Monday, June 04, 2007

It's not exactly a girdle.

“You look like someone else from a distance.” A stranger said I was walked down the lengthy hospital hallway. At my quizzical look, she shook her head and offered, “You don’t once I got close up.”

I must have continued to look confused – I think I might have reminded her of someone she knew, then the surprise that we were not acquainted made her speak to me regardless – because she stopped and turned around to clarify.

“It’s the way you carry yourself, I think.” She noted, then waved her hand in the air at shoulder height. “A confidence, perhaps.”

“Oh.” I said, then smiled at her. What I would have said had my own internal censors not been working properly was, “It’s probably my new underwear!”

The fact is that I bought new skirts this weekend (and also that it’s been a little while since my last embarrassing revelation on the blog – I’m likely due.). Knee-length, flowing, light-weight summer skirts now hang happily in my closet. They’re quite pretty – one black with pink flowers, one white with blue flowers and one (quite loud, but $8!) with a navy and yellow pattern. I love them all very much.

“But,” I said to Friend, “I need something to wear underneath. I don’t like the shorts I sometimes wear and putting on hose everyday defeats the purpose of wearing a skirt to be cooler. I need…different shorts or undergarments or something.”

She offered that she sometimes wears Under Armour and is pleased with the results. Since the primary goal was to prevent any chafing (which is vastly unpleasant to write, but even more awful to deal with in sticky summer weather), I considered her suggestion. But I wanted something ladylike and pretty. So instead of visiting the sportswear department, I headed to lingerie. And found a girdle-type device.

They’re not called girdles, of course, going with by the more consumer-friendly ‘body shaper.’ But they’re basically really tight shorts – with some sort of gripping rubber-esque material on the inside so they don’t budge as you move around – that go up almost to the bra area. I didn’t feel that the height of the stretchy material was warranted, but given that they didn’t have anything lower, I shrugged and bought a pair in white and beige.

I wore the beige today – under a black top with my black and pink skirt – and told Friend I rather liked it.

“I noticed you didn’t wear a white shirt.” She offered.

“No,” I said, giggling. “Then everyone would know I had on underwear up to my chest.” She nodded and laughed and said I might not be so enamored of what was under my pretty outfit after I grew hot or had to use the restroom.

Instead, I found I love this fantastic device. It’s not uncomfortable, but I am strangely aware that I’m wearing it. Almost like when you start wearing a new ring. It’s not painful, but it does tug at my consciousness. I hold my fingers a bit differently than normal, play with the back of the band until I grow used to the sensation of pressure where there was none before.

It’s the same thing here – there’s pressure while everything is tucked and smoothed. I had trouble finding my waist – everything curved more gently and there wasn’t an obvious place to rest the waistband of my skirt. I had to examine myself in the mirror to make sure things looked right because the material of the body shaper is dense enough so that I couldn’t really feel the clothing on top of it. I rather liked that there was an extra, unseen layer between me and the world.

So whether it was that I liked the way the soft hem of the skirt flirted with my calves as I walked along, or how I enjoyed how the clicking heels of my sandals sounded, or holding my head up so my bangs didn’t fall in my face, or walking a bit taller since I was aware that body shaper would work better if I didn’t slouch… Something made me appear confident. In need of a hand wave in the air to indicate how I carry myself.

The truth is that I like everything understated and contained. Nothing obvious or gauche – I prefer simple and elegant. Quiet and smooth seem to soothe me somehow – I liked the idea of controlling some problem areas and wondered if I could begin to wear these fabulous pieces all the time.

“What I need,” I told Friend at lunch, “is a full body suit! Something that comes up over my shoulders, but still has the shorts component. Then everything would be smooth and contained!”

“Then you could wear white shirts, I suppose.” She said after calling me odd.

“I could.” I breathed, staring into the cafeteria as I considered the possibilities. “Then if anyone noticed I was wearing some large undergarment under my clothes, I could say, ‘It’s my full body suit!’”

“OK.” I think she said. In all fairness, it’s likely best to agree with crazy people so they don’t flip out. So kudos to Friend.

I’m obviously all about control, given that I would wear a full protective suit (maybe like Spiderman? But less obvious.) to prevent people from seeing flaws.

Apart from my pager and cell phones – ringers set so low I often don’t hear them so as to be unobtrusive, my toenails painted a shade of pale pink and fingers polished in clear so as to be slightly shiny but nothing else, I try to glide around unnoticed. And if someone does see me, I fervently hope they don’t think anything negative.

When I first started grad school, I had walked miles and was incredibly hot. I started to cross the street, thinking it was my turn, and the turn lane had to stop despite their green arrow. A mean man in a white van rolled down his window and called me stupid. It still makes my stomach hurt.

Later in grad school, someone was waiting to merge into traffic. I stopped to allow him room to come in, but he failed to move. Looking behind me at a long line of cars, I didn’t want to hold them up, so I moved forward. Merger honked and honked and honked at me as I sat there waiting for the light to change. I finally looked at him, throwing his hands about in absolute rage, and mouthed, “Shut Up.” But I recall how brightly my cheeks burned and how desperately I wanted him to stop directing attention at me.

In high school, there was a student council car wash. I parked in the wrong lot and everyone laughed at me for some reason. I desperately wanted to leave and go home, feeling frumpy in my one piece bathing suit around beautiful girls in bikinis, but forced myself to stay and hated every single moment of the experience.

I was walking Chienne several weeks ago and a young man ran from a house to berate me for allowing her to potty in his yard. Since I clean up her messes, I apologized, picked things up, then walked away. But I hate the sharp, ugly feeling that remains when I walk by that home, though I alter my route to not do it often.

I loved someone and I thought he liked me in return. He didn’t. I wanted to be friends because I still thought he was rather unique and interesting. He didn’t share that feeling. And there’s this knot of embarrassment that lingers beyond the other bad feelings. I don't want to feel badly when he flits into my consciousness. But I do.

I sometimes sit by myself when I go to seminar. Or don’t have anyone with whom to speak in the lobby beforehand. And I feel like there’s a glaring light around me because I’m not connected and involved and friendly.

Notoriously Difficult sent a snarky email to me on Friday and I can recall the exact line that bothered me. Then she accidentally sent me an email meant for someone else that was demeaning, but not incredibly so. And I was hurt and angry and bothered enough not to easily fall asleep over the weekend.

These are not huge problems, I know. I happen to be rather blessed to be able to agonize over trivial incidents that happened – in some cases – years ago. It’s just that the memories are so vivid. They still make me feel sick and sad and grossly obvious in whatever flaw it is that makes people look at me with disdain or anger or irritation.

And while therapy would likely provide an emotional girdle – smoothing the edges and containing the bad feelings while allowing the good ones to shine through, at least I have a physical one. Something that allows me to display a bit more confidence while somehow containing the fear of being noticed, at least a little.

Except on a blog, apparently. In an environment where I feel safe, I can be free with all the stuff I otherwise try so mightily to hide. And perhaps that's why you hear from me nearly every day - I think that was much as I like the body shapers (and I do like them a lot), they'd eventually grow uncomfortable. Likewise, in keeping everyone far enough away to protect my tender feelings, at some point, there's a need to be known on a deeper level. Which is what I think I'm trying to do here.


EthidiumBromide said...

Let me know when you invent that full body suit... I could use something to squeeze me into the last button of my lab coat. Despite my pleas, we still only buy coats sized for men, and none of us females (which outnumber the males in the lab) can manage to get our hips to fit into the last darn button, which doesn't make for the most attractive image.

phd me said...

Ah, chafing. So unpleasant! And such a reminder that I'm not the cute 20-something I would so like to be! :) I'll admit it: I bought a pair of hose with attached girdle when I went to a posh wedding a few years ago. I found a great dress but the bulgy bits made it less great, so I sucked it up and bought the old lady undergarment, with the help of a very nice saleslady who understood the wish to delete bulgy bits. If I'm ever going to find my waist again, I may need to buy one sans hose.

Anonymous said...

I own the shorter version of the Spanx thingie.

Anonymous said...

I meant to add that there is a shorter version. I wore it under my wedding dress and it was the most comfortable undergarment I tried.

Kelly said...

(I'm a new reader - I've been following your blog for about a week.) I can empathize with your feelings of desiring less negative attention - I was a nerd outcast in high school and had many of the same experiences of burning cheeks and stomach knots. Thankfully I have finally fit into an industrial postdoc where I have several good friends about my age struggling with similar life issues.

Your blog is an excellent place for gathering positive attention; please keep posting!

The Contessa said...

hey - I love those undergarments - I have them in black, white and beige and wear them all the time.

I recently lost enough weight to fit back into my thongs, and I have to say it, I noticed that while it is cooler for certain ( less material will do that) there was still the chaffing possibilities.

I went back to my biker short undergarments.

I too want to be on the list for the full body suit!

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