Peggy Keener: Ode to the tummy tourniquet

Published 5:22 pm Friday, October 14, 2022

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In my lifetime, many things have sadly gone by the wayside—typewriters, dial phones, car bench seats and glass milk bottles with the cream on top. There is one thing that I will not miss, however. The girdle. To be specific, my long line Warner’s girdle.

While in my teens I became one with my girdle because my seamed nylons had to be anchored. One of the ways of accomplishing this was the garter belt, a contraption of various lengths of elastic bands resembling in every way a parachute harness. It was way too iffy for me. I needed fortress-like security; a true binding agreement

Wallace’s Department Store held the answer. Not only did it have counters burgeoning with girdles, it also had a wall of girdles that went nearly to the roof line! A ladder hanging on two wheels was needed to access them. One requirement of a clerk was that she be agile because she risked her life for every sale. As the wheels zinged her across the girdle wall, she looked like an early—really, really early—version of a Cirque du Soleil trapeze act.

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Wallace’s was not the only girdle game in town, though. Austin actually had a girdle lady who came to your home and measured your bulk for a custom fitted contrivance. At my house, we didn’t go that far. We were just regular old girdle girls. Warner girdle girls.

Girdles came in two configurations for, after all, girdles were all about configuring. Both versions had a .001 degree of rubbery stretch. First there was the panty girdle which pretty much described itself. Then there was the sarong type—a jumbo-wide band of intolerant elastic that squeezed one’s entire torso like a tourniquet. The crotch was open for blessed air circulation, but if a girl wasn’t careful with this one, she could get herself into all kinds of risky trouble. It should have come with a warning.

Both girdles had four garters, two per leg. Around the top of each fragile, spider-web-like nylon stocking was a wide band of tough nylon. The function of this band was to be sandwiched between the two garter parts—a bump that looked exactly like a flesh colored M&M and a stainless steel hook that resembled a large key hole. The key hole slipped onto the M&M and securely held the nylons in place. It was nothing short of unadulterated genius.

Despite its reliability factor, however, the garter was the cause of much of my personal distress. You see, our 50s fashions were pencil tight skirts with a little kick pleat in the back. These skirts looked terrific standing up, but upon sitting, the M&Ms immediately pressed up against the pencil tight material creating a very visible bump on the top of each thigh. It was devastatingly embarrassing, akin to a bra strap showing. Presbyterian girls were particularly scarred for life by this experience.

But, not to be a grumbletonian, there was also much to love about my long line Warner’s girdle. Mainly, it mysteriously pulled me taut by several inches in places that would have otherwise looked like living, breathing Jello. No girl wanted that. Still, to this day, I don’t know where all that part of me went. If you know, please tell me.

One day, in a moment of extraordinary perspicacity, I came up with a method, by using my girdle, for increasing one’s bust size. It was remarkably simple (as brilliant ideas are wont to be). Start with a Warner’s girdle three sizes too small. Then pull, tug, tow, yank, heave and haul the girdle slowly up your legs pushing your ankle and leg fat upward. Think snow plow. When you reach the thighs, you’ve hit the mother lode of guaranteed bust material. You know what I’m talking about—all that jiggly stuff that hangs off our femurs. At last that fat’s going to have a purpose.

At this point it is crucial to move precisely, for the abundance of accumulated leg and thigh tubbiness has reached and is now spilling into the tummy and buttocks areas creating a tsunami of quivering flesh. Now, if your bottom resembles a lard pail and your stomach is flat as an ironing board, then you must measure oh so carefully. Scrupulous fat distributing is required. (A wall mirror can be helpful here.) Now, gently, gently lift that relocated chub into the awaiting bra cups. Voila! A voluptuous, oooh la la bustline!

There is a catch, however. Whereas this method works swimmingly for the front of you, it can be curtains for your back. What I mean is …. well …. you now have a pretty darned unsightly hump (picture speed bump, Hunchback of Notre Dame) across your shoulders. But, do not despair. If you only face people and never turn around you’ll be fine.

Our first trip to Japan in 1962, was a girdle learning experience for me. Our propeller plane took 25 hours to cross the Pacific, stopping at two islands for refueling. I was, of course, encased in my long line Warner’s girdle. Apollo 7 thought it had a problem. They didn’t know beans. I was the one with the problem. I had enough gas trapped in me to fill a second Zeppelin. (On the next ocean crossing, I wore sweatpants.)

Once I had recovered, albeit, and was settled in Japan, I went back to my old girdle ways, wearing it every time I left the house. This included my daily hour-plus commuter train ride into Tokyo. On a good day, we passengers were packed like Pringle’s Potato Chips in a hermetically sealed can. On a bad day, we squashed chips were melded together into one big meaty blob, the exact shape of a train car.

Only one kind of passenger was happy about this. The train riding perv. Back then, I was always the only Caucasian girl in my the train car which provided a chance in a million for a Japanese creep to rub up against my white foreign posterior. Boy, was he in for a surprise when he zeroed in on me! Little did he suspect, as his prehensile fingers positioned themselves into pinch mode, was that his itchy digits would sliiiiipp right off my armor plated rear end. Encased in my chastity belt-like Warner’s girdle, my rump was as hard as a granite kitchen counter. I’ll bet that all these years later, he’s still perplexed—and not a little disappointed—over discovering that Caucasian women are made of petrified wood.

Ultimately, what was not to love about me in my Warner’s long line?