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Seats of Power : Which Body Part Is This Season's Hot Fashion Accessory? : (Hint: You're Sitting on Yours)

July 16, 1993|RIP RENSE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Contemporary U.S. society has a large fundamental problem. As in fundament. As in the thing you are sitting on.

What I term "bun-consciousness" is rampant. People seem to be assessing one another largely on the quality of their posteriors. Allow me to illustrate:

A few weeks ago, "Entertainment Tonight" devoted a segment to the "hottest buns in Hollywood." There were rapid-fire close-ups of haunches of the stars--and a profile of a woman who actually earns her living as a "bun model." (Imagine that.)

"Studs," a dating program that leaves me feeling maladjusted because I evaluate people by their personalities, features oodles of female contestants soberly explaining that the male quality they most covet is a pair of "good buns." (A sample quote: "He has to have a great body, and definitely (a great) butt--that's the main part.") Aerobics programs, of course, are forever revealing secret "buttocks-tightening" contortions.

Not convinced? There's plenty more:

Glamour Magazine trumpeted a screaming headline recently reading: "A BETTER BUTT--FAST!" Swimwear Magazine more demurely revealed "The Good News: Conspicuous Bottoms Can Be Improved." Donahue devoted a program entirely to women who have "liposucked" their derrieres. And, of course, there's the hit MTV video, "Baby Got Back," featuring Sir Mix-A-Lot dancing atop a nude female behind the size of rolling hills.

Better still, there's "Rump Shaker," a rap video chock-full of bottoms wriggling at speeds heretofore thought scientifically impossible. KROQ's Kevin and Bean faxed the Columbia space shuttle crew an image of, as one of the astronauts bluntly revealed on CNN, "a butt."

William Baldwin asks Sharon Stone in "Sliver," "Anyone ever tell you have a nice butt?" (Times film critic Peter Rainer astutely noted that this movie became the "butt of its own butts.") Rob Reiner tells Tom Hanks in "Sleepless in Seattle" that having a "cute butt" is a dating requisite for the '90s male.

It all brings to mind a moment in the wonderful British TV comedy series, "Fawlty Towers," in which an American tourist repeatedly threatens to "bust the ass" of Basil Fawlty (John Cleese), prompting Fawlty to acidly respond, "Everything's bottoms, isn't it?"

It seems so. The best-selling exercise video, "Buns of Steel," sums it all up: The United States is in the grips of "tight-bun ethos." As the popular aerobics credo goes, "If you don't squeeze 'em, nobody else will, either!"

(Note: Many of the more colorful historic synonyms of the ol' patootie will appear throughout this piece, for the reader's added enjoyment, courtesy of "Slang and Euphemism," by Richard A. Spears.)

Perhaps hard-pressed to take pride in jobs, school or hobbies in these tough times, people are proudly honing and buffing the-part-that-went-over-the-fence-last. (Some, of course, cheat with "tushie-tucks.") Celebrities are leading the way. Cher is so fond of displaying her own taut, tattooed 47-year-old (and often undraped) southerly cheeks that they have practically become an American icon. Prince flashes his petite breech through strange cutaway dungarees. Madonna is well-known for her muscular nockandro--and most other parts of her anatomy. (To be fair, there are exceptions: Although Mel Gibson flashed his rumadadum in a movie or two, he says he is delighted to receive scripts that do not demand that he drop his drawers.)

Now, I recognize and accept the role the backside plays in eroticism, and in the innate biological mating program. Men and women have always been helplessly tantalized by one another's shapes.

But--and maybe my thinking is out of step, or otherwise deficient--I am convinced there is more to a person than the cloven configuration atop the back of the legs. I'm not alone in my thinking, either.

I have friends who do not have "tight buns," and who do not regard the shape of their hinterlands as the very seat of all personal worth. I even have friends with enormous foundations, and others with behinds so skinny as to seem nonexistent. Although I realize it's not popular, I try not to let these disparate corybunguses influence my attitude toward their owners. I prefer to shape my feelings by oh, what these people think, what their politics are, whether they are kind, if they like Buster Keaton. I mean, I like dogs, but I always thought that we humans were supposed to act more sophisticated than our canine friends.

Seeking broader understanding, I phoned Sports Club L.A., where people pay a pretty penny for a pretty fanny.

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