I stood up in my first wedding this spring, an experience that was delightful, harrowing and made me deeply question my feminist sensibilities. It wasn't the traditional virgin-white dress or the "giving away of the bride" that gave me such angst—it was the gut-wrenching decision of whether or not to Spanx myself for the wedding.
For those unfamiliar with the modern contraption known as "Spanx," they are basically modern corsets: stretchy running shorts that suck in and smooth out all the hideously natural rolls of fatty skin on a woman's torso. As I jumped and wrangled my way into my first trial pair, I swear I could see Gloria Steinem's judgment face telling me my sisters fought too hard for me to willingly put myself through such torture.
And my imaginary Gloria Steinem head isn't wrong. Back in the day, the first wave of feminists were the ones to toss their corsets—or at least loosen them a bit. How could women contribute to society if they couldn't breathe or move?
Rebecca Adams from the Huffington Post recently interviewed doctors about just what Spanx are doing to our squeezed innards. Not shockingly, the shapewear isn't doing our guts any favors.
Spanx compress your internal organs, most notably your stomach and intestines, which can lead to the delightful side effects of heartburn and constipation. Sexy.
All that squeezing of your diaphragm also makes it difficult to breathe deeply. Shallow breathing means hyperventilation and fainting and/or panic attacks. Just what every girl needs in the middle of a wedding!
And one of my favorite unintended consequences of Spanx is the numbing of one's legs from the compression on the peripheral nerve in your thigh. Just as corsets in days yonder made women "frail" and prone to fainting, the new Spanx make women a constipated, panicky mess of skinny waists and numb legs.
Knowing all this, I made the only choice possible to my third wave feminist self: I bought me a pair of some generic black Spanx at Dress Barn and got ready to shallowly breathe my way through my best friend's wedding. I know it seems crazy, but the thing is, Spanx have one benefit that outweighs all the negatives: They make you look really effin' good in a satin strapless skin-tight bridesmaid dress.
I must note I did not wear the Spanx with grace. My right leg went numb sometime around 12:30 from a combination of Spanx and heels. I almost passed out during the ceremony, and a lovely woman had to fan me and remind to breathe, a feat my Spanx would not fully allow me to do. And I won't get into the movement of my bowels, but let's say a lot of bran and flaxseed was in my future. But the three pictures that were taken did look just amazing.
I felt silly, shallow and super un-feminist after my little venture into Spanx. But we all negotiate our way through the continuing development of feminism. We all still have to live in a world that idealizes 24-inch waists; even if we understand that beauty standards aren't realistic, sometimes we want to take a break from fighting the patriarchy even if it hurts our internal organs. It is silly and shallow, but we are real people who want to fit into the roles society makes for us at the same time we fight to deconstruct those roles.
At some point during the wedding prep, the bride looked at me very seriously and asked if she thought she was being a bad feminist. I looked right back at her and said the only thing I could think of, "Well I'm wearing Spanx right now, so I guess if you're a bad feminist so am I."
We can't be perfect feminists but we can be human ones, even if that means we occasionally Spanx ourselves for the sake of a pretty picture.
Niki Fritz is a RedEye special contributor.
Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.