A t-shirt that slims one’s hips…why?

Or, In which I rant and rave about one side of an issue while in my head formulating valid counterarguments for said issue and still choosing to take the position herein extrapolated.

Last night the husband had a softball game and my poor back couldn’t handle sitting in the bleachers, so I went to Barnes and Noble and spent an hour with Real Simple instead.

Normally I love that magazine and look forward to each month’s new edition (I called it an ‘episode’ the other day–it’s the TV age, what can I say?) but this month’s was a letdown. The gift ideas for dads and grads made me think what?? and the rest of it was just as puzzling and, in my humble opinion, unoriginal and useless.

Particularly so was the article about finding a flattering t-shirt. I get the articles about finding a bathing suit that flatters one’s shape–there are as many different bathing suit styles as there are body shapes in the first place–but t-shirts? Anyone with eyes should be able to tell when a t-shirt fits right and is flattering, and if someone can’t tell, I can virtually guarantee that person isn’t reading Real Simple to remedy the situation.

The little blurb that introduced the t-shirt article ended with the claim that there were even some t-shirt options to “slim your hips!”

<crickets>

I like looking nice, and I like clothes that fit me well. But I only expect my t-shirts to do certain things, like have holes for my arms and cover my boobs.

Almost no woman looks at another woman and says to her friends, “Wow, that t-shirt really slims her hips. What a flattering cut on her particular shape and proportions” and my scientific research, i.e., asking the husband, reveals that no man would a) notice or b) care how a woman’s t-shirt makes her hips look. Men don’t tend to appreciate women’s t-shirts for what they do for the hip area.

It’s important to feel good about the way you look, woman or man, and clothes that fit can help with that. But since when do my hips need to be slimmed, Real Simple? And what makes you think that until your lackluster t-shirt-hunting articlette, women everywhere were in a panic over the dearth of hip-slimming t-shirts we so desperately need and could find nowhere, simply nowhere?

Before thumbing through Real Simple, I read the first few chapters of Tina Fey’s autobiography Bossypants. She made an excellent and humor-laden observation along the same lines: since when did it become more than fat or skinny? Fey writes (and I summarize) that at any given moment, a woman somewhere is trying to fix one of the following physical problems with herself:

pores too big, brows too thick, brows too thin, brows too high, brows too light, lashes too sparse, skin too red, skin too yellow, skin too green, feet too big, calves too big, calves too small, boobs too big, boobs too small, boobs different sizes, waist too high, legs not long enough, hips too big, butt too flat, butt too round, butt the wrong shape, hair too thin, hair too flat, hair too thick, too curly, too straight…

Who decided the size of anyone’s pores is a problem that one would want to fix using your not-so-moderately priced product? Who says these are problems in the first place? What is “too small” or “too big” and to whom are we comparing these calves of obviously gargantuan proportions?

It’s great and important to feel good about yourself but I wonder how many women would have recognized they had all these problems to fix without the help of commercials and magazines like Real Simple.

Yes, you can definitely choose to ignore all this stuff and live your life sized and dressed in a way that makes you happy and comfortable. And sometimes there are real problems to fix and knowing what products to use is helpful. But as I watched some commercial last night about getting your spider veins zapped away, the entire 60 seconds of which showed a woman’s tanned, shapely and vein-free legs running around a family picnic, I couldn’t help but think who in the world except for that woman noticed the veins in the first place, much less enough to have a conversation about her and what a horrible, ugly, rotten, veiny person she must be, if her nasty pegs were any indication. No one, that’s right.

On the show America’s Got Talent the other night a plus-sized pole dancer performed. Now, pole dancing and naked women generally are not my things, but I know there were some people who were intrigued. What wowed me was that average-sized people, even on the morning shows today!, were simply agog at the fact that she “had the guts” and that “it must have taken her a lot to get up there” and “more power to her” and so on, once she got up there and shook what her mama and McDonald’s gave her.

More power to her? It must have taken a lot? Do we say that when svelte Jenny McCarthy poses naked for Playboy? Does anyone think Jenna Jameson “has a lot of guts” for baring it all in her films and photo shoots? No, because those are the body types we expect to see, the types we want to see, the types it’s ok to show off. Everything else is wrong and “more power to” whomever disregards the social norms dictating acceptable sizes, and performs in a bikini with a pole on national television.

Don’t get me wrong, the large pole dancer appeared unhealthy and watching her wearing a bikini and gyrating against a pole is a mental image I wish I could erase. But under the guise of praise and admiration, what “good for her, it must have taken a lot of guts” really means is “she and what she is doing are not anything we want to see because she and what she is doing don’t fit what we as a society have decided and tried to imply to her is acceptable for someone her size and shape, which, as we have also tried to imply to her, are wrong.” It’s insulting, patronizing, and dishonest all masquerading as accepting.

Yesterday I dashed into a maternity clothing store in search of a few summer staples. When I told the saleslady, who had asked, that I am at 24 weeks, she exclaimed “You’re so small! You’re tiny!”

Am I? I have more fat in more places than I have ever had and I weigh more than I have ever weighed in my life. I don’t like how I look, I don’t love how I feel, and despite having an “excuse” for being this size, I don’t like it. Really, I’m not tiny but why should I want to be? Why was the saleslady’s exclamation meant and taken by me as a compliment?

Because tiny is best, just ask Real Simple. Whether it’s your hips that need to be smaller and you’re in the market for a t-shirt to help, or your eyebrows and pores need to be smaller or your calves, waist, caloric intake, any of that needs to shrink, rest assured that you’re on the right track with anything you’re doing to make it happen because no matter what it is, whatever you have and whatever you used to have, it needs to be smaller. Get a t-shirt to help, if that’s the only solution.

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8 thoughts on “A t-shirt that slims one’s hips…why?

  1. couldn’t agree with you more. I’m always left with a funny taste in my mouth when I hear anyone make a comment about a person based solely on the fact that whatever they look like, however they act, whatever they did was/is something that’s not accepted as the norm. it’s terrifying and heart-wrenching that so many men and women are trying to fit into this mold deemed “the norm”. I didn’t go into much detail about body image etc in my last post but the mold I was talking about includes a lot of what you just described… also, I couldn’t tell you the last time I actually looked at myself in the mirror with a tshirt on and decided that it was slimming… actually I couldn’t tell you the last time I actually purchased a tshirt… they seem to just appear out of thin air.

  2. Yeah, well… the guys at Woodcraft Magazine all make better stuff than I can make. But I would like one of those hip-slimming, long-sleeve, canvas work shirts they wear; problem is shirts like that are always only cut to fit gutsy pole-dancers.

  3. I recently had a similar thought about the philosophy behind the tile of that venerable magazine, Better Homes and Gardens. In other words, what you have isn’t good enough, you.must.improve.it. (And they and their somehow-always-down-South-or-in-California photo spreads will be happy to tell you what “improving” means.) I could go on. My point is the same as yours, except this isn’t my blog, so now I’m done. 😉

    • Seriously. I’m all about feeling good about how you look and how your house looks, but so many of these ‘standards’ are just fads that, like wispy bangs and skinny jeans, have a place and aren’t for everyone. So stop trying to make me feel like I suck if I wear side bangs and boot cut jeans, you know? I like me.

      • I like you, too. I would support your decision to become a pole dancer, if you chose to do that. But your blog is probably funnier to more people.

      • There’s some line in one of the Girlfriends’ Guide books, probably the second one, that says your baby doesn’t notice if you haven’t lost all your preg weight, she just appreciates the mama softness, and she doesn’t care if you come into her room with sleepy hair and no makeup, you look beautiful to her. It’s all about perspective (and whose you value). Your baby will like you a whole lot just the way you are. One of the boys watched me put my hair up in a ponytail once, smiled and sighed with content, “Now you look like a mom.”

Shout at me.

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