It’s nothing new. For hundreds of years women have sucked in their sagging flab and squished it around to boost something up or flatten something down.
As the years passed I was witness to my own kind of continental drift. Slowly but surely various body parts shifted southward and my center mass took on new territories to the east and west. I discovered its full-blown effect while shopping for a dress for an afternoon wedding.
“May I show you something in a sheath?” a sales assistant offered.
“Show,” uh yeah, nice word choice. Everything showed: saddlebags, poufy tummy and shall we say, less than perky derriere.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “We have these wonderful body shapers in Foundations.”
“What are you talking about? “Are you saying there are fitness trainers in the cosmetic’s department?” Then all of a sudden it dawns on me, “You’re talking about a girdle, aren’t you?”
“We like to call them body shapers in this new millennium,” her voice dripped with condescension.
As I rode up the escalator to lingerie, I rehearsed how I’d ask for the “body shaper.”
Swaggering up to the counter, I sized up the nubile twentysomethings,
“Girls, I’m looking for a girdle. Call ’em whatever you like, but I need a girdle.”
Stripped bare in the dressing room, I examined myself from every angle in the three-paneled mirror. How is it possible that I look less lumpy naked than when I’m fully clothed?
The salesgirl interrupted my thoughtful moment with a knock and an armload of the newest inventions to lift, separate, smooth and flatten.
“You can start with the tiniest brief and work your way up to the full body shaper if you need more slimming,” she chirped then disappeared.
Feeling hopeful, I searched for the tiniest brief.
“You must’ve forgotten the ‘brief’,” I yelled out, “there’s nothing in here that’s ‘small and lacking length.’ ” I grabbed the thing that was the size of a chair cushion and pulled it on. Aside from not being able to breathe, I realized this was a simple physics lesson. If you squish something here it will pop out there. Yep, my stomach was definitely flatter, but now there was flab hanging over the top of the elastic and a new roll had been squeezed out from the bottom, giving me upper-thigh flab.
I crammed myself into the next full-legged brief. Why are they still calling these things “briefs?” This lifted my rear and squeezed my thighs smooth, but now my knees bulged.
Finally, I tried the full-slip shaper complete with bra, but no matter how I adjusted the straps, the way it fit my shorter than 5-foot frame, my silhouette resembled a tribal woman with oddly perky breasts popping out at my navel.
“Oh you might want to try this,” the salesgirl said as she knocked. “This one’s not so tight and it looks more like bike pants.” Perfect, I thought as I slipped them on. If I’m in an accident it’ll look like I’m athletic.
Nothing bulged or hung out, and the bonus feature was that I could still breathe. I slid into my elastic-band pants and marched out to pay.
As I stood in line, I felt the need to share this rite of passage. So I shouldered up to the woman buying the lacy D-cup bra and thong.
“You know,” I said, “it’s a lot more fun buying your first bra than your first girdle.”
Fondling her miniscule thong, she turned away—as if buying a girdle might be contagious. OK, so thong-lady didn’t share my moment, let alone my epiphany. But in that instant, I finally understood why older women say they’re more comfortable in their own skin. Trust me, it isn’t philosophical—it’s just roomier.