'Always cover your kidneys," a shiatsu therapist told me recently as I lay facedown on his table. "They hate the cold."
I wasn't wearing anything spectacularly revealing -- just a simple T-shirt and jeans. But because of the current trend in women's casual wear that dictates all jeans must skim the pubic bone and all T-shirts must ride above the navel, my kidneys were, I must admit, exposed.
I'm pretty sure the world doesn't want to see my kidneys, nor do I wish to reveal my vital organs (or the areas outside them) in public, but almost all of the clothes I own make it impossible to avoid showing them off. It's as if the influential fashion arbiters of the world got together and decided that the strip of fabric that used to encircle the widest, fleshiest portion of a woman's midriff must be abolished. And while these same fashionistas have been loudly declaring for a couple seasons now that high waists are back, along with "demure," "ladylike," and "pretty" clothes, the Wal-Mart majority clearly disagrees.
Have you walked down your main drag recently and seen what the gals are wearing? Last Saturday night on College Street in downtown Toronto, it was nothing but butt-clinging microminis and baby tanks as far as the eye could see. All the fabric on the whole strip sewn together would not have made even one vintage Dior circle skirt. The new look this ain't.
I'm no burqa enthusiast, but it seems impossible to cover up these days without looking like an surrendered soccer mom. The only things in my closet that cover my lower back are made of overwashed fleece and emblazoned with the names of non-existent yacht clubs. As my jeans and skirts creep lower, I've had to buy a new set of discreet low-rise panties to avoid that wanton intern look, so popular among 12-year-old girls. (The ones who walk home from school by my house each afternoon, smoking and swearing like sailors, reveal thongs that sparkle and shimmer as brightly as the logos on the sweatshirts of my youth.)
My shiatsu therapist, on the other hand, couldn't care less about what's trendy. He's worried about my health.
"It is a terrible fashion, these jeans," he said in stern Austrian-accented English. "Women's kidneys will not bear it. It will be a serious burden on the health-care system in the future."
An epidemic of kidney failure from low-rise jeans? That's a new one. I can imagine my girlfriends and me, 20 years from now, dragging around our dialysis machines and planning a class-action suit against the makers of Seven jeans. If you ask me, the style police ought to arrest them now. Low-rise jeans are the single most unwarranted fashion trend in decades -- a failure not only in terms of what they are, but in terms of what they are not.
Before the rise of low-rise, jeans were the one garment modern women could depend upon to lift, smooth and contain the female form. Low-rise jeans do the opposite. They exacerbate problem areas, illustrating ever-so-glaringly the stark physical differences between, say, Paris Hilton and the lady who takes your ticket at the full-service car wash.
Worse yet, they create whole new areas of concern for already insecurity-plagued women. Who even knew about those frightening little knobs of pudge on the lower back before this unwise convergence of low-rise jeans and T-shirts made for Smurfs? And who ever thought a generation of women would spend days at the gym pumping and pounding in the hopes of tortured hip bones and sinewy lower abs? What ever happened to good old-fashioned boobs and backsides as areas of obsessive renovation? The predominance of the low-rise look suggests that perfection goes without saying, that clothes are just there to show off a woman's well-honed assets, rather than cultivate and compliment them.
But crack-peekers are just the beginning. With H&M now in Canada, we are in for what promises, fashion-wise at least, to be the sluttiest summer ever. If you thought headband skirts and velour halter dresses looked distressing on your 14-year-old niece, just wait until you see what they look like on the middle-aged receptionist at your dentist's office.
The onset of summer unfortunately encourages a dangerous practice I call Aspirational Dressing. This mode of self-apparelling works according to the overoptimistic Field of Dreams mentality -- i.e. if you wear it, the body will come. And what a truly contagious mass delusion Aspirational Dressing is. Somehow, every season, millions of North American women are tricked into thinking that dressing like Giselle will make them four inches taller and 20 pounds thinner. In reality, we'd have better chances building catwalks in our backyards and waiting for her to show up and take a turn.
After my shiatsu massage, I put on the most demure wrap dress I could find and went to a dinner party. The dress had a plunging neckline that left my heart and lungs exposed but the rest of my internals well-covered. I soon struck up a conversation with a very nice neurosurgeon. After a few minutes of small talk, I decided to enlighten him to the danger low-rise jeans pose to the kidneys. He chuckled and told me that, in fact, the kidneys are some of the best insulated organs in the human body, and that it is unlikely exposing them would lead to kidney failure.
He may be right. But just to be on the safe side, I suggest we all give the butt cleavage a break this summer.