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Lingerie stores are made for young, not mature, women. But I was desperate to smooth things out


The shape of things to come

You don't want folk to think you've let yourself go, but a girdle? There must be a better way, Catherine White writes

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I am trying to age gracefully, but events conspire and I confess to not being terribly successful at it.

The other day, I bought a lovely blue sweater with sequins, a bit form-fitting but not too extreme. Just the sort of subdued thing that a lady my age could wear to a wedding, which I have to attend next week. Of course, the weddings I attend now are mostly for other people's grandchildren, so who is looking at me anyway when there is much better scenery around? But one must try to do one's best. Who knows if an old beau might turn up? You wouldn't want him to think you had let yourself go.

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The sweater looked just fine until I got it home and then, would you believe, when I tried it on, all of a sudden there were these well-defined rolls around my waist and at my back. Where on earth did they come from? That's what I want to know. I am sure they weren't there in the morning – but there they were, bold as brass. No matter how I tried to straighten up, they would not go away. I certainly must try to view myself from different angles in the future. These rolls are particularly unsightly in my opinion but it's too late to try to lose them before the wedding.

After that shock, I decided to have a really good look at myself in the mirror so I would know what is what. But I don't recommend that approach until you have had a good strong drink beforehand. A drink might just soften your vision a bit, which, in my case, would have been a blessing.

In the cold clear light of the bathroom mirror it seemed, to my amazement, that everything was six inches lower than where it used to be. Again, I wondered, when did that begin to happen?

The pleasure in buying that new sweater was wearing off quickly.

So I decided that there was nothing to do but to go out and purchase a new "foundation" as our grandmothers used to call it. Off to the stores I went – a woman on a mission.

Of course, the lingerie on display is meant for young, not mature, women, so I accosted a sales clerk and explained the dilemma. She was quite nice about it. She suggested a garment called Spanx. The name, I thought, was a bit off-putting, but the reality was even worse.

Into the dressing room I was herded, like a lamb to the slaughter, with this little garment in my hand. And it did seem little even though the tag stated the size was XXL. Surely, it must have been mislabelled? The garment came with no instructions, so the first dilemma was – how was I supposed to wear the thing? And exactly what part of my anatomy was it intended to work on?

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I stripped to the waist – with unflattering lights and a three-way mirror for cold comfort – and started to wriggle into the thing. I can only believe that Spanx must surely be made out of Goodyear tires and, I must say, just about as flexible. It wouldn't pull up over my derrière and, in fact, got sort of stuck there until I peeled it off with a huge effort, trying not to pant and puff, as the clerk was just outside the changing room door asking how I was getting on.

"Not at all," I told her, "but I'm working on it."

I pulled it over my head, but the blasted thing got stuck before I could get my shoulders through. It took an amazing feat of strength to finally get it where it was apparently supposed to be and the result was, shall we say, surprising.

First, I could barely breathe and thought I was in some kind of Victorian nightmare that would soon involve the vapours and require smelling salts. Secondly, and most amazingly, my breasts had disappeared! I could not find them anywhere. No need to worry about any sagging in that department. I finally discovered that they were flattened out and seemed to be in my armpits – not at all a satisfactory result and certainly not the image I was after.

I might mention that I did feel that the rolls had disappeared, but then I was afraid to look behind me to see where they had descended to. I imagine it would involve a larger pair of trousers.

"I don't think this will do for me," I called out to the sales clerk through the door.

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She gave a sort of sniff and said she had nothing else to suggest except perhaps a larger sweater.

I felt that the remark was a bit rude, but young people can be like that sometimes. I do suppose she had a point, but by then I was completely out of sorts and in no mood to hear that type of advice.

I will leave it to your imagination to visualize the goings on inside that tiny change room in order for me to get out of that hideous piece of modern elastic. Suffice it to say, a slingshot comes to mind. Finally free, I was relieved to find that all my bits and pieces, albeit somewhat creased, returned to their rightful location – however disagreeable that location may be.

I have decided – rolls be damned – to wear the sweater to the wedding anyway. And when it comes to dancing, I'll find some old gent who likes substantial women.

Clearly, aging is a social skill, the etiquette of which I will need to further explore.

Catherine White lives near Cobourg, Ont.

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