Clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch said last week that it is ceasing publication of its magazine, an announcement that left many citizens bewildered and with little guidance for the future. The provocative A & F Quarterly, which featured the carefree romping of beautiful young models amidst a smattering of articles about which hip best seller to read with a crew neck sweater, is being discontinued because "the company believes it is time for new thinking and looks forward to unveiling an innovative and exciting campaign in the spring." The 280-page Christmas issue, which promises "Group Sex" on its cover, will be the last of its kind.

"I don't know what I'll do," confesses Marc, 24, a rattled subscriber who says that the absence of the magazine will do insurmountable damage to his status as a host in the gay community. "People come over, and they expect certain things from you. Everyone knew they could rely on me to have that on my coffee table. What am I supposed to do nowbuy porn? How can I hold my head up high as a homosexual when the very things that used to mean taste and culture in my world are being eroded? I feel betrayed."

That sentiment is echoed in the disappointment of many bi-curious ex-fraternity brothers with disposable incomes, for whom the magazine was a kind of touchstone.

"I'll have to completely rethink my loyalty to slick, homoerotic, glorified catalogs posing as cutting-edge beach reads for trendy, hygienic straight men," confesses Rick, 27. "I guess it's back to Details for me."

"Frankly, I'm worried," says Vanessa, 26, Rick's chilly, longtime girlfriend. "The Quarterly allowed Rick to pretend he was interested in ordering a scarf or some boxer shorts, even though we both knew he was just staring intently at the two guys in fleece socks lying naked on a circus elephant. I don't know that any other publication can fill that void."

The sense of loss is perhaps most strongly felt in the company's close to 700 retail outlets, where sullen, lethargic, inattentive employees attempting to resemble the magazine's models are still reeling from the news that their existence will no longer be validated in print.

"There just aren't that many places where I can see myself represented, you know?" sighs store manager Chad, 26, hooking his thumb through a belt loop on his jeans to reveal his pelvic muscle. "The magazine was the one place in this society that gave people a look at the way someone like me lives, but that's all over now. One day, you're standing bare-assed in a rugby shirt next to a kayak, two pouty coeds, and a golden retriever, and everybody's watching. The next, you're being told it's 'time for new thinking.' That's harsh."

"All our high standards are being ignored," agrees co-worker Troy, 25, who only yesterday refused to help a shopper with arm hair. "It wasn't that long ago that a guy could play a game of touch football with one woman and 10 of his closest half-nude male friends and know that if his boxers coyly fell down past his butt crack, someone would be there to document it. It's like a whole way of life has just been flushed down the toilet."


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