Death By Girdle


Name one person in this country who isn’t in the “eat less, work out more” mind set at this very juncture. Okay, maybe Keira Knightley. The vast majority of us are experiencing post-seasonal guilt. So when I got back a batch of photos that my son had taken over the Christmas holiday, it was another nail in the coffin, or cookie tin. Don’t get me wrong, I actually really like this photo because it shows off my new $40 couch I bought at Goodwill (I’m serious) and I do think it’s an accurate reflection of me at this point in my life.  But how many of us say, “wow, this would be great if I could just get rid of those chins.” It reminded me of this piece I wrote, oddly enough, on the 3rd day of January in 2010.  Funny how some things never change. Well, some things do, I gave up on that whole Match fiasco two years ago. Oy. Cramming myself into contrived relationships felt a lot like squeezing into a spandex body shaper.  Hope you think this story from 2010 warrants a rerun. Happy New Year!!

Thinking about those biscochitos.

Thinking about those biscochitos.

Quick! Somebody call 9-1-1!

I’m stuck in the dressing room at Macy’s with a boa constrictor “body shaper” squashing my boobs and it’s not moving up or down !

I’m as serious as a heart attack.

How in the hell do women wear these things? I’d gone into the foundations dressing room with about 15 of these various “enhancers”, (the artist formerly known as “girdle”) to see if I could rein in some of my girth for an important client meeting the next day. I’d bought a new sweater and a sassy short skirt and I didn’t want to look like Homer Simpson.

I was lucky to get out of Macy’s alive.

How in the hell do women wear these things? I tried on the kind which are just bottoms, which is like stepping into a garden hose. It holds in your gut and poofs out your butt. I tried just the tops, which smooth out the bra roll, and prop up your breasts, much like wearing a hot water bottle. Then, I tried the “all in one” which theoretically you put on over your head, then smooth it all the way down, over your “excess” and then hold in place with a handy little hook and eye fastener in the crotch. This keeps it from popping back up like a window shade pulled too tight.

This, friends, is where I got in BIG trouble. I swear to God I thought I was going to be forced to call the Macy’s clerk to the rescue (if a person could find one) to help me out of this damn contraption! Except I couldn’t stop laughing. I was laughing like a fool, laughing out loud, all by myself, the only woman in the fitting rooms. Laughing like when you’re on a scary ride at the amusement park, laughing in the face of danger, because I had the enhancer wadded up under my arms and I couldn’t reach between my shoulder blades to yank it down. And with the back stuck, of course, the front was stuck too. If dressing rooms had cameras, I could have been an instant, global YouTube phenomenon. Think about your wettest, tightest one-piece swimsuit on the hottest, most muggy day of the century, and maybe you’re nine months pregnant.

Okay, my belly doesn’t quite look like that. It’s not that solid. It’s more, you know, jiggly, which unless you’re Santa Claus, is not particularly appealing. And in my continuing quest for love, (and to look ten pounds lighter for an important pitch meeting the next day) I figured what I couldn’t fix over a few months, I could fix with $50.

Apparently not. It’s back to the gym, back to the diet, back to the same damn January resolve I’ve had for years! Better than facing asphyxiation from your girdle though. I’m standing there in the dressing room, with the body shaper snapping me in the face, as I finally tug and pull it back over my head, thinking, what in the world would you do on a date? If you went to the ladies room, the guy would be sitting in an empty restaurant by the time you secured that hook and eye crotch closure again. What would happen if you’re casually drinking a glass of wine, you cross your legs the wrong way and “boing” the damn thing snaps? Even more frightening, what happens if it’s “the night?”

You’re back at his house, you go into his bathroom,

“I’ll be just a minute….”

Then ten minutes later you’re screaming for the jaws of life.


Or, you simply attempt to extricate yourself the spandex torture chamber on your own, desperate combing through the new fella’s medicine chest in search of baby powder, or Vaseline, knowing full well that the increased anxiety over not being able to get out of your girdle is making your body swell up like someone’s guilty finger after they snuck on someone else’s engagement ring!

I threw caution to the wind and didn’t even wear control-top panty hose for my date on New Year’s Eve. Nope, I wore a short dress, leggings and boots, none of which came off at any time during this nice respectable date, with a reasonably respectable guy. It was my second date with “Looks Like Paul McCartney With Grey Hair and Plays Guitar.” New Year’s Eve is a precariously bad night for just a second date, but he was game and so was I, neither of us wanting to be the odd man out at somebody’s party, come midnight. This time last year I was paired up with another single mom having dinner with a married couple, friends of ours. Grateful as I was to not be a total loser on New Year’s Eve, I vowed that would be the last time I’d be another woman’s safety date on the second most significant date night of year.

No such angst this New Year’s Eve. Guitar Man and I went to a party given by one of my best girlfriend’s, who has been seeing her on-line beau for about 14 months! Success can come from Internet dating! So can weirdness. In a true moment of the perils of on-line personals, we stepped into her living room and she exclaimed,

“Oh my God! John! John, right? I know you!”

To which he replied, “Wow….I know you, too! Where do I know you from…..?”

It was slightly awkward. I’m thinking for a second, then leaned over, whispering to her sister,

“Has she had sex with this guy?”

To which her sister busted a gut, because we both knew this would be most unlikely for her sister, the good girl. Still, the question hung in the air for a moment, like fish you fried two days ago. Imagine showing up at a party thinking you’ve just drug in someone’s reject! Can the world get any smaller? Even with 20,000 flavors to choose from, isn’t it amazing how we tend to gravitate toward that comforting, familiar, plain-old-vanilla who lives right around the corner?

Turns out that’s precisely where he knew her from, a neighborhood coffee shop, where he’d hit on her a few times.

“But she didn’t want to go out with me,” he confided later, making me feel worse, like I was stupid enough TO go out with him. (This would be verified later.)

They’d also bumped into each other at a couple of parent/teacher conferences as well. Both avid gardeners, somehow they’d struck of a conversation over the kind of grass you don’t smoke. I find this reassuring, that it’s still possible to meet someone somewhere other than the Internet, although the only people I ever met at parent teacher conferences were pissed off teachers.

Practical as it may be, the proof of partnering via the Internet remains to be seen. Guitar Man and I did have a nice time — we laughed, he was at ease with everybody, conversant and engaging. We drank champagne, and kicked off the New Year with a nice kiss. It’s when he said, “I’d like to rip your clothes off” that it became a bit much.When do men grow up? I ask you? When do some men grow up? I suppose I should be flattered, I didn’t have to spend $50 on a body shaper.

He was a bit much all the way around though, really. Anyone who has Beanie Babies on his dashboard and asked if I had any weed on our first date, well, what can I say? I was giving him the benefit of the doubt on the second date and, okay, I’ll admit it, I was a wee bit desperate. We rang in the New Year and I promptly kicked him to the curb,  just like the Christmas tree and the leftover cheesecake.

It’s high time I got my house in order — my youngest child is twenty years old and the “baby weight” excuse expired about 19 years ago. A gal can’t feel truly confident about this whole dating deal if she’s toting around twenty extra pounds. You can’t really hide it, of tuck it, or stuff in or squash it. The hard, cold fact is; the reason women buy rubberized garments to reduce their buns and hide their rolls, is because they’ve eaten too many buns and rolls. I know this. Who on the planet does not know this?

So, with the conviction of someone who’s just been spared a hanging, I am declaring war on my fat. You may mock me six months from now, but that’s okay, I’m putting it out there. Me and my excess are going back to the gym. And this time I have real incentive. My eldest son is getting married next fall. I met the future in-laws last month and dammit Gumby, they’re thin.

I’ve got nine months to look dazzling, instead of avoiding the wedding photographer like someone with the croup. And who knows? There might even be a man in the picture.

About Jean Ellen Whatley

Writer. Dreamer. Sometimes schemer. Journalist/memoirist/observer and sometimes constructive irritant. Prisoner of demon muses. Mother to four humans and two dogs. In my spare time, I delete phone numbers of former boyfriends.

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  1. Benny/Sue brown says:

    AGAIN, laugh out loud funny, probably because I can relate so easily?lol

  2. I was splitting a gut reading this….Jean, you are just awesome how you put it all out there, real and raw!

  3. Jean–

    Yes, it’s a sad stage of life when your breasts turn to divining rods, pointing downward as they desperately try to reach your poochy gut.

    Your post–very funny but sadly, it’s all true.