The line between what is male and what is female continues to blur. Stereotypes are dropping every day. A doctor is not automatically a man; a nurse is not automatically a woman. A pilot can be a female; a flight attendant can be a male. A jerk can be a man or a woman. Someone buying makeup is not necessarily a woman. Today there is even a category of men called, “metrosexual.” No, that doesn’t mean people who like to have sex on the subway. It refers to men who pay attention to their appearance in a way that stereotypically used to be considered strictly female. The latest woman-man crossover is the girdle for men. It was bound to happen, wasn’t it?
Some call this men’s girdle a “mirdle.” It’s not exactly a girdle because of where it’s worn. However, it has the same “compression technology” that has been used for some women’s undergarments. (An example of this technology in female underwear is actually called the “bra-llelujah).” The most popular of these new male mentionables is a T-shirt/undershirt that emphasizes a man’s muscles and minimizes his fat. To me, it just looks like a $50 undershirt.
For decades, women have campaigned to be entitled to whatever men have. Now it’s the male gender’s turn to feel entitled to something that has often been the province of women — spending money to move fat around their bodies. (I never really understood the physics of this. If fat is squeezed in one area of the body, doesn’t it just pop up somewhere else?)
So in addition to all of the male cosmetics that have become big sellers in recent years, now we have the male slimming garment. I’m sure soon there will be men wearing “mantyhose.” There are already underpants for men that have padding in them to give the illusion of having a bigger butt. (Why? Who knows?) In this era of the sexual equality of spandex, both women and men can satisfy their obsession with making some body parts look smaller and other parts bigger.
Why now? What is it about this era, this zeitgeist that’s making men grab $58 slimming T-shirts off the racks faster than they can sing, “I feel pretty?” We are in a recession. Money is supposed to be tight, not underwear.
I assume those buying these garments rationalize it. Maybe they’d say it’s cheaper than plastic surgery — as if accepting how you look isn’t even an alternative. Maybe they’re hunting for a job, want to look their best, and feel this new kind of underwear will help them get hired. OK, but I just can’t picture a guy going for a job interview without that butt padding and then after he leaves, those who do the hiring talking about him like this: “He was very qualified, his references were good, and he really seemed to have a handle on what we do here. Obviously, we can’t hire him. His butt’s too small.”
It’s possible that all this male over-primping might actually be costing guys jobs. Say a man has a job interview in the morning. He gets up and weighs himself. Then he takes a shower using lavender soap. He washes his hair with a volumizing shampoo followed by an almond conditioner. He dries himself off and looks in one of his way-too-many mirrors. He applies a male cover-up to a blemish. He shaves very carefully, making sure that his shave doesn’t make him look as if he’s shaved. (Could someone please explain this fashion to me?) Next, he puts on his new slimming and muscle-popping undershirt. He slips on his underpants with the butt pads. He finishes getting dressed and checks himself out in yet another mirror. He looks great. Everything’s perfect. So why won’t he get the job? By the time he finishes primping and getting dressed, he’s two hours late for the interview.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from “Sesame Street” to “Family Ties” to “Home Improvement” to “Frasier.” He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his website at lloydgarver.com and his podcasts on iTunes.