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While Some Stick Their, Uh, Heads in the Sand, Others Grin and Bare It

March 19, 1993|PATRICK MOTT and ANN CONWAY

A visitor from Mars--or even, say, Russia--wouldn't know what to make of the much-ballyhooed Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Here in America, for 12 months out of the year, any adult can easily purchase several magazines featuring women with no clothes on whatsoever, and the structure of society barely trembles. But at this time each year, when the Swimsuit Issue arrives, featuring women in various creative bathing suits, trumpets blare, the heavens fall and the blue noses dust off their damnation speeches.

What's going on here?

HE: I figure it's the old Gypsy Rose Lee principle: don't show 'em everything. Keep 'em guessing. Leave 'em wanting more. Let the ol' imagination kick into overdrive.

Personally, I kind of like the Swimsuit Issue--I've got a Y chromosome and a pulse, after all--but it's gotten out of hand. Now there's a Swimsuit Issue calendar and a Swimsuit Issue video. What the heck does all that have to do with sports? Next we'll see an annual issue of Forbes with a spread titled "The Hot Babes of Wall Street."

SHE: Like most women, I am at once intrigued and irritated by the Swimsuit Issue. On the one hand, I like looking at these buffed out women and dreaming I'll look like that someday (probably the same day I win the Academy Award, the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer and the Miss America contest).

On the other, I am indignant that they reveal so much skin. In one pic a young woman is shown nude, waist-up, under a gold mesh shirt. In another, she is spilling out of a shimmering maillot.

Sports Illustrated says it's celebrating America's shorelines. Make that bust - lines .

HE: Well, sure. They need a patina of legitimacy to justify all that T & A. So we get travelogue-FLESH-travelogue-FLESH-travelogue-FLESH all through the feature. But listen; here's something to make you feel better: None of those people are real . They are the creation of a really, really good photographer. They've got moles. They burp. They look like pure hell when they have the flu.

What you're seeing in that issue is idealized. It's fantasy. And that's what the guys who buy the magazine are paying for. I'll bet anything that most guys' first reaction to the sight of the cover model, Vendela (didn't she write the music for "Chariots of Fire?"), is not drooling or elbows in the ribs. It's a bemused expression and a slow shake of the head.

SHE: You've hit a major nerve. I confess that every year I go out and buy two or three bathing suits. In fact, I just bought a black Jag skimmer and a multicolor Jag with matching wind-breaker. It's all about that "From Here to Eternity" FANTASY of mine.

"He takes me to the beach on a black summer night. A sliver of a silver moon hangs in the sky. We sit on the sand, speak of love and before I can say--'don't you want to know my name?'--he carries me into the pounding surf and we roll onto the shimmering shoreline, kissing... "


HE: Note to readers: If that last italicized bit didn't get past the editors, well . . . you missed some really good stuff. And now, back to the show . . .

Actually, you're really brave. Swimsuits make cowards out of most of us. That's probably one reason why the Swimsuit Issue models make so many women grind their teeth. Perfection (even if it is courtesy of the camera) is a pretty tough ideal to live up to.

Also, guys don't have to go through the agonies that women do when it comes to swimsuit choices--two holes for legs, a waistband. The end. Women, as is amply illustrated in the Swimsuit Issue, get to wrestle with zillions of styles that can make them look wonderful or awful.

SHE: I've learned that bathing suits can double as body suits. I wear mine with jeans, under a blazer, with a pair of shorts. Once I wore a glittery suit with a flowing skirt--a perfect gala ensemble!

You're right about the courage part. For any woman over 18, it takes chutzpah to toss on a skimpy number and parade before a crowd.

But here's how I do it: I throw on the suit with a cover-up and take it off after I sit down. That way, no one can see what I don't want them to see. Somehow, women in bathing suits look a lot better reclining on the sand than they do skipping along the beach, if you know what I mean.

HE: Yes, there is quite a bit of reclining going on in the Swimsuit Issue. And by the by, I have a second use for my swimsuits, too. They're great for waxing the car.

SHE: For women, the best thing about this issue is the variety of swimsuits it displays. Any body type can play. There are suits with turtlenecks, with short and long sleeves.

There are conservative one-piece florals and exotic two-piece metallics. There is one elegant lime number that is so lush you could wear it and its matching terry robe to a ball.

The biggest trend: the transparent insert. How kind of the bathing suit industry to provide some flattering mystery.

Waxing your Jag with your Speedos?!!

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