(Thus essay was originally published in Main Line Life on 2/20/08.)
Sometimes it is just so easy to be a newspaper columnist. For example, this morning I was going through my notebook where I write down all my intellectually stimulating ideas for essays, discarding anything to do with politics, when the mail arrived. And voila, there it was – the mother lode. Or maybe mother lode isn’t the correct term to describe the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. I sincerely doubt whether any of the models are mothers.
My husband is a longtime subscriber to Sports Illustrated because he is a manly man who loves all sports. He will watch anything to do with sports on television – replays of football games from the 1960s, bronco riding, smack-down wrestling, soccer games between obscure countries with Spanish-speaking announcers, poker. Poker? Is that really a sport? He has subscribed to Sports Illustrated since before there was a swimsuit edition. In fact, I think some of his earlier “collectors editions” may be printed on papyrus. So he doesn’t subscribe just for the swimsuit edition. Let’s just call it one of life’s unexpected little bonuses.
Being a wearer of swimsuits myself, I decided to check out the issue to see if I could get any ideas for a suit for spring break. The first thing that struck me is that SI is now interchangeable with Playboy, at least for this issue. I haven’t seen a Playboy magazine in decades, except displayed discreetly on the top magazine rack at the airport, but the SI cover definitely brings it to mind. I never knew that a string of beads by itself could be a bathing suit top! If I’d known this fashion tip years ago, I could have saved a lot of money just buying bottoms.
A quick glance through the magazine lets me know that indeed, bathing suit tops must be a relic of the past. Nowhere did I see anything remotely like the “tankini” swimsuits I have purchased the past few years (tankini being code word for maximum coverage of all problem areas). There are a couple of one-piece suits in the swimsuit edition, if you can call three inches of fabric strategically stretched from hither to yon a one-piece. I thought the model, Janiphar I believe her name was, looked rather uncomfortable. I wonder how long she had to kneel in the hot sand with that come hither look on her face and the hot sun shining down on her nether regions. I pity the poor young thing. I also felt sorry for the poor dear peeking out from the jungle foliage – she must have lost her top also and was too embarrassed to come out.
I perused the magazine looking for something that had to do with sports. Aha, NFL cheerleaders wearing bikinis. And a spread on Danica Patrick – she’s a bona fide athlete, if you can get by the creepy interview questions posed by her own brother.
Mostly I learned the following things: There are swimsuits that have less fabric than a man’s handkerchief that cost $675. It is always best to wear your swimsuit with Manolo Blahniks, or in some cases a pair of knee-high leather boots. The cutest girls nowadays have such interesting names – Jeisa, Jarah, Selito, Brandi, Quiana. No one is named Mary, Sue or Betty. Also, apparently swimsuits with buckles and chains don’t dig into your skin when you have no body fat.
I don’t know if SI is trying to start a new trend with painting a swimsuit on instead of wearing a real one, but I don’t think it’s going to fly at the Jersey shore. There are not enough gallons of body paint in the world to cover the flesh on those beaches.
My favorite quote from the in-depth model interviews was from Quiana, who when asked when her favorite time to be naked is, replied, “When I’m cleaning.” I’m going to have to ponder that zen-like comment for about a year or two. Most of the girls think everything is “hot,” as in “he’s hot,” or “that’s so hot,” or “my life as a swimsuit model is sooo hot.” Methinks they’ve been watching a little too much Paris Hilton instead of The News Hour. By the way, I never did find a swimsuit for spring break.