Sunday, January 28, 2001

Bold undies

America's new thong and dance

        Disturbing news from a reliably stuffy corporate citizen:

        Procter & Gamble is chasing people in thongs. This can only mean a significant number of Americans are thonged. P&G is not about to waste its time on some dinky market segment.

        This is big.

        Procter & Gamble's new Alldays thong pantiliners are on the shelves of your neighborhood grocery store and coming soon to a magazine near you. The ads picture the back of a seated woman wearing nothing but a thong. I would show it to you, but this is a family newspaper. Not that families haven't been subjected to worse over the past few years.

Mating ritual
        Monica Lewinsky told the special prosecutor under oath that a thong was part of the Oval Office mating ritual. She later volunteered sleazy details to Barbara Walters although she was, technically, free to lie her head off. Or refuse to discuss it. Which she didn't.

        So I made certain assumptions about the kind of girl who might be thonged.

Tragically unhip
        It turns out that, as usual, I am tragically unhip.

        Thongs are everywhere. Lazarus. Lane Bryant. The Gap. Last year, thong sales reached nearly $200 million. A lingerie clerk at the downtown Lazarus store says, “They come in all shapes and sizes."

        Do you mean the garment or the women, I ask carefully.

        “Both,” she says, adding, “and all ages.”

        According to P&G spokeswoman Elaine Plummer, 17 percent of American women wear a thong. “Not every day, but sometimes.” She says 70 percent of them are 34 or younger. So 30 percent of them are not 34.

        Are most of them in Venice Beach?

        “They are evenly distributed geographically,” she replies.

        So, you mean there are probably a lot of people walking around in thongs, people you might not suspect?

        “It's probable.”

        I told her I thought I might ask around.

        One friend thought I meant shoes, those uncomfortable sandals that feature a strap that fits uncomfortably between your big toe and your index toe. We agreed that we cannot understand someone who would like a similar strap in a more tender area.

        A young friend of mine says she wears one “a lot of the time.” She says it's to avoid showing panty lines in clingy or tight clothes.

        What about cellulite lines?

        A blank look. She will cross that middle-aged bridge when she comes to it.

        “It's really comfortable when you get used to it,” she says.

        “It's not as bad as a wedgie.”

        Not everybody is climbing aboard. The Miss America Pageant — which bravely demands that contestants disrobe while insisting that the show is a “scholarship program” — bans thongs from the swimsuit competition.

        Erlanger-Elsmere Board of Education's dress code prohibits the wearing of thongs by its faculty. How will they know if some rebel has violated policy?

        In fact, it appears that perfectly nice, perfectly ordinary, imperfectly proportioned women are wearing them. And some men. For all we know, John Ashcroft and Alan Greenspan are running around in them. Maybe that's why Dr. Laura always looks so crabby. Maybe your boss just grimaced because she is experiencing something just slightly more comfortable than a wedgie.


       E-mail Laura at or call 768-8393.


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