I received a package in the mail this week that had me feeling even more guilty than the donut I ate. It was a box of Spanx. I opened it with a combination of hope, anticipation, fear, embarrassment and self-loathing. Strains of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” floated through my head.
How did I get here? Recently I received a DVD of my solo performance show, which I’ve been studying in order to improve it. I remember choosing my outfit for that show so carefully. A bright colored Tshirt and black workout pants. I remember feeling good! and looking in the mirror backstage before heading on. Yeah! I looked good!
From the front.
Underneath the shirt, I was wearing a sports bra. What I didn’t realize until I looked at the video is that the sports bra created all sorts of (ack!!!!!!!!) bumps and bulges and hills and lumps in my… BACK FAT. What?!?! Who knew?? I didn’t know!! And the first thought I had was, OMG I have to throw away that shirt! I have to never wear that sports bra again! I have to… BUY SOME SPANX!
Now, I already own one pair of panty-spanx that I have worn on a couple of occasions (weddings). But it never occurred to me, until I saw myself From The Back, that I would need to get the TOP kind of Spanx.
Spanx seems to be a controversial sort of item. Are they a godsend, or a hideous re-enactment of the days of Scarlett O’Hara and her corset?
I asked the Twitterverse what they thought about Spanx yesterday, and got these responses.
- i only wear spanx/corset when i’m at a family wedding, wearing a slimfitting dress. otherwise, flowy waistline. it’s torture.
- Haven’t tried Spanx yet. Can’t imagine where all my “junk” would be stuffed! LOL
- I lose my shape when I wear spanx…i get misshappen, not to mention uncomfortable
- Absolutely NOT. All that does for me is squash my fat UP past the waist line so I have a quad rack! Not appealing!
- Spanx? I love mine!
- I like spanx, but I love the Flexees long tanks even more. A good undergarment is essential…:-)
- Spanx = ouch. If I can help it, I’ll never wear ’em again. Jiggles ‘R’ Us.
- My thoughts aren’t deep…I heart Spanx!
- Spill out the top. I hate them. Inspire me to exercise. Plus, they are uncomfortably hot.
- I always feel my fat is just squeezed out the top and bottom when I wear spanx.
So. There are a lot of various opinions out there. I hated to feel like I was bowing to the vanity gods, but I tentatively tried the thing on. It was a bear to GET on, but once I did.. um…. I liked it. I really, really liked it! I put on my performance shirt and yes, it looked totally different. Better, in my opinion. So that’s it. It’s not something I care about for Everyday use, but on that stage, I’m telling you, I’m wearing the Spanx.
Is that crazy? Ironic? Hypocritical? I don’t know. Today I saw a Facebook update by Fit to the Finish. She wrote,
As I was getting my hair cut yesterday I thought about the past. When I was morbidly obese I stopped trying to look good. I stopped wearing make-up, wore my glasses instead of contacts, and never had cute clothes. I tried not to care.
So true! That just hit me like a punch in the gut. I thought of the days when all I wore was baggy stretch pants. So how far do we take this “caring”? Is it excessive to wear contacts instead of glasses? (I am personally extremely attached to my glasses) What about cosmetic surgery? Hair color? Botox? Makeup? Personally, I find makeup MUCH more oppressive than Spanx. For some reason I find it upsetting. I will wear it on occasion, but it always makes me feel so false and unnatural. I do get my hair colored. For how long I’ll continue doing that, I don’t know.
I think that most people care how they look. And everyone has their own comfort zone of what they find acceptable, endurable, in the name of “beauty” or looking good. I do know that for many many years, like Fit to the Finish, I DID NOT CARE. (or pretended I didn’t) Now that I do care (more), it’s a tricky and interesting new territory to navigate.
May 7, 2010 at 11:36 am
Just be careful you can breathe and move on stage in the dreaded thing. Practice with it on. And though you hate makeup ….. everybody needs to wear it on stage! Yes… the caring/vanity issue is a big one. Me, I’m unabashedly vain… but a lot of times I don’t do much to enhance my looks. No spanx, no makeup. I do color my hair and do major hair removal (otherwise I look exactly like Frida Kahlo) but other than that? Luckily I live in a part of the country where “natural” is fine.
May 7, 2010 at 11:46 am
Ha! Hm, really? I did not wear ANY makeup (except for a smidge of lip gloss) on stage the first time. I was all flustered when I saw everyone else back stage with their makeup (except the one Guy). But it was too late. Did it make a difference? Did I look awful without it? I don’t know. (back to the DVD)
May 7, 2010 at 1:46 pm
Especially in the theater you will be performing in, where the stage is raised and the seats raked fairly narrowly back, you will need eye liner/mascara or nobody will be able to see your eyes in the back rows. And yes, lipstick. Possibly blush. It’s not a matter of awful or pretty — it’s a matter of visible. Even male actors often wear makeup, yes they do. And even solo performers. It’s part of your costume!
May 7, 2010 at 1:05 pm
As I said yesterday on Twitter, every time I have tried a body shaper type garment, I’ve ended up hating it. They either squish me into a weird shape (especially if they cut me off in the mid-section) or are just plain uncomfortable. I’ve often felt that the only people who look good with them probably would look good without them, know what I mean?
That said, I always tried to look as good as I could even when I was 230 pounds. But if often involved hiding myself. I think I was in denial that I was as heavy as I was! When I lost the weight, I found myself wanting to more stylish and ABLE to more stylish. I was able to wear cute strappy heels and the like. I embraced color a lot more.
I wear makeup, but not a whole lot and not every day, and like you, I am not ready to see how gray I’d be if I didn’t color my hair!
May 7, 2010 at 1:11 pm
Oh, a couple of other things!
Lane Bryant makes something called the “back smoothing bra” and even though I am not a plus size any more, I do own a couple of these bras and they really do a nice job covering up the back fat…
I find that if I wear the right clothes to suit my body shape (not to mention the right size), I look better than if I wear something that doesn’t quite suit my shape with a body shaper.
May 7, 2010 at 1:28 pm
I got myself a spanx-ish thing that goes from right under my bra line and has a built in set of panties – so like a leotard without the top. I’ve worn it a few times under dresses (bought it for my wedding dress) and it’s nice that it smooths out the belly – its a godsend for my jiggly bits.
I don’t see anything wrong with using spanx or whatever to look good – I too didn’t put too much effort into looking good when I was heavy and am enjoying caring about it now again!
May 7, 2010 at 2:25 pm
Didn’t know Spanx existed. Might try the men’s tee shirt. Don’t want to end up curvy, but love the idea of hiding that back fat! (Oooh. Back fat.)
Also considering coloring the gray.
Vanity? Perhaps. But, I’ll look good being vain, damn’t.
May 7, 2010 at 2:40 pm
However, I must add that I saw your performance and never once thought about or noticed any back fat.
May 7, 2010 at 2:44 pm
Of course. It’s like the zit on the teenager’s face that looks like a moon crater in the mirorr, but nobody else notices. But *I* noticed.
May 7, 2010 at 4:38 pm
Thanks for the mention! Almost as soon as I started losing weight I started caring about my appearance. I wish I had been more self confident as an obese person but I wasn’t. I still feel a bit sad looking back on those years.
As far as Spanx goes? I love mine and wear them with certain outfits. I wouldn’t wear them everyday, but tomorrow I have to speak in front of 1500 people and Spanx will be with me!
May 7, 2010 at 6:24 pm
Well, I don’t know about Spanx, but I don’t think that wearing contacts is necessarily caring about the way you look. I mean, I know some people who “force” their eyes to wear contacts possibly because they are to vain to wear glasses and their eyes are a wreck. They are red and icky looking. Some people “care” so much about the way they look they continue to wear them through eye infections, so . . . I don’t necessarily think that contacts are a measure of caring about how you look.
And I think make-up is also a matter of opinion. I know some people that wear so much make-up it makes me think they can’t possibly care how they look.
I used to be one that wouldn’t go out of the house without eyeliner and mascara, but now that I teach an exercise glass I am rarely out with it. At first I would put it on then go to class but at the end I looked like a football player because regardless of what people think initially—Nia is a sweaty exercise if you want that type of workout. So now I got ou with barely a line of eyeliner so when I am done it looks just a bit smudged. And hair . . . omg . . . don’t even get me started.
I am surprised by the fact that you don’t wear eye make up. I would not have guessed. Your eyes always look bright to me. Must be those thick dark lashes.
I understand the idea of a need for stage makeup, but to me whether on stage or not, the most important thing is to be comfortable. If you are uncomfortable wearing make up that will show much more than your features.
Be you. Make-up, no make-up, glasses, no glasses, Spanx . . . whatever . . . they are coming to see you and hear your story. Don’t disappoint them by being someone you are not.
May 7, 2010 at 8:50 pm
My thoughts are so shallow. I think I got stalled (and am still stalled at): THERE IS A TOP KIND OF SPANX?!
May 7, 2010 at 9:41 pm
Hmmm…there’s vanity (the Wikipedia writeup is interesting!), and then there’s wanting to put care into your appearance, as a way of enhancing your confidence. Somehow, I don’t think of good foundation undergarments as being excessive.
I think I’m having more fun with my appearance now, than when I was morbidly obese, because it’s still novel. But how much I focus on it is pretty much the same; it depends on the situation. I’ve always been picky about my hair, but pretty low-maintenance about makeup. (None, usually, unless it was a date night or going to a dressy social event. Or family events where there might be photos taken.) I had taken a hiatus from contacts, then tried them again about 5 years ago but felt dizzy wearing them, so I’m a glasses girl. When I start noticing grey, I will probably get my hair done. I don’t think I’ll be messing with botox or plastic surgery, but I’m at a point where I can see the strong appeal of surgery.
You might enjoy the Nora Ephron book “I Feel Bad About My Neck.” If you can find the audio book of her reading it, it’s very funny. If anything, it will make you relieved that you don’t adhere to New Yorker beauty sensibilities. 🙂
May 8, 2010 at 10:45 am
I’ve been afraid to read Ephron’s book bc I DON’T feel bad about my neck YET (although I used to! ha!) and I am afraid it is a harbinger of things to come.
May 8, 2010 at 1:55 am
I have worn spanx-type underwear to special occasions like weddings, but I wouldn’t wear them for anything else, I don’t think. They are uncomfortable, and I think I look good enough without them. (I’m sure you do too!)
May 8, 2010 at 10:37 am
I just posted on this very subject… I lost weight finally because of health reasons– that was the only motivator with a enough kick. But now that I have I am terribly vain some days. It is a mixed thing because I am in my early forties and all this concern about appearance would have been more rewarding ten years ago.
I like Spanx, they make me look sleeker, but tap squats work almost as well without that squeeeezed sensation.
I had a diabetic type question for you. I’m prediabetic if my glucometer is telling the truth. My FBS at the MD’s the other day was 84, a1c of 5.3. She thought it was early days for Metformin yet. I’m going with that, but my fastings are often over 100 and I’ve read the earlier the better with Metformin. Do you mind sharing your opinion?
May 8, 2010 at 10:44 am
First: what is tap squats?!? Sounds like some sort of exercise!
Re the diabetic question, I have to say that I am NO expert and I am sure your endocrinologist (is it an endocrinologist?) knows what she is talking about. The individual blood testings, like the scale, can be wonky though and I think the “true” test is the a1c. And yours is STELLAR. As is 84!! So… I’d go with that. How often do you get your a1c tested?
My fastings have been rather high lately and I just realized (with some alarm) that I was taking Vitamin D INSTEAD of Metformin bc they look exactly alike in shape and size. Whoopsie. So I think my a1c is going to suck this time. Ah.
May 10, 2010 at 10:58 am
Speaking of “Spanx”…
From the November issue of “O” magazine comes this gem from Anne Lamott (she and several others contributed to a feature on “How To Become The Person You Were Meant To Be”):
“We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who were were born to be. The only problem is that there is also so much other stuff, typically fixations with how people perceive us, how to get more of the things that we think will make us happy, and with keeping our own weight down. So the real issue is how do we gently stop being who we aren’t? How do we relieve ourselves of the false fronts of poeple-pleasing and affectation, the obsessive need for power and security, the backpack of old pain, and the psychic Spanx that keep us smaller and contained?
Here’s how I became myself: mess, failure, mistakes, disappointments, and extensive reading; limbo, indecision, setbacks, addiction, public embarrassment, and endless conversations with my best women friends; the loss of people without whom I could not live, the loss of pets that left me reeling, dizzying betrayals but much greater loyalty, and overall, choosing as my motto William Blake’s line that we are here to learn to endure the beams of love. Oh yeah, and whenever I could, for as long as I could, threw away the scales and the sugar.”
May 18, 2010 at 12:44 am
I think what is most important is how YOU feel about those things- make-up, spanx, hair etc. and how YOU feel comfortable… as for me, i feel like i look dead without eye makeup and would rather go to the dentist than wear “spanx” or pantyhose. oh, and i ❤ my red hair and feel frumpy when my roots show . so, am i vain? maybe a little 🙂 but i feel better and more confident in myself when i'm in the right gear. at my old job they used to say "dress to impress"- which always made me feel like i was dressing for someone else. i prefer "dress for success" because then it's about ME feeling successful….
July 1, 2010 at 11:38 am
I’m glad you shared this post with me…! I’m not sure how I’ll feel about Spanx once they’re on my body, but I’m looking forward to finding out. I’m going to try them. 🙂
Even at my heaviest I did my best to look good – sun dresses, manicures/pedicures, etc. But it’s a lot more fun over 100 pounds smaller. And I’m not even done yet..:)
Have I mentioned that I would love to see your performance?!
July 2, 2010 at 1:47 am
Kenz, I think you look amazing and stylish all the time! Let me know what you think of the Spanx. One thing I did find out is that they make me HOT and they are not very absorbent and so the first time I wore one to a WW meeting with a Tshirt dress over it, I had some MAJOR sweat stains to contain with in my, er, chest area. It was kinda embarrassing. So…. something to know.