Well my friends, for anyone awaiting the fourth and final post about dining with David Whyte, this is not it, but I promise that it’s on its way. This post is about humiliation (mine), and I’m sharing it on behalf of women who are tired of the mythology of Spanx. (By Spanx, I include the plethora of other slimming garments, including, but certainly not limited to: “no waistband” pantyhose, anything with the word “muffin top” in the name, caffeine-infused pantyhose, spandex items that “smooth” your belly, your ass, your thighs, and your back fat. And betrayal of all betrayals, the Dr. Oz-endorsed “anti-cellulite leggings,” which one delighted “user” claimed allowed her to lose 18 pounds in 14 days. She is probably on life support at Northwestern Medical Center, but she may have very smooth thighs. Though I sincerely doubt it).
I’ve always viewed Spanx as my friends. If I had a pair of pants or a dress that needed a little extra smoothing, Spanx were phenomenally useful. But now, I’m in a different category of users, i.e., the users that are 20 pounds overweight and NEED HELP. I’m not talking special occasion help; I’m talking, “There is nothing in my closet that I can stuff myself into help.”
So I did a little online research into slimming garments (FYI: technical term is “shapewear”), and I found this little item at J.C. Penney: the Flexees Weightless Power W.Y.O.B. Singlet (at left). Deciphering the name is like making sense out of a real estate listing. I don’t know what “weightless” refers to because it does not accurately describe the purchaser (myself). “Power” could definitely describe the force you need to push and shove your body (flab) into this garment. It took me a while to understand W.Y.O.B. but I finally got that it stands for “wear your own bra,” sort of like BYOB means “bring your own bottle/booze.”
Okay, so I read the reviews for this item, and they were all “great”. What especially caught my eye (in a disgusting way) was the “split crotch” feature, which means that a) you don’t need to wear underwear under this thing, and b) you can pee without taking it off. Well. This is repulsive, but I figured, hey, you need help, and unless you want to buy a whole new wardrobe, you’d better take what you can get. So I ordered one. And I seriously wish that I had brought my own booze when I was putting it on, because, as my aunt Carol has often pointed out, no matter what type of slimming garment you put on, the fat has to go somewhere. In other words, you may have a flat(ter) stomach, but your ankles will be enormous (and let me add, by the way, a great big thank you to perimenopause for the bloated ankles and fingers that puff up, like misshapen Pillsbury Crescent Rolls every month now. Not even being able to wear my rings or shoes is just doing wonders for my beleaguered self-esteem).
Now, my husband has seen me give birth three times, and none were even remotely pretty. Are they ever? But after the last birth he (very kindly) shared with me that at one point during pushing, I was so swollen that it looked like I had testicles. Oh yeah baby, I felt soooo sexy after that.
But despite the shared birth experiences, I have never let him see me putting on pantyhose or any other kind of shaping garment. I pretend (in my own head) that it’s a sort of French woman’s air of mystery that I’m trying to maintain, but it’s obviously not. It’s a vain (pun intended) way to hold onto any shred of dignity I can.
Anyway, my plan was to secretly shove myself into this garment while wearing my wrap dresses, which are very forgiving, flattering pieces of clothing, until I lost the extra weight. And, that worked okay once or twice, though it became uncomfortable in ways that I don’t feel right describing. Let me just say that a visit to my OBGYN was required.
But this morning, I decided to give the stupid thing a whirl under a pair of pants, since I had nothing clean to wear, and without it, I looked like I was 5 months pregnant. I am NOT kidding. For the first time in my life, I was actually afraid that someone might ask me when I was due.
All was well until I had to use the restroom at work . Maneuvering the “split crotch” (which is really a term that should only apply to exotic dancer clothing) was a bit of a challenge, especially because I really, really had to pee, because in a grotesque lack of foresight, I had used my coupon for a free drink at the Espresso Royale cafe this morning, and ordered a large, regular cappuccino, instead of the medium decaf I usually get. So when I say I had to go, I had TO GO.
Things seemed to be going fine until I realized that what I thought was leaving my body and going into the appropriate sanitary receptacle (e.g. the toilet), was actually flowing down my leg, into the evil slimming garment, and then onto the floor. In copious quantities. And not only that, I knew that something more than liquid evacuation was going to need to happen, and I was at a loss as to how in the hell to maneuver the now compromised “split crotch” in order to accommodate other more pressing, shall we say, concerns. So I had to make a fast decision.
Luckily the restroom was empty. I yanked off all my clothes (thank GOD for the W.Y.O.B. feature or I would have had to go home), took care of my business, put on whatever clothing I could salvage, crumpled the whole hideous garment up in a ball, and threw it away. I tried to clean up the overflow on the floor, but I didn’t really have the time or the resources. Then I had to go to our receptionist and say that there was a (mysterious, of course) “little accident” in the restroom, and could she call maintenance. It was a degrading nightmare.
The Flexees Weightless Power Singlet is, like all other “shapewear” garments, modeled by skinny people who have nothing on their body to be “shaped.” Or who knows? Maybe they are gigantic before they put them on and are transformed into size 2’s. I’m frustrated and uncomfortable about the weight I’ve gained, and how I can’t seem to just accept myself for how I look now, despite knowing that I am working out and eating well in an attempt to get back to my normal size. I see beautiful women every single day, and their beauty never, ever depends on their size. I wonder why I can’t see that in myself? Can you? If so, what’s your secret?
I hit bottom today, literally and figuratively. But not in the sense that I am going to starve myself or hate myself. Rather, in the sense that I am going to wear clothes that flatter me and make me happy until I can settle at a body size that feels okay to me. Peeing on the floor of a public restroom is way worse than hating myself. A few more comfortable dresses (under which I can wear normal underwear) seem worth avoiding future humiliation. And I’ve had those three kids, damn it. I’m 44 years old, can sprint, do awesome planks, and do have abs underneath the flab. So if I have to adjust my expectations about my body size and shape, I will pray for the self-acceptance to do so.
In the meantime, I can also buy very cool shoes… 🙂
And FYI: don’t rub caffeine on your cellulite, as Dr. Oz suggests. By all means, follow his advice on colonoscopies, but just deal with the reality that most cellulite is here to stay. Drink the caffeine. Embrace the cellulite.
A very lovely reminder today from Fleur Adcock in her poem, “Weathering.”
My face catches the wind
from the snow line
and flushes with a flush
that will never wholly settle.
Well, that was a metropolitan vanity,
wanting to look young forever, to pass.
I was never a pre-Raphaelite beauty
and only pretty enough to be seen
with a man who wanted to be seen
with a passable woman.
But now that I am in love
with a place that doesn’t care
how I look and if I am happy,
happy is how I look and that’s all.
My hair will grow grey in any case,
my nails chip and flake,
my waist thicken, and the years
work all their usual changes.
If my face is to be weather beaten as well,
it’s little enough lost
for a year among the lakes and vales
where simply to look out my window
at the high pass
makes me indifferent to mirrors
and to what my soul may wear
over its new complexion.
I snicker at the picture you included of the shapewear, because no one of that size would be wearing it, right?
Sounds like Is a lesson, that’s all, no bottom. You just learned that you need to accept you for you. That does not mean we have no need to strive to be better, but it does mean there are reaches that are not betterment, only illusion.
You’ve just stumbled upon the whole crazy trick about mindfulness. It’s not just noticing, but noticing without judgment. As Jon Kabat-Zinn says about mindfulness, “Awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experiences moment by moment.” I think it’s the hardest thing in the world to do, and I really, really appreciate your humorous approach! Keep us posted.
Ok. I have to admit that I laughed so hard reading this post that I had an accident of my own while sitting in my chair! did not think that I would have to perch myself on the toilet! FYI…… When you hit 50 it is a good idea to keep up with the kegal exercises:). This post is hilarious!
Oh Leslie – you made me laugh and completely understand – I also am carrying an extra 20 (does everyone who has three kids have that?), but am also working at the Eating Disorder Program. Every single day the staff and I tell our clients they have worth, their bodies have worth, and that they are remarkable merely for being alive, not for being a certain size. We lost a lovely young 21 year old two weeks ago, like so many of the people we work with, she couldn’t see her own beauty. I love your message to accept and love yourself, and love your willingness to share with graceful humor and humility your adventure!
You are beautiful, I am beautiful, our bodies are truly to be worshiped and loved! Thank you!
Leslie, You are a wonder! You should get this post published in OPRAH or some other women’s mag. It would be so helpful to so many women. I love the comment one reader said about laughing so hard she had anaccident! I think you are well on your way to self acceptance. Extend grace to yourself as you would any other girlfriend. The true Leslie that we know and love is inside the body that you stuffed into that contraption (I have a smaller full crotch version) You are so much more than your outer shell and I love every inch of you…inside and out!!!! Lets get together and eat some ice cream on Friday!
The above responses to this excellent, hilarious and brutally honest piece of writing all, all speak my mind. Thank you so much! I was feeling tired and a bit blue after working 9 nights in a row. I just laughed my ass off-this is yet another way to loose weight! Woman, this piece needs to be published. God (of Goddess) it made my night. I also miss my male partner (he works days) who has a little tummy and I note that I do not mind his extra weight a bit in the same way I mind my own. I go to the museum and enjoy the sculptures from the 1800s when women had real bodies. I love these sculptures, I pray one day at a time to accept my own size 10 bottom. I am forwarding this to many friends; thanks again and again, Leslie!
I had a terrible start to my day today. I read this and laughed, and now I feel so much better. Thank you.
OMG! Ditto ALL of the above about both your inner and outer beauty and thanks for the brutally funny take on this life experince (— I did literally hold my side as I laughed the laugh of recognition and empathy.) Weathering is one of my all-time favorite poems. Thanks for sharing that and everything else.
Laughing all the way to the bathroom down the hall. Thanks for your honesty, wit and helpful perspective.
Girl, I love you! This is fantastically written … I was laughing so hard, but relating so much!!
Here’s a quote from an article I received today:
“I would rather live a shorter life liking myself than spend extra years hating myself, trying to be thin.”
Leslie, you are not only beautiful, you are stunningly beautiful, and full of humility as well. Take that! ‘0
I just came home with my very first article of “shapewear” and it’s exactly this item you write about, also from JCP. I was wondering how I would use the split-crotch (or IF I would) so I googled “how to pee in a singlet” (not kidding) and thankfully found this post. Your story answered my question—I will not even try it, I’ll just take the sucker off to pee. Thanks for your honesty, I’m sure you saved me from a horrible episode at my son’s out-of-town graduation tomorrow. LOL
I’d like to add, like you, I can’t seem to accept how I look now. It makes me sad to think I’m this caught up in appearance and, also like you, I accept others no matter their size but can’t seem to do the same for myself. I see you wrote this about 2 years ago, how are you doing since this writing?