I was struggling into a pair of Spanx - pulling and tugging, tucking and folding, huffing and puffing, and hopping up and down. And my daughter was watching. Her big eyes baffled and a tad concerned.
Oh, Spanx. I’m sure I have worn you for almost every major event in my life. Graduations - including my own - galas, balls, and weddings. Mid-thigh, high-waisted, extended length, “power” shorts. Special maternity Spanx. I’ve done it all. Always in practical beige, of course. I’ve carefully inspected the sizing guide on your back. 5’7”, 140 lbs - B, 5’7’, 155 lbs - C, 185 lbs - D. I’ve struggled into you and out of you. Washed you in cold and laid you flat to dry. My thighs have ravaged holes in you. My rolls have rolled you down and flipped you over. I’ve cursed you, and I’ve loved you. I’ve loved your ability to smooth dimples and prevent thigh chaffing. To shave inches.
I’ve joked about you.
“Check out my sweet bicycle shorts, guys!”
“If these make you go down a size, maybe I should double up!”
And, shamefully, I’ve suggested that other women might benefit from you too.
“She could use some Spanx,” whispered to a fellow shapewear enthusiast.
But for all that time spent buying you, wearing you, washing you, and even talking about you, I haven’t spent much time at all really thinking about you. I’m not here to suggest that we all burn our Spanx. You do you, girl. If you love the thigh saving, inch shaving powers of shapewear, whatever the brand, that’s just fine. Plus, those suckers are expensive! I’m just saying that I never really thought about Spanx until I saw myself struggling into them through my little daughter’s eyes.
She’s not even two, but she understands so much of what we say. No sooner than we’ve mentioned “outside,” she’s trotted off to get her coat and shoes. So I try not to talk negatively about my body or other people’s bodies in front of her. I’m actually trying to avoid negative body talk on the whole, but take extra care in front of her. She loves her belly. Loves lifting up her shirt to show it off, patting it, and expertly locating her belly button. And she loves my belly too. It was her home for almost a year, and it remains a nice cozy spot for cuddling up, for laying her head on, for book reading, and comforting. She couldn’t care less if it’s a B, C, D or Z. One of her favourite words is “ball.” When she pats my belly and exclaims, “Ball!” I laugh and reply, “Yes, mom’s belly. We have nice bellies.”
I have fat on my stomach - and stretch marks - and a bright white scar from the dog jumping up and scratching my very pregnant belly. And I am okay with that. For most of my life, I haven’t been okay with it. I have wanted to look like the women I saw on TV and in magazines. Most photoshopped, all unrealistic for me. I’ve wasted lots of time and energy in the pursuit of thinness. I’ve taken up unhealthy and unsafe practices - restricting, starving, taking diet pills, exercising to the point of injury. I’ve lost my belly. I’ve been thin - struggling and unhealthy - and praised and complimented on my appearance. I am now happier and healthier - and fatter.
It seems unreal, but at the time it was normal. Everyone was doing it. It took me a long while to figure out that it isn’t normal or necessary. That I don’t have to shrink myself to be worth something. That I can Just. Be.
Maybe Spanx are empowering. Maybe they’re modern-day corsets. Maybe they’re just a tight piece of spandex that one can easily opt in or out of. Maybe if they’re such a good idea, they should start making Spanx for men. Maybe they’re worth taking some time to at least think about. As much as I am okay with my ball-like belly at the moment, I have a feeling that the next time I have to wear an evening gown, I may just resort back to the smoothing powers of Spanx. But I think I’ll do my struggling - pulling and tugging, tucking and folding, huffing and puffing, and hopping up and down - in the bathroom - with the door closed. Because my daughter’s not only listening - she’s watching.