You don't think of swingers as being the type of people who hold conventions. By ''swingers,'' I mean couples who swing with other couples. By ''swing,'' I mean, ``you know exactly what I mean.''
But my point is that you (and by ''you,'' I mean ''I'') don't think of swingers as being big conventiongoers. You think of them as hanging out at private parties, or exclusive swinger nightclubs, or secluded motels, or the Clinton White House. You don't picture swingers walking around large convention hotels wearing name badges and attending seminars, like executives in the forklift industry.
But it turns out that swingers do hold conventions. I know this because I went to one recently, at the Radisson Deauville hotel in Miami Beach. I was accompanied by my wife and a guy named Wally, who's in the insurance business.
This was not as kinky as it sounds. Wally had been the highest bidder in a charity auction for a lunch with me. He assumed we would be going to a normal restaurant where everybody would be wearing clothes. But when I suggested to him that we could use the lunch as an opportunity to investigate -- for journalism purposes -- the swingers' convention, he readily agreed, despite the very real risk that we might see people, including women, wearing skimpy or nonexistent outfits. That is the kind of sacrifice some guys are willing to make for charity.
I also invited my wife to go along, so that I would not be walking into a swingers' convention accompanied only by an insurance executive named Wally. When I invited her, I made a hilarious joke, strictly kidding around in a humorous vein, about how maybe we would find a couple we'd want to swap with.
NOTE TO HUSBANDS: Never attempt to make this type of joke with your wife. This type of joke should be attempted only by trained humor professionals.
NOTE TO TRAINED HUMOR PROFESSIONALS: Even then, it turns out to be a bad idea.
When Wally, my wife and I got to the swingers' hotel, we stopped off at the registration desk and picked up a copy of the illustrated convention guide, which I personally would have killed for when I was in ninth grade. It listed the various seminars, including ''Introduction to Tantra,'' ''The Myth of Monogamy,'' ''Meeting New Friends on the Internet,'' ''The Benefits and Mechanics of Long-Term Polyamory,'' and ``Basic Forklift Maintenance.''
I am of course kidding about that last one, but I am not kidding when I say that this entire hotel had been taken over by swingers, hundreds of them. You could tell they were swingers because they were all wearing convention wristbands. In some cases, the wristband was the largest garment they were wearing. These were people of all ages and bodily types: Some had obviously spent a lot of time at the fitness club; whereas others appeared to have recently eaten a fitness club.
We had lunch at a table looking out on the pool area. Our conversation consisted almost entirely of us taking turns saying, ''Ohmigod look at THAT.'' We tried to be cool about it, but it is not easy to look cool when you're sticking a spoonful of soup in your ear because your head has just whirled sideways so your eyeballs could keep track of a passing thong.
The thong appears to be a major weapon in the swinger's fashion arsenal. This is not necessarily a good thing. Your taut-bodied individual may be able to pull it off (Har!), but when you see a portly middle-aged man who has more body hair than a musk ox AND (I swear) a tattoo of Elvis on his right butt cheek stroll past wearing essentially a No. 8 rubber band, you begin to think that maybe it's time Congress enacted strict Federal Thong Control.
Attire aside, most of the swingers seemed to be regular people. In fact, according to a story about the convention in The Herald, the two most-common professions for swingers are police officer and teacher. This stunned me, especially the teachers. I mean, remember when you were a kid, and you were shocked whenever you saw a teacher at, say, the supermarket, because you didn't think of teachers as having any existence outside of school, or even necessarily as being food-eating life forms? Well, imagine if you encountered your trigonometry teacher wearing a garment that left absolutely nothing to the imagination regarding the cosine OR the hypotenuse.
I think that, as parents, we should be concerned about the fact this type of individual is being employed in our schools. Maybe we should notify the police.