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.