Here’s a thing about women’s bodies after 50: the muffin-top. You know it, that little extra sumpin’ that rolls out over the waistband of your jeans or yoga pants. It’s not fat, necessarily, just slippage. The muffin-top has a corollary, bra-bulge: those rolls that bubble up from under your bra straps, giving your back that nice topographical look you’ve never wanted.
It’s new to me, this feeling that my own flesh is on the loose, literally. I sit down and it sort of squirts out between my bra line and waistband, giving me the overstuffed sensation you might get after Thanksgiving dinner. It makes me feel matriarchal, but in a good way, uninhibited. I guess I am on my way to being one of those unfiltered late-50 something gals who just puts it right out there. “Wow, your new haircut is a shot in the dark!”; “That dress must really have been on sale!”; “I see why your son doesn’t have a girlfriend.” This must be the definition of “let it all hang out,” when your own flesh is just going for it and the rest of you can’t help but follow suit.
Which brings me to Spanx. Hollywood starlets who couldn’t pinch an inch of flesh if their lives depended on it are wearing girdles. When asked “Who are you wearing tonight” on the red carpet at a recent awards show, one little slip of a thing answered brightly: “Isaac Mizrahi and Spanx!” These are young, fit women, who just happen to have, um, skin. God forbid our attention should be drawn to the fact that there’s as much of it under their clothing as they expose.
In the girl-cop buddy movie, “The Heat”, there’s a scene where actresses Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy are changing in a restroom. Bullock, uptight and whippet-thin, is scooching into her Spanx. McCarthy, larger than life in body and in character, watches on skeptically.
McCarthy: “Jesus, what are those?”
Bullock: “They’re my Spanx. They hold everything together.”
McCarthy (incredulous): “Why? What’s gonna come popping out?”
So I have worn a Spanx or two in my time. I know what Ms. Bullock means about being held together by a nice compression foundation garment. It can be oddly comforting. But ultimately it brings me no joy. Heck, the brand name is a little masochistic: Punish me; I have a stomach. Even “control top” nylons evoke the sense that something terrible could happen without them. I may lose control and just dissolve into—what? Tears? Unpleasantness? Or dare I say it, be a bitch? My inner feminist rages. Men just let that big ‘ol beer gut loll over their belt buckle almost proudly, sloshing around as they walk. They don’t care that the sight of all that flesh going off-leash might offend. Is there such a thing as Spanx for men–some steel-reinforced spandex product that compacts their unsightly bulge into a more manageable package? If so, I doubt its sales rival those of Spanx. I resent feeling that I need to be shmushed into place. At my age, all Spanx really do anyway is relocate the spillover to another quadrant. They make me sweat. They cannot be great for my circulation, and they do nothing for my ego. It’s a love/self-hate thing. I have to own that I am complicit in my self-constraint.
Maybe we should all stage a coup and burn our Spanx, 70’s-style.