Shapewear

In my last post, I ranted about why working out is annoying to me, and touched a little on why I don’t do it regularly. That post started with me talking about shapewear and how I bought some this year for the first time in my life. The reason for that purchase was that I needed shapewear for the first time in my life this year. See, I’ve gained some weight in the past couple of years. The combination of a job where I work long hours and don’t eat as well as I could, sitting at a desk most of the day, plus having a dog who has been restricted to crate rest for months, plus just generally not taking great care of myself in light of death and tragedy and difficulty has led to a less active lifestyle, more stress, and weight gain. While I have never been an avid exerciser, I have always been active – walking the dog several miles every day, hiking, biking around town. I am not the embodiment of Obese Lazy America, I just struggle to get behind hardcore working out. I am striving to untangle all the psychological complexity of that so I can get behind working out, at least to a healthy degree. Maybe with the turn of the new year. Maybe.

In the meantime, shapewear is a life saver in the way that it smooths out the lines under clothing. It hides muffintop AND back fat! The concept is truly magical, and there are women all over the world who are at this very moment reaping the benefits of shapewear.

What I have discovered is that it pays to do some research and make sure you purchase the right kind of shapewear. Like most of what I do in my life, I discovered this the hard way. As I mentioned in my last post, I grabbed a pair of spandex shapewear shorts that look not unlike bicycle shorts and tossed them into my cart as I was headed to the checkout line. It is not uncommon for me to veer into the women’s section for no real purpose when I am nearing the end of my grocery shopping if I am in a store like Meijer. This is why I frequently opt to pay a little more to shop in stores that are dedicated to actual groceries – because in those stores, I won’t be tempted to suddenly and spontaneously purchase a pair of pajamas I don’t need or a spandex torture contraption designed to squeeze my gut into place.

If I had known what type of shapewear to buy, I would have gone a size larger. I also would have tried it on first. And I definitely wouldn’t have chosen off-white. But I was in a hurry, and I was anticipating needing it for my mother’s funeral, and it’s what ended up in my cart and eventually on my body.

Since my shapewear was an off-brand, and because I am growing tired of typing the word “shapewear”, I will refer to it from now on as Janx. Behold:

Janx

It’s like having your tummy hugged by a steamroller

The first time I wore my Janx was the day I buried my mother, and it was bittersweet because I knew we would have laughed until we cried as I told her of the plight of attempting to shimmy into a garment tantamount to some of the monstrosities that existed in the Victorian era. My sisters and I decided we wanted to go all out and dress up for the day we said goodbye to our Mama. We meticulously applied makeup, we bought new dresses. They had their hair styled professionally; I threw some bedazzled bobby pins from the drug store into my mop and called it good. We wore strappy heels in the July heat. And Janx. We wore Janx. Maybe they wore Spanx. I can’t attest to their shapewear purchasing choices. But this girl? Creamy, eggshell Janx under my sleek black dress.

Thanks to profound grief, not consuming much water, and making the (unusually) sound decision to avoid too much alcohol consumption at the wake, I actually didn’t have to use the bathroom much and therefore didn’t have to revisit or assess my Janx situation often. See, that’s the thing about Janx – once you’ve shimmied into them, that’s not the end of it. Every time you go to the bathroom, you get to do that dance all over again.

This experience lulled me into a false sense of security about my shapewear, and I became over-confident.

This is amazing! I’m totes going to get into shape soon, but for now I can still wear my clothes without looking like I have sacks of gak stashed under them! It’s easy-easy!

It wasn’t until September that I really learned about The Janx Gyration. I went to a local outdoor music festival and boldly wore them under my summery dress. You can read that again. I wore shapewear to a music festival. That was outside. Where I would be drinking beer. And using porta potties. It might have been one of the single worst decisions of my adult life.

Porta potties are not built for women in general, but they are especially not built for women who are any taller than 5’3″ or weigh anymore than 105lbs. While not phobic about germs, I try to avoid rubbing my bare skin against any of the surfaces of a porta potty, and those efforts become impossible in the face of attempting to wiggle into a piece of fabric that is so tightly woven with Spandex that it could be used in a pinch for tasks like towing heavy machinery. The feeling of one’s bare ass brushing the cold, clammy plastic of the inner wall of a porta potty is one that sears itself on the psyche, never to be forgotten.

The process of putting on Janx is sort of like trying to force the lower 2/3 of your body into a Chinese Finger Trap. The harder you move and wiggle, the tighter it becomes around you and the more panicked you become. It is very important not to allow that panic to overtake you, to try and regulate your physiological response. This is because when your pulse starts to race you also start to sweat. And if Janx has a natural enemy, it’s clammy human skin. You’ll be stuck there in the crossfire – your Janx glued to your thighs, not quite up over your hips – a victim in the battle between your uncooperative body and the militant garment designed solely to knead and bludgeon that body into compliance.

You will look sort of like those iPod Silhouette Dancing Commercials, except you aren’t overcome with the Spirit of Dance over an exciting electronic device. Yours is the Spirit of Terror. And the only song you hear is the cacophony in your head that assures you that you will live out the rest of your days right here, caught in an Alamo-esque standoff from which you will not escape, your Janx unwilling to go up or down. They will find your mummified remains in this porta potty, and by that time the Janx will have actually become a part of your anatomy, but at least your headstone will read something pleasant about how smooth and free of lumps and cellulite your ass and midsection appeared to be.

There was a moment in that night that I considered ripping my Janx from my body and tossing them into the gaping maw of the porta potty toilet, bidding them adieu forever. But I pushed on, mostly out of fear that I would unwittingly flash my underpants to the world.

That is one of the other dis/advantages of Janx – they can act as shorts under a dress that might otherwise be questionable in length. Many of my friends wear much shorter dresses and skirts than me all the time. Because I grew so tall at such a young age, I have never quite grown comfortable in my long legs. Even after living more than half my life at this height, still I feel like a wobbly baby foal much of the time in my own body. So when a skirt hits me even an inch or two above the knee, I get squirrelly and uncomfortable.

One of my prevailing fears is that I will fall down and my skirt will fly up over my head and everyone will see my underwear and a spotlight will light up on me and a camera will spin around my horrified face while a massive group of people with overly emphatic facial expressions circles around me, pointing and laughing maniacally and cruelly, and then maybe I become covered in pig’s blood and then I light them all on fire with my mind. Or something.

So wearing shorts under a dress is my way of alleviating my own discomfort and avoiding unwittingly flashing my bare butt cheeks and possible side vag to the world. Shorts under my dress is a win-win.

But there are also hazards to having on shorts, particularly off-white shorts that are cut in a way that they look like they may or may not be able to accommodate an adult diaper insert. My Janx are paradoxical in that way; despite being so tight that they threaten to squeeze my soul out through my pores, they also are so hideous that they look as if they belong in the top drawer of a woman three or four times my age – a woman who has gracefully aged past the point of ever having care what her undergarments look like.

Sometimes I forget that I am a woman dressed in women’s clothing and shouldn’t just bend over to take care of whatever task I’m attempting to complete. I am naturally a doer, and missing from the action-oriented person’s toolkit is the couth to remember to squat at the knees when you need to bend down for something. Many of the strong, independent, beautiful women I know don’t wear skirts and dresses for this very reason. They are deterred by the high likelihood of bearing one’s derriere to the world in a moment of just trying to take care of things.

The sensory issues I battle long ago smacked down, stomped all over, and spit on any modicum of modesty I might ever have possessed. So by the time I wriggle into my Janx, I’m so euphoric with self-satisfaction over the fact that it took me only six minutes this time to get the whole undergarment situation just right that I’m especially oblivious to the need to be mindful of not flashing my old lady keister to everyone around me. Thus, probably 25% of this town has seen some variation of my Janx-clad ass, and I am okay with that. At least it was a glimpse of a cellulite-free, smooth and shapely bum that they will associate with me.

On the next installment of The Asinine and Absurd Reality of Women’s Clothing That We Know We Shouldn’t Buy Into But Totally Do Because Gender Role Socialization is the Absolute Worst, we’ll talk about one-piece shapewear in the context of tall women, the bizarre photos of scrawny women featured on shapewear websites, tights that won’t stay up, and why maybe we should just scrap the whole mess of it and wear whatever the hell we want.

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