I am vain; there’s no denying it.
I only post flattering pictures (mostly old ones) on Facebook. My business card photo is probably 15 years old, and it took three rolls of film—yes, film—to get one glamorous shot. I used to wear jeans so tight I had to lie down and use pliers to get them zipped. I wore eyeliner to the operating room when I went for cataract surgery. I dye my hair.
This confessional came up because recently I used the word “slip” to a woman twenty-something years younger than I and she didn’t know what I meant. “Petticoat” was no help either.
Discussing the extinction of petticoats with Nicodemus this morning, I told him about Spanx. Probably I am the last person in the world to learn about Spanx, a kind of super-corset which squashes female flesh. They make Spanx “body-sculpting” underwear in all sorts of forms to fit parts from shoulder to toes. God knows what the things do to your insides.
Before I learned about Spanx, I was curious to notice, looking at pictures of a lovely chubby tango dancer (nobody we know) in a strapless dress, that she had a pleat in the skin between her bare shoulder blades. What could cause such a thing, I wondered. Did she know her skin was pleated?
Now I am wondering if these garments have to be removed with scissors. Can you bend from the waist? Has there ever been a Spanx explosion where the flesh comes tumbling out of the constriction? And is it really worth it to suffer for the sake of looking thinner than you are? (Or younger. With thick eyelashes.)
In the interest of research, I took a look at advertisements for Spanx. No, I am not going to buy any. And, searching for the etymological root of the word Vanity, I looked at the Greek version of Romans 8:20: “For the creation was made subject to vanity...” The word is also translated as frailty or weakness.
You might think vanity would be opting for appearance over reality, or the capitulation to some sort of cultural imperative regarding ideal beauty. But maybe it could also represent an effort to get one’s outsides to look more like one’s inner sense of self. How many people do you know who like photographs of themselves? How many do you know who catch a fleeting glance in a mirror and think “Who the heck is that?”
(Narcissus, from John William Waterhouse painting, Echo and Narcissus, 1903.)