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By Dianne Armitage
Ever since I’ve had breast cancer I tend to like to wear clothes that are casual and comfy. It’s an effort for me to get up at 6:00 am and cheerfully throw myself into a suit and 3 inch heels. I suppose some of this stems from so many months of being uncomfortable. I have a much greater appreciation of cozy, soft, and fuzzy than I did before I got sick.
Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that people don’t always take you seriously when you are dressed in your jammies. Actually, I’ve yet to find an office job where coming to work with your binky and favorite flannel pj’s is considered acceptable attire. I still dream about the moment when I can quit my day job and write full time. I hate to admit it, but some of the allure is simply being able to get up, grab a cup of coffee and then wander to the computer without having to get dressed.
Although my day job generally doesn’t involve spending any time with people from outside the company, I began to think perhaps I haven’t been putting enough effort into looking professional. Most days find me wearing a pair of slacks with a blouse or sweater, and some comfortable shoes. Granted, I’m a shoeaholic, so my closet is stuffed with any number of tennis shoes, loafers, and boots. I also have a wide array of beautiful high heels, but as gravity has done its number on me, (and my body mass has multiplied) I find that tottering around on them isn’t always good for my health. I can’t count the times I’ve nearly twisted my ankle as I was waltzing from my cubicle to wherever it is I waltz (okay, okay, I’m usually hobbling because there is no way a 3” heel is comfortable.)
I guess part of what spurred me into action was feeling very unattractive. It’s been years since I had anyone turn and give me that look. You know the one I mean. A couple of years ago a young man in the car next to me caught my attention and threw a smile at me that made my heart do one of those long forgotten cartwheels. I looked over at him several times to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating, and sure enough, he was giving me that look. For about a nanosecond I felt like one hot momma, and then I distinctly remember thinking “I wonder if he is mentally challenged?”
As I edge closer and closer to sixty, I am thankful each and every day to be here. I guess I just never really thought all that much about what it really feels like to get old. I’m a firm believer in the old adage, you’re only as old as you feel – or age is just a number – but when friends give you birthday cards that say In Dog Years You’d Be Dead, it’s hard not to start thinking about ways to slow things down just a bit.
I figured one of the simplest and quickest would be to start dressing up a bit for work. Heck, how hard could that be? The first week I began by wearing a dress I hadn’t worn in a couple of years with some pantyhose and sensible heels. My co-workers eyed me suspiciously, and more than one pulled me aside to ask me if I was going on interviews. One young woman made a big deal of how pretty I looked, and that was all it took. For an entire week I managed to find skirts, suit coats, and dresses that not only fit, but that looked pretty darned good.
Part way through this experiment I remembered I’d heard about some new fangled stuff called body shapers. Several of my friends swore that if I wore one of these shapers I would look about 10 pounds thinner. Since I’m all for losing weight without losing weight, I figured what could it hurt? So I marched to my local department store and bought one. I was so excited I nearly wore it to bed – I was just afraid I might be so alluring my husband wouldn’t be able to sleep. And God knows we both need our beauty rest!
Not only did I purchase the body shaper, I went all the way and bought myself a pair of control top panty hose. When I read the sizing chart I wasn’t sure how anyone could fit into the configurations they outlined, but I gave it my best shot and thought, if I’m wearing a shaper that makes me look 10 pounds thinner I should probably buy a pair of panty hose that are just a wee bit smaller than usual to compensate. There may have been an error in my thinking.
I woke up before the alarm clock on the day I was going to put on all of my new and body improving under garments. Unfortunately, I did not get up early enough to catch my husband before he left for work. Why, you ask, does this matter? Well, because when you begin putting on your body shaper the front part is a breeze. I pulled it up to just underneath my bra and I’ll be darned if my stomach didn’t look flatter. The only problem was I couldn’t reach behind me to pull it up where it needed to be in the back, which resulted in a big fleshy blob about mid-back that not only wasn’t slimming – it distinctly made me look like I might explode out of my underwear at any moment.
Try as I might I couldn’t stretch my arms far enough behind me to pull it up further (I knew I should have kept taking those yoga classes!) Ever the optimist, I decided to put my dress on and see what it looked like. It sort of looked like I had a small person riding piggyback under my dress. Sounds attractive doesn’t it?
So I decided perhaps this wasn’t the day to try my new body shaper after all – but I could certainly wear my new pantyhose, couldn’t I? Well, couldn’t I? It took me nearly five minutes to actually get them on because they were so small once I had one foot inside I couldn’t find a position that would allow me to put the other foot in that didn’t require being bent something like a pretzel. I briefly thought about days gone by when I was so agile I could practically throw my pantyhose in the air and jump into them while running out the door.
When I finally got them on I felt like things were more than a bit precarious. The control top was so tight that I had to walk like a Geisha (again, you can imagine how attractive I looked!) I knew it would be worth the effort when I got to work and everyone marveled at how fantastically trim and fit I looked. What I hadn’t counted on was that every time I sat down my control top lost control and rolled at high speed towards my thighs. It was an unnerving sensation to say the least. I might add that rolling control tops act as a great depilatory, but not without a lot of screaming involved. I’m pretty sure the woman on the other side of my cubicle thought I was strangling a cat.
I realized fairly quickly that the hose had to go. Amazingly, I’d somehow forgotten what it feels like to wear heels without them. By the time my lunch hour arrived and I could run home to change clothes, I’d managed to rub some pretty fierce blisters on both heels. Perhaps the saddest part of this whole experiment was that I’m pretty sure the fluid I was retaining made me look much heavier – even if it was in my feet!