Wednesday, December 19, 2012

No Thanx to Spanx

J and I went to an exclusive "Private Holiday Party" at Nordstroms last weekend that really just doubled as a way to liquor up customers and get them to spend more money. After my third glass of complimentary champagne, my trigger finger began to gingerly stroke my visa card and I knew exactly where our money had to be spent. Third Floor: Lingerie.

"I need this," I said, holding up a rose-gold-colored sausage sheath from the Spanx rack as though my life depended on it. Historically, J never thought I needed Spanx, but that night, the tides changed their course. Or maybe it was just the champagne talking.

"Okay, get whatever you like," he said benevolently, standing behind me with his glass in hand. Good husband. It seemed we had an unsaid understanding that this night was obviously all about me.

Since I'm a virgin when it comes to tummy shapers, I asked the sales lady about a particularly intriguing high-waisted "tummy tamer" and she recited the spiel that I'm sure all lingerie sales associates who shill Spanx are required to memorize. And it worked . . . until she told me she was wearing a pair. All of a sudden, I felt like I was at a cocktail party talking to someone who'd just gotten a giant piece of spinach stuck in their front teeth. I continued to listen to her espouse the merits of the Spanx she was wearing while I simultaneously tried my hardest to avoid looking directly at her body. See, I wanted a pair of Spanx so I could (somewhat poorly. . .okay, very poorly) resemble Adriana Lima. This sales girl, bless her heart, was far from Adriana Lima. Instead, with her short stature and full figure, she was more Delia Fisher from My So-Called Life -- you know, that girl that clearly missed the memo on the fact that Ricky Vasquez was gay after her brief stint with Brian Krakow. Yeah, this was a dead ringer for her. Or Natalie from The Facts of Life, depending on how dated you like your pop culture.

Anyhoo, I did best not to stare since let's face it: she was probably not the best poster child for the wonders of Spanx. But she was so nice that I not only bought my overpriced tummy shaper from her ($80, which I rationalized by comparing it to the cost of liposuction), I also bought a handful of overpriced panties from the nearest table. Just because.

When I got home that night, I was all eager beaver to try on my new Spanx. I'd heard so many great things about the product online and whispered over fitting room walls. Hell, Kim Kardashian was practically a spokesperson for the brand, as evidenced by all those terrible paparazzi shots of her dress accidentally hiked up over her thigh trimmers. Spanx was like the Bugatti of body sculpting. It had to work.

Well, after about 10 minutes of stuffing myself into the rose-gold sheathing by shimmying and hopping in place, I stood infront of my mirror, unable to breath yet victorious that I'd finally gotten the thing on. ....And my reflected image back was a huge disappointment. I didn't look sucked in at all. I mean, I guess I did a little, but I didn't pay eighty dollars for a little. I paid eighty dollars because this was supposed to be the miracle cure, but my reflection chided back at me that miracles do not come true. I was under the impression that I'd lose inches wearing Spanx, but all it did was smooth out my fat rolls. Big whoop. I didn't need my fat rolls smoothed out -- I needed them to disappear completely, Civil War corset-style, like Scarlett O'Hara's post-baby body in Gone With the Wind. Instead, I looked like a vacuum-packed tube of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls.

The first thing I wanted to do was peel them off and angrily tromp back to Nordstrom's to give Delia Fisher a piece of my mind. But a lack of oxygen made it hard to prioritize such a thing. Plus it wasn't Delia's fault that I was fat. I guess I was just mad at myself. I was so stupid to think that an undergarment would really be the cure for all my body problems. I'll admit, I'm notorious for spending more time going out of my way to find "easy" solutions to problems versus efficiently attacking my problems head on with the hard legwork generally involved. Translation: I can be lazy. It was clear I was going to need more than just Spanx. I was going to have to sweat these pounds off. Starvation, I've decided, will come after Christmas, when Trader Joe's Peppermint Joe Joe's are no longer offered on store shelves.

Since I have the attention span of a flea, I was going to need an exciting and "different" workout. After trolling online for answers, I came across an article that said Jenny McCarthy whittled away her mid-section after giving birth by hula hooping. (I'm sure she also ate one edamame bean per day, but such things need not be written.) So I googled "hula hooping after pregnancy" and quickly learned there was a whole subculture online around "hooping" (that's what they call it) that I didn't even know existed. These people call themselves "hoopers" and travel the world carrying collapsible hula hoops in their carry-ons, meeting up with one another to enter tournaments, attend classes or merely hoop together in various locales all over the globe. I'm not that interested in hula hooping other than to selfishly look fabulous in a bikini by next summer, but it was fascinating to discover this digital underworld through hooping message boards and websites.

So I decided to order a fitness hula hoop, a padded and weighted variation of the kind we had as kids. If it worked for Jenny McCarthy, then it would work for me.

Unfortunately, after some intense online shopping, it turned out the lowest priced hoop was offered through Gold's Gym and only sold at . . . Wal-Mart. I like to keep my trips to Wal-Mart to a bare minimum (read: usually once every decade), but this decade I'd already visited twice. Once, for a low-price, last-minute baby swing, and twice, for some Swiffer pad refills I picked up when visiting a nearby Home Depot. The hula hoop would constitute my third Wal-Mart visit of the decade. Since I was on a budget it seemed stupid not to choose the free "store pick-up" option for my purchase, as well as receive it faster this way, since shipping times looked like they could take up to two weeks. Clearly, two more weeks sans hula hoop now seemed unacceptable to me.

Once I got the message that my hula hoop was waiting to be picked up, I fumbled excitedly for about 10 minutes with a 20-lb baby carseat in hand hopped into my car and made my way over, eying the parking lot suspiciously as I pulled into my space. This was Wal-Mart, after all.

Once inside, a particularly haggard version of Hillary Clinton pointed me toward the back of the store. Let me say this: There is nothing more depressing than padding through the sticky aisles of Wal-Mart to get to the "special order" counter near the restrooms. Maybe it's the Eau de Urine in that general vicinity, or the self-actualizing fact that I now, by definition, "shopped" at this store.

Once back there, I pressed the "cashier" button to get some help since the area, with its flickering tube lights overhead and half-opened boxes strewn on the floor behind the counter, felt as abandoned as the opening scene in a zombie film. Then I waited. And waited (while silently praying that Ava would stay asleep in her stroller). After about 15 minutes of waiting, I felt like I had hit a new low as employees entered and exited the bathroom doors near me without so much as a second glance in my direction. That's right, let's all ignore the new mom. She's too fat to bother with anyway.

To fill time I marveled at a Midwestern company's lollipop display that had been set up by the empty register. I was impressed. Each lollipop was the size of my fist on a stick the size of my pinky. You know, if you're ever concerned that your lollipop might take less than 24 consistent hours to lick down. Seeing that my sole purpose in my third (and final!) trip to Wal-Mart for this decade was to pick up a piece of fitness equipment, I thought it best to stay out of the lollipop display.

Finally, after what felt like days standing there staring at over-sized lollipops in flavors like Bacon n' Caramel, an older store clerk with a gold front tooth came out through the back doors with part of her peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich from lunch still on the front of her shirt. I handed over my printout and she headed back to find my box.

"You know there's a slight problem with your purchase . . ." she said in all seriousness, returning with my package in her hands. The blood drained my face, and I suddenly wondered if God had a master plan to keep me fat forever.

"What's that?" I asked.

"You're going to have to test it out in the store!" she said, and burst out laughing.

Phew. This lady was only making a joke directly related to my love handles. Not funny.

"Maybe next time," I responded, and laughed along nervously. Between the concerningly large lollipops to my right and the Peter Lorre lookalike now standing in line behind me and laughing along with us, I just wanted to get the hell out of there.

Once home it took me a few days to get around to unpacking the ol' hula hoop. Maybe part of it was that I didn't want to admit I actually needed to hula hoop because not even Spanx could cut it for me anymore. Or maybe it was the commitment to the whole fitness thing that I was hesitant to undertake. (Me and sweating? We just don't mesh well). Whatever it was, I let the hula hoop fester for a while in our third bedroom that we use for such things as forgotten office stationery and tubes of unused wrapping paper. This room also serves as a graveyard for failed fitness attempts from our pasts, like small free weights, ab rollers and collapsible pull-up bars, all collecting dust. I promised myself my hula hoop would not join its predecessors in this gallery of good intentions.

The other day I finally got around to unpacking it. Since Ava has taken to staying awake throughout the entire day now, I laid her on her playmat so she could watch her crazy mother in action, clipped my iShuffle to my shoulder sleeve, and started hooping. I was a bit rusty at first, and looked more like a geriatric trying to dance the Lambada, but after a few minutes all those memories of hula hooping as a kid flooded back, and suddenly the hoop magically stayed up. It was kind of like remembering how to ride a bicycle all over again.

Ten minutes of hooping a day is all you need to "whittle your middle" down to a taut waist size, or so it says online. While ten minutes doesn't sound like a lot, I actually broke a little sweat since the hoop weighs the size of a small free weight. I definitely did not look like Jenny McCarthy after my first session (I even lifted my shirt and stood sideways in the mirror to inspect my still-non-existent abs), but Ava seemed delighted to watch the whole thing go down, so I was glad to burn some calories while simultaneously entertain her.

Still, I wonder if this whole hula hooping thing is going to give me the body I want. I keep looking at the calendar to count down to New Year's Eve. 12 more days, then I'm jumping on the calorie counting train. I'm not sure if I'm ready for the ride.
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