both.
So I stood there on top of a spinning bar stool, holding a thirty-pound lampshade and staring up into the maw in my ceiling long enough for my legs and lower back to cramp and for me to make a plan that when the time came, I would toss the fake Tiffany fruit shade forward and leap backward so that while I broke some bones, at least I wouldn’t also get impaled by a shard of stained glass.
Eventually, my wife came home, and I called an electrician.
You read about people who don’t know jack about home repair taking on a renovation by themselves, and there’s always some lesson about how with each humbling experience they learn something they didn’t know before about who they are and how they connected to their home in some profound ways that men in the modern world have lost touch with.
It’s all a load of crap. I’m not joking when I say that things with the fruit lamp could’ve gotten very ugly very quickly. Multiply that little scenario by a jillion and you have a rough idea of what it’s like to actually renovate your own place.
If you’re anything like me, accept that there are skills you’re just never going to have. So you’re good with books or computers or numbers but not with tools? Stay away from the tools. The man you think is lurking inside of you, waiting for some belt sander to reveal him to the world, he’s full of shit, and chances are he’ll end up in the ER. Or living in a really crappily renovated home, wishing he hadn’t been such a macho-romantic jackass.—Joel Lovell
38. FLY AN AIRPLANE.
39. TAKE THAT ITALIAN-COOKING CLASS IN TUSCANY.
40. CATCH AND RELEASE A MARLIN.
42. RUN WITH THE BULLS.
Sometimes it’s the fate of a good writer to bear the blame for what he inspires a bunch of idiots to do. Hunter S. Thompson is on the hook for a generation convinced it’s charming to be a drug-addicted asshole. Jack Kerouac spawned a million annoying vagabonds. And then, of course, there’s Ernest Hemingway, who has to answer not only for reams of bad, muscular prose but also for turning the San Fermín festival, celebrated in the town of Pamplona, Spain, into a three-minute institutionalized rite of passage, offering a frisson of real danger to the proceedings without being automatically fatal. It’s worth remembering, though, that courting death is not, ipso facto, cool. If there were a contest in Toledo where you drank a bottle of Drano and saw what happened, would you be proud to tell stories about it over dinner?—Brett Martin
43. BE LADY GODIVA.
people always say you have to ride a horse bareback, on a beach, with your long hair flowing behind you, naked, before you die. But you don’t have to do that. I would say that there’s a whole category of stuff you shouldn’t do naked, and riding a horse is at the top of the list.
If you’re a man, you shouldn’t even walk around naked. If you’re a woman, fine, although for women who think men are whiners, try having your tits attached to your pussy and have them swinging between your legs. Walking naked for a man is tricky enough, depending on how low his balls hang. Jogging naked can give you a headache very quickly. Jogging is to horseback riding as ice-skating is to ice hockey.
Maybe you admire horses. Horses are fine to sit on while they stand still. But as soon as that horse starts stepping forward, you’re like, “Maybe it’s the pants. My ass hurts. I’m getting pinched nuts.” Now imagine no shiny padded-leather saddle. No stirrups to help you lift your balls up when the horse bounces. Because as soon as you get out of the walk, into the trot, the canter, the gallop, you’d better know what you’re doing, and even if you do, you don’t want to do it with your hair flowing behind you, freely blowing in the seaborne air.—Matthew Klam
44. CLIMB MOUNT KILIMANJARO.
If you end up doing it, please don’t talk to us about it for more than ten minutes.