Husbands and Shapewear: And Never the Twain Shall Meet
There are many reasons I’m glad I’m a woman. Shapewear is not one of them.
I've known girdles existed since I first glimpsed my Grandma’s. I was probably 7, standing under the display of Playtex undergarments hanging on her clothesline. She saw me staring in wide-eyed wonder.
The bra was for ‘super droopers,’ she told me. The big, lacy underpants were what ladies wear. "Ladies, except your mother,” she added, in a scolding sort of way.
She was right. My mother, who attended college in the early ‘60s, was a product of her times. I don’t think she ever burned a bra, but I know she didn’t wear one unless she had to.
She certainly never wore a girdle. Ever.
My Grandma may have thought they were essential for appropriate dress, but my Mom thought they were restrictive. Maybe even evil. She would have none of it.
Later, when I was feeling the peer pressure to add some grown-up undergarments to my wardrobe, she rolled her eyes and asked why on earth I thought I needed a bra. I ended up with hand-me-down training bras from a friend, who was a little further ahead on the development path. Much to my embarrassment, my Mom announced to the entire family that I had a bra on.
From then on, I never spoke of my underwear. Aside from my honeymoon — for which I shopped alone — I kept things simple and didn’t give much thought to options beyond the basics.
Until suddenly, I needed to.
Because, I’d just had my third child, and there was a wedding coming up. Nothing in my closet fit as it was supposed to, and I was getting desperate. I was too stubborn to give up and purchase a dress in a larger size, so I started wondering if one of those girdle things might set things aright. I decided to find out.
My first mistake was taking my young children along to the foundations department. While they were chasing each other through the underwear racks, I discovered what Oprah was later to name one of her “favorite things:” SPANX.
I averted certain disaster by not trying them on at the store. Instead, I made the purchase and then took them home for the try-on. But I had no idea how much potential disaster was there, until later that night when, with kids tucked securely in bed, I opened the package… and paused. There were no directions, no diagrams. Just a tiny, shiny, tube of stretchiness.
Have you heard the story of how Michelangelo stared at a block of marble for weeks before he began carving it into his famous David? Well, I left those Spanx draped across my dresser for at least a week before I finally felt brave enough to try them on.
Unlike Michelangelo, I didn't have any tools to work with. Only my bare hands and not-nearly-flexible-enough limbs.
Which was enough to get the Spanx on — a worthwhile feat, considering how they transformed my post-baby figure, and allowed me to get into that dress I needed to wear. But standing there, admiring myself in the mirror, I got a little concerned wondering how on earth I was going to get the thing off.
And a few signals from my bladder only added to the urgency. My heartrate rose to cardio-workout pace, and I was dripping with sweat. Yes, it was sheer panic.
Yoga wasn’t as popular back then, but I’m quite certain I was in some sort of inversion position when my husband walked in and, noting my obvious distress, asked how he could help.
I paused, though not quite long enough fully embrace horror of the moment.
There are some jobs in life that are meant for one person, and getting in and out of Spanx is one of them.
“I understand,” he said. But he didn’t. Because no man could, possibly. I’m not even sure I understand what mix of emotions and social pressure makes a woman want to stuff herself into undergarments like that, but I know this: nevermind the kidney-stone-equals-birthing pain argument. Unless a man has ever had to try on a bra, a woman’s swimsuit, or Spanx, he doesn’t understand.
And won’t. Ever.
Humor writer Hallie Bandy is the mother of four children and lives on a farmette in rural Kentucky--both of which provide more than enough fodder for her writing. She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.
©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010