In one sense, I could remind myself that they’ve never completely left. I refer to the one I still have somewhere in my “useless stuff,” or “one day this may come in handy” drawer. I can’t remember when I wore it last, probably after one of my abdominal surgeries. They do help hold it all in when your stomach muscles have all been cut and left powerless in holding in the extra fat accumulated over the years.
Mama wore girdles nearly everytime she “dressed up” to go anywhere when I was growing up. The one I remember seeing her wear most often started just beneath her breasts and continued to the thigh. It was the old open bottom type with four little tabs with rubber buttons hanging, two in the front and two in the back, which were there to keep your stockings from falling down around your ankles. The front was fastened closed by about a million hooks and eyes from top to bottom.
The most intriguing girdle I ever saw was the one I discovered in a most peculiar hiding place one day when I was around six years old. Though she rarely left us kids behind, for some reason she chose that Saturday to go to town with Daddy and leave me behind with my older siblings. My sister would have been 12, my two brothers 15 and 14. Since being deserted was such a rarity, I pitched a holy fit, demanding to be taken along. I could not imagine my mother and father having a hamburger and coca cola or double chocolate malted milk without me, and I was sure that’s exactlly what they were up to.
I did everything under the sun I knew how to do to get them to change their mind, even threatening to run away from home, but nothing swayed them. I can remember to this day how abandoned I felt standing in the dust from the car and watching them drive away without me. I’m sure I even ran behind the car a few paces for dramatic effect. But drive away they did, and there I was, all alone, (though my sister was most probably inside the house, maybe my brothers as well) tears streaming down my face and over my runny nose.
When the the car was completely out of sight I remember standing there in the white sand, wondering what I could do to get even. How could I make them feel sorry? After some melodramatic moments I headed as fast as I could to the shed beside the tractor barn. I thought vaguely about snakes, but decided that if I got bitten and died it would just serve them right for leaving me behind.
The shed, there were two–one on either side of the barn–were leanto tin roofs held up by wooden posts, no flooring other than the white sand beneath them, for the express purpose of sheltering our two tractors from the rain. One was a small red FarmAll and the other a larger, green John Deere. There was also an old four-wheeled hitch wagon parked on one side, with seats in the front and back. I climbed up on top and sat down, completely out of the sight of the house, and discovered an old trunk on the floor. Naturally I opened it up to see what was there.
I wish I could tell the wonders of what I found that day, but the only thing I remember was a piece of tube shaped rubber, no seams, shaped like a girdle with vent holes all over it. It was way too small, I knew, for Mama to wear but I was intrigued by it all the same, pulling and stretching it to make the holes bigger. I pulled it taut against my forearm to watch the holes dent my arm after a moment or two. I soon forgot about being abandoned and lay down on top of a heap of old rags and fell asleep.
After I grew up and put on a bit of weight myself, the day arrived when I bought my own girdle. I might have worn it to hold my stockings up, and complete the lean line that went with my hat and white gloved ensemble, but more likely I was immitating what everyone else was doing, and true to the times, not questioning the whys and wherefores. It was just easier to go along to get along I suppose.
Today is another day as Scarlett O’Hara said. Even if girdles do make a comeback, and even though the 140 pounds I weigh now might be better contained in one than the 110 pounds of my younger days, you can mark this in stone if you wish–this is one woman who will not be purchasing one! One of the best things about getting older–that few people who get there before you ever bother to tell you–is that comfort and good sense eventually wins out over fashion. At least for the majority of us.