Girdled No More
“There is a line of varicose veins on both your legs, mid-thigh,” the woman doctor said, her tone matter of fact.
My feet were clutched in the frigid steel stirrups on the gynecologist’s table. My backside felt saran-wrapped against fake leather. Bright white fluorescent lights did not warm the space between my spread legs. Neither did the stiff blue paper drape.
Cold steel, the bite of the speculum blades, yawned the epithelial surface of my vagina. Calipers scratched my concealed cervix. The pinch of the acres-long cotton swab that raked in the cells for the PAP smear crawled up my spine; my mouth registered the ouch.
“Did you wear girdles as a girl?” she said. Her swing bob haircut dropped a sheath of glossy dark brunette over her face as she bent forward and finished my pelvic exam. Her question seemed out-of-the blue and odd. “Yes, why?” I said.
“I see those marks on women a lot,” she said, her voice a crisp wag of the finger, her painted mouth curved with the regret of understanding. “From circulation cut off by tight girdles.”
“Are you joshing me?” I said. Juggernaut against the larynx, I croaked out the question.
I felt knocked over with a feather. I wished I could fall through her work bench and disappear into the floor. I dropped in to see what condition my condition was in. My cheeks were aflame.
The color of blush. Hidden anger. Hidden love. I didn’t promise you a rose garden.
The petite doc helped my feet out of the vice grips and offered a paw to haul me up off the parking lot. Perched once again on my derriere, I looked straight into her brown eyes, alive with mercy, and found my incredulity.
I had scarred and spidered my carcass to charm a man’s eye? Why had I thought that was a wise idea?
I was 15 years old when I started wearing the cages called corsets moons ago, girdles in my adolescence, and “body shapers” now. Believe it or not, I attended an all-girl’s school, but even to my body cop peers, I did not want to jiggle. I doubt I took a deep breath until I was 25 and shucked the damned flesh fences.
I emerged this week from the shower to a steam shrouded bathroom. I ran a tender hand over the march of twisted veins that ring my thighs. I apologized to my body. The strangled vessels remind me how far I’ve stretched my bindings.
“I’m sorry I squeezed the stuffings out of you,” I said. The knobby purple veins in little clumps winked back at me in the mist-filtered yellow light. Naked breasts caressed my legs as I pretzeled over them to apply moisturizer.
“I’m no longer girdled to the altar of pleasing,” I said.
© 2021: Linda Sandel Pettit, Ed.D
Photo: Peter Hermus on IStockPhoto.com
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