Sports Titillated

For 55 issues a year, Sports Illustrated produces solid, mature writing that rises above sports cliché and hyperbole in such an inspired way as to justify the magazine’s continued existence in the age of instant information and sock-drawer opinion.

Then, come February, the chicks are in the mail.

The arrival of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is like coming home to discover that your normally sober great-aunt is slapstick, manhandling, showtunes drunk: it’s completely out of character, it’s equal parts embarrassing and appalling, and yet you can’t help but stare in fascination and the secret hope that something will pop out.

The marketers call it the most anticipated issue of the year. If “anticipated” is a synonym for “awkward,” then yes.

My son’s subscription copy has remained on our kitchen table since it arrived in the mail last week. No one really wants to claim it, yet it can’t be entirely ignored. It’s kind of giving off a hum. It may actually be throbbing.

It’s like a guest wearing too much perfume but everyone is too uncomfortable to say anything.

Everyone, that is, except Abby.

Photo shown purely for educational purposes

Photo shown purely for educational purposes

My 11-year-old collected the magazine at the post office last week and carried it back to the car, staring at the pile, walking slowly, enthralled, a traffic hazard.

“Her boobs are showing,” she said when she got back in the car, model Kate Upton all air-brushed and cushiony on her lap.

“No they’re not,” I scoffed, glancing over. “It’s just a lot of cleavage.”

A lot of cleavage.

Trying not-at-all-awkwardly to change the subject, I added, “I heard them talking about this on the radio. They shot this cover in Antarctica! Can you believe she’s dressed like that in Antarctica? Look: icebergs!”

No, really, I was pointing at icebergs; it wasn’t a euphemism.

Abby flipped through the pages as we drove home. I kept peeking over, just to monitor what she was looking at, you understand.

“This is porn,” she said.

“It’s not porn,” I said. “It’s just nudity.”

“It’s totally nudity porn.”

There was no way I was going to get into what constitutes porn, nor was I going to launch into a dissertation on the Nipple Threshold in Contemporary Western Culture. I was going to be cool about this.

“They’re just boobs,” I said. “I mean 50 percent of the world’s population have them, so what’s the big deal, right?”

“But why are they in a sports magazine?” Abby asked.

It’s a good question. Back in the day (ahhh, Elle MacPherson…), the swimsuit issue was the shy guy’s girlie mag, its acceptability rationalized because it was a “sports” magazine.  Today, though, unlike SI’s usual smart sportswriting, the swimsuit issue ain’t got nothin’ that the Internet isn’t giving away for free.

Plus, we supposedly live in a more enlightened age, making the swimsuit issue feel somewhat archaic, quaint, even embarrassing, which may explain why our copy is still unclaimed and pulsating on the kitchen table. I’ve barely flipped through it more than four or nine times, and that was solely for research purposes.

“I don’t know,” I answered Abby, “it’s pretty silly, really. It’s supposed to be about modeling swimsuits, but it’s just… well… people [men] sometimes [always] like to look at [ogle] beautiful [half-naked] women [Kate Upton].”

At this point you have to understand that it was very important for me to keep talking to avoid the “Do you like to look at beautiful women?” question. Most men would rather define what constitutes porn than answer that question from their daughters. Brilliantly, I quickly steered “awkward conversation” into “valuable life lesson”:

“But you know, the problem with this type of magazine is that young girls like you see these models and think that’s what all women should look like, even though very few women do. It gives them unrealistic expectations and can make them feel unhappy about their bodies. But women come in all sizes and shapes and are just as beautiful.”

Nailed it!

We pulled into the driveway. Abby had by now flipped to the centre pages featuring more photos of Kate Upton frolicking starkers in Antarctica.

“But why? Why would women do that?” Abby asked.

“Well,” I said, “the models make a lot of money to pose, and, you know, it’s her choice to do what she wants with her body.”

“No, I mean she must be cold!”

To my credit, I refrained from saying, “Yes, she does look a little nippy.”


About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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71 Responses to Sports Titillated

  1. peachyteachy says:

    I was relieved that your post was what it was. I like your daughter, and her ability to call it like she sees it seems pretty spot on. It speaks to your parenting (and by “your” I mean the plural “y’all’s”).

  2. MissFourEyes says:

    You handled that very well. And your daughter is a smart young lady. I didn’t know what porn was at 11.

  3. haha! Well done! You navigated through that mine field with total agility. I’m impressed. I like that you used the word boobs, instead of “breasts.” Way to bond with your daughter. Nice work. 😉
    Seriously – what you said at the close of the convo was the best. Hopefully she’ll take that to heart and always feel good about herself. You may need to repeat this lesson a few more hundred times, just sayin’. It’s a harsh world out there. Nice save, pops.

  4. You mean nipply, she looked a little nipply..

  5. josefkul says:

    I’ll have to keep this post in mind years later when my own daughter brings this up. Thanks for the helpful guide.

  6. Ahhh…..February!! my fave month!! S.I. issue is here and I don’t have to pony up another $50 shekels for those 4 little “blue pills”; well, not at least until March, eh?

  7. the_lunatic says:

    Oh God, I’m obsessed with Kate Upton … you navigated that conversation extremely well, better than I would have (says the girl that introduced her younger sister to Playboy…).

  8. Kylie says:

    Maybe you could help explain this principle to my mother-in-law, who gave my husband a calendar of the Women of Hawaii. For Christmas. In front of all our children. And me. AND my husband’s ex-wife.

    Yes, we were just all one big happy family on holiday in paradise…

    Also, I don’t want my step-sons or son to have an unreasonable expectation about women’s bodies, just like I don’t want my daughter to feel bad because she can’t meet it.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Part 1 of your comment: Ew. My wife used to stick a Maxim in my stocking as a gag until the girls reached the age where it just didn’t seem appropriate anymore. But his mom! Ew.
      Part 2: You’re right. I should be having the conversation with my 17-year-old son as well. Thankfully, his walls are covered with basketball posters, not Hawaiian girls.

  9. denmother says:

    You do know that mag disappears from the table at night and is placed back in its spot in the morning before anyone else gets up right?

  10. tgeorges1123 says:

    Impressive. Most impressive.

  11. Lily says:

    I think I love Abby. I totally would’ve called it porn. Kate Upton has a crazy bod/boobs. And she has no problem showing them I guess.
    Good parenting though. I liked that you tried to get her to study the background as if Kate’s boobs weren’t jumping off the page…

  12. rossmurray1 says:

    I think the key word there is “tried.”

  13. So I was thinking, now that I know you’re famous and all, that I probably should STOP calling you Rosemary and saying you’re blog is snort-a-licious…and give you the respect that your fame-a-nicity deserves.. I shall straighten up forthwith. Only erudite comments from this moment onward…

  14. No explanation on the wonderment that is sideboob?

  15. mostlycinema says:

    I have a five year old girl..totally loved your piece..learned a lot!!thanx for sharing..

  16. monika says:

    i hope your daughter doesn’t change (or mine for that matter) and end up feeling that they need to become this crazy idolized version of fantasy.

    *high five* for awkward conversations! ^^

  17. rossmurray1 says:

    Reblogged this on Drinking Tips for Teens and commented:

    It’s ba-a-a-a-a-ck! I see the Swimsuit Issue lives on. Why? I think the answer is “Why not?” This was one of my favourite pieces from last year, which I reprint today. The cover may be different, but those funny feelings remain the same. Alas, I’ll not be able to back this up with empirical evidence; we did not renew my son’s subscription.

  18. Lynn says:

    Seriously, Kate Upton’s outfit confuses me. I don’t recall ever going to the beach in a bikini bottom & a parka. Oh wait, no, she is on a cruise ship in Antarctica! I mean come on, is she hot or is she cold? Her parka says it’s cold but good Lord, if that was the case, it’s not even done up! AND…she is not wearing a bikini top. Could she not afford a top because she had to invest in a parka! AND…where is the beach? Is it on one of the icebergs? Who actually has boobs that size? Or is she just pushing them together….pfttt…I give up! So many questions!

  19. Incredible parenting and pseudo-ogling while handling those “icebergs” with total grace! I certainly hope that I can remember this post when my daughter gets older. The BEST thing about what you did is tell your daughter from a MALE perspective that most women can never live up to the body-image-expectation that all girls/women feel/see daily, and that they should not have to. Somehow I know that it means much more coming from a man (dad) than from a woman (mom) because as girls we are constantly trying to fight the image versus reality. Incredibly awesome job!

  20. Twindaddy says:

    Frankly, I really don’t understand why SI still does this. Even more, I don’t understand the backlash it inspires every year when there are much more lewd magazines on the market. I guess I’m just confused about a lot of things.

  21. ksbeth says:

    it’s a delicate balance between answering their questions and taking it even further than they ever intended. you have to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. pun perhaps intended.

  22. Paul says:

    Well Ross, in my opinion you did an exemplary job answering your daughter’s questions – your wife would be proud of you. As a (currently) single male, I would like to put forward a theory, the likes of which I wouldn’t even suggest if I had a significant other in my life. I reserve the right to recant this theory if, at some future time, I become associated with one of the fairer sex. It has been my observation that any heavy muscle use in males – i.e. sports or manual labor (or exercise) increases the male libido. I have checked with some women and, as far as I can determine, this does not occur in the female of the species. Current brain research into gaming suggests that viewing certain activities is interpreted by some areas of the brain in the same manner as actually doing those activities. Hence, reading about sports could increase the desire to view scantily clad women. And there it is: after viewing 55 issues of sports, surely the poor males should be allowed 1 single issue of swim suits? I think we have been brainwashed by women into thinking we men are bad and should be embarrassed for a perfectly natural desire over which we have no control. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it (until I get a girlfriend – then all bets are off).

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