This blog entry is the fourth part of a continuing series.
If you don’t know what’s going on, click here to catch up.
I must admit, out of all the pieces I planned for The Pilot Season Experiment, this is the one I’ve dreaded most. No, not because I have some rare form of lycraphobia, but because I promised to be real, and the realest of real is: I got body issues, y’all.
Surprise, surprise, right? These days body issues seem to come as a package deal with a vagina – including free bonuses from a hateful fashion industry, delusional Photoshopping, and every lying piece-of-shit media platform in existence.
Thankfully my body issues are not so dire that I refuse to eat a crouton – like a certain Actress I know, who, hand to Baby Jeebus, picked them out of her salad and actually threw them away. As if leaving them in the salad might impart some sort of dangerous carb-y crouton-atoms to her dressing-free kale. Crouton-slut that I am, I never scooped them out of the trash and ate them, but I wanted to. Oh, yes. I wanted to.
So not crazy-serious body issues, but serious enough that I would rather take a box-cutter and carve “FATASS” into the ample meat of my buttocks than discuss these issues in public.
However, all the positive responses I’ve received about this series so far have had one thing in common: everybody wants the truth. Nobody wants to hear how amazingly perfect you are and how easy it is to land a job in Hollywood. They want to know that you, too, have those days when you look in the mirror and go, “Oh, fuck this shit,” before crawling back into bed under your warm, non-judgmental blanket. (Everyone looks good under a blanket. Even dead people.)
So I’ll be honest with you here, much as it tortures me, because six years ago when I worked on “Rome” I looked like this:
I see that picture now and think, “You horrid skinny bitch! What have you DONE to us since then? Did you swallow a fucking Cessna?”
The answer – I hope obviously – is no, I did not ingest a plane. (Though this guy did, which is just goddamned crazy.) But whereas I used to work out at the gym six or seven days a week for two hours a day, I have since become…
Okay. Sane –er. Kind of a sliding scale around here.
These days I work out about four times a week, an hour each time – which is still a good amount – except that I’m omitting the several years where I didn’t do jack shit but sit at my kitchen table, sit in my writing chair, or sit on my couch. Actually, I’m almost certain that all that sitting is why my backside is now wide enough to carve FATASS into it at all.
“But what happened?” you might ask. “Why did you go from being such a kickboxing/martial-arts/yoga fanatic to being such a sloth?”
And you wanna know the answer? My real, honest answer that doesn’t have any of that “Oh, I was just really busy and things got reprioritized and then somehow I broke both my legs when a house fell on me” bullshit?
Why did I stop going to the gym?
‘Cause I was fuckin’ tired, y’all.
Seriously. I was really, really tired of forcing myself out of bed at 4:30 a.m. and driving to the gym and working out for a couple hours and then showering and driving either to a studio or back home and putting in a 12-hour day before I went to sleep and then got back up and did it all over again, day in, day out. After keeping to this rigid routine for seven years, I felt like I’d earned a break.
A break… that turned into a vacation… that turned into a hiatus… that turned into a sabbatical… that turned into a whine that went something like this:
“I look fine. Why should I bust my ass to be ‘skinny’ when I look fine?”
The trouble with fine is, you keep tweaking and re-tweaking the definition. Toned becomes soft, soft becomes mooshy, mooshy becomes flabby, and then one day you’re in the shower and you look down and can’t see your pubes anymore, no matter how hard you suck in your once-upon-a-time-these-were-abs.
And suddenly you’re like, “But I was fine! What the fuck just happened to fine?!”
Except it wasn’t “just,” of course – it took months, if not years, for you to blow up like the Michelin Man, fatty increment by fatty increment. Then one January you see the photos your family took of you at Christmas and all at once you want to claw your own face off. Your face, and all three of those chins you’ve been toting around, unbeknownst to you.
So The Finance and I invested in an elliptical machine and a treadmill, and now I’m back to pumping that cardio and yoga’ing my muscles into long, ropy sinew.
However, Houston? We have a problem.
And this problem is called Hips And Ass.
Don’t talk to me about lunges. I do them. Don’t talk to me about running. I do that, too. Don’t talk to me about resistance bands, stomach crunches, lifting weights to build muscle because muscle burns fat, or surviving on nothing but lemon juice and chili powder. Fuck you. Those puny foes have no sway over Hips And Ass.
Speaking as a woman nearing 40, I can tell you that once Hips And Ass have moved in, they are your roomies for life. If someone had introduced me to Hips And Ass when I was 30, I may have taken a vacation from gymratitude, but the full sabbatical? Oh, hell no. That’s when Hips And Ass notice the lights aren’t on at your house, so they move their shit right in like they own the joint, never to be dislodged again – unless you’re willing to have a doctor suck them out with a cannula.
Fat never leaves. It is the worst roommate EVER.
So now, while I do my best to make sure Hips And Ass don’t take over the whole house, I can’t boot them out entirely.
And this is where Spanx come in.
If you’ve never heard of Spanx, you can go here to get the idea. By now they’re a Hollywood staple, if not an inside joke, as proven by SUPASTAR! Molly Shannon, when she flashed her Spanx at the world at a Tribeca event in 2007:
Spanx are like your grandmothers’ girdles, except cooler and more fun because they’re called “Spanx,” and not “girdles.” Mainly, they’re just really tight lycra contraptions that smash your fat down against itself so it doesn’t bulge in the wrong places. And according to American standards of beauty, “the wrong places” means “anywhere on your entire fucking body.”
Needless to say, I was wary at first. My feminist side raged, raged at the hiding of the Hips And Ass! I am woman! I wanted to scream. I am supposed to have Hips And Ass! Maybe we don’t like each other as much as we should, but I live with Hips And Ass and I won’t stand for you talking shit about them!
Except – as I’ve been trying to demonstrate with The Pilot Season Experiment – everyone in Hollywood is judged on their looks. Everyone… but especially women. (Of course, it’s not limited to Hollywood: check this out.) You might think this is normal for Actresses – after all, starlets have always been more gorgeous than your average Jane – or at least better plucked, coiffed, make-upped, and medicated – but when it comes to a woman whose performance rests squarely on the invisible talent in her head? You might assume we female Writers would get a break.
But that makes you an ass, and now me is laughing at u.
Because you can’t walk into a bunch of pilot meetings wearing clothes that are too tight (unless you already have a slammin’ body — then more power to you, bitch) (sorry, I’m sorry, that was wrong; it was just jealousy, pure jealousy) (cunt). You can’t be sitting there in a job interview fretting about your muffin top transforming into several loaves of bread because in order to get a job as a Writer, you need to be thinking. You need to be collaborating, riffing off the show, coming up with brilliant ideas. Speaking from experience, it is infinitely harder to come up with brilliant ideas when you’re silently obsessing over whether or not you’re flashing cameltoe at the showrunner.
Thus for me, Spanx weren’t so much for vanity as they were for getting my mind off Hips And Ass. If I didn’t have to pay attention to Hips And Ass, it would free me up to rattle off those brilliant ideas that would get me hired – or at least, not tossed out after only 15 minutes. (A little inside info: a good pilot season meeting runs 45 minutes to an hour. If they chuck you before then? You should’ve stopped obsessing over your cameltoe. It is now time to buy Spanx.)
I bought my Spanx online. I chose the size that conformed to my height and weight, then picked the style I thought would work best for me. Did I need the Thigh-Trimmers? Not so much. Booty-Boosters? No thanks. I have plenty of booty and so far, it’s riding just about the right height. When it came down to it, I just wanted a bodysuit that’d keep everything where it was, but just smooth it out, since fat has this annoying habit of lumping up on itself. So this is what I ended up choosing:
It’s called a “Hide & Sleek Slip-Suit.” All I cared about was that it:
1) smoothed out what those fitness assholes would call “my problem areas” (though I would really love for them to say that to my face)
2) it worked as a bra, too, ‘cause I hate those fucking things
3) it was all one piece, so I didn’t have to worry about tugging shit back into place all the time
The day it came in the mail, I was truly excited, thinking – a-HA, Hips And Ass! I will NOT be defeated! – and ran into the bathroom to try it on. Besides feeling like the tightest pair of pantyhose you have ever stepped foot in, and doing that awkward hip-to-hip-shake-and-jump-and-bounce thing while jerking it up (you ladies know exactly what I’m talking about; don’t lie), one thing suddenly stood out to me. In truth, it shocked the holy hell out of me, and that was this:
There’s no fucking crotch.
Seriously, the material overlaps, like the material overlaps on the opening of a pair of boxers, but when you finally yank the whole sucker up and get everything into place, you immediately notice that your cooch is air-conditioned. There’s a draft up that thing. When I walked around the house to see how it moved, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that my pussy was playing peek-a-boo with the floor.
Now, I knew I’d be wearing these Spanx under my clothes, but I couldn’t stop myself from having these horrifying visions of the crotch of my pants ripping in the middle of a meeting and a showrunner staring right up my Betty. Who knows? Maybe they could do your cervical exam while you’re pitching ideas, I thought a little hysterically — before I did what women from the dawn of time have been doing when confronted by incomprehensible female undergarments: I sucked it the hell up and kept going.
As I paced from the kitchen to the living room to the bedroom to my office, I started to feel a little, Huh. This is… um… this is a tad… uh… “constricting” was the nicest word I could come up with. I decided I needed a test run — a few hours’ outing to see if I could find a way to keep my fat smashed in without asphyxiating like a goldfish on the carpet.
So I took The Finance to the mall. Why the mall? Two reasons: one, I needed to finish The Pilot Season Experiment by buying new clothes and make-up (Steps Four and Five, respectively, and coming soon to a blog near you). Two: better to be somewhere with a dressing room in case I needed to be cut out of my Spanx before I died.
The drive to the mall was uncomfortable. In general, I try to never wear shirts smaller than Andre the Giant could’ve fit into, or pants that don’t have drawstrings. Long, long ago I did my bid in CorporateWorld, and one of the most important things I took away from that experience is that I do not enjoy the sensation of being swallowed by a python. I like my clothes baggy, hanging off my hips, and if I can’t wear Nikes to it, it’s a 99.9999% certainty I don’t want to go wherever it is. (Shondaland being the obvious exception, though if anything, that only reinforced my preferences.) So sitting upright in the driver’s seat with my new super-tight unitard was… unfamiliar, to say the least.
And at first, I had trouble breathing. No lie. I couldn’t figure out how to breathe in the goddamn thing. That made for a near panic-attack (which is great when you’re driving) until I finally realized I’m used to breathing from my belly — a nice, relaxing holdover from all those years of yoga — except now my belly was bound by a type of fabric I’m nearly sure is bulletproof. When this realization prompted me to breathe from my chest instead, which was considerably less restricted, I found the oxygen returning to my brain, and I didn’t even crash the car and kill us both. The Finance didn’t give me nearly enough props for this.
However, twenty minutes later, we were walking into the mall and I was saying, “Seriously, dude, I don’t know. I don’t know if this is going to work. This is really tight. We might have to go home. Dude, I’m being totally serious.”
Ten minutes after that, I had totally forgotten I was wearing it.
Miraculous? Goldfish-memory? How the hell could that even happen?
You know what I think? I think I just adapted to it. Humans are easy like that. I got my mind off it for a few minutes — “Where’s Lady Foot Locker? Where’s Sephora?” — and when I checked back in with myself, I went, I’ll be damned.
Could I still feel it? Sure. Once you’re inside the python, you never mistake yourself for being free.
But instead of feeling trapped, I felt hugged. Whole-body hugged. Really, really enthusiastically hugged — like by Lennie from “Of Mice and Men” — except not crushed, like I’d been fearing. We shopped for three hours and the only thing that got smashed was The Finance’s patience (“How can someone spend AN HOUR in a make-up store? How much face can one person have?”).
And so… I now love my Spanx.
I don’t wear them recreationally, you can be damn sure — but when I walk into meetings now, my hips and stomach lie flat, and there are no lumps or bulges anywhere. I go in feeling like I’m already getting a big hug from my self-esteem.
Also, my vagina stays cool and comfortable in case of any unexpected pelvic exams.
Which really puts my mind at ease.
Wanna keep reading The Pilot Season Experiment?