The Spandex Tsunami

Am I the only person perplexed by the staggering popularity of Spandex? Why have so many women decided that tourniquet tight legwear is a wardrobe must? And not just slim women; women of all shapes and sizes pry on their pants each day and head out into the world, defiant as new parolees.

I don’t care if you have a rockin’ body, I don’t care if you don’t. I’m just tired of seeing so much of you. I never signed up for a free subscription to your ass.

“They’re super comfortable,” a friend assured me, beaming at her thighs, which were shrink-wrapped in a dark gray material splashed with giant yellow daisies. “They move with your body,” she explained. Indeed your body cannot shake them; you’ve eliminated the option.

Yoga pants. Compression wear. Training tights. Leggings. Designers have worked hard to come up with fetching names. Still promoted/justified as sportswear, the distinction has become meaningless.

There are a handful of competitive sports that benefit from tight uniforms. When winning is measured by a thousandth of a second, a second skin is the way to go. The rest of us have options, especially those who don’t know they do, who believe that compression tights and skinny jeans are tickets to freedom.

Every time I see a girl in tight jeans—which is every day, many times a day—I cringe a little, imagining the difficulty involved in sitting, bending and walking. A fashion that limits movement, impinges on circulation and inhibits healthy breathing is not a product that favors liberation and empowerment.

Remember Grunge? I do, even though it last just half a minute back in the early 90s. With origins in the Seattle area, Grunge fashion—for both men and women—was characterized by durable and cheap clothing often worn in a loose, androgynous manner to de-emphasize the silhouette. Make-up and excessive grooming were shunned; the whole point was to disavow the pitfalls of conformity and capitalism. Decades later, men are still wearing easy-fitting clothes; women, sadly, are not. I guess Doc Martens, roomy jeans and flannel shirts did not contribute to the objectification of the female form. If a women’s body is de-emphasized, who will want it? Who will care? What is it worth?

What I miss most from the Grunge period was the way women carried themselves. The sureness of their movements, the nascent confidence. Women were realizing at last that they owned themselves, or could. Who needed to measure up? For a brief period in our evolution, the female body was under autonomous rule as women adopted a brave new world of non-fashion and individuality.

A style that celebrates personal freedom is not a style that can be easily re-packaged by clothing designers, and so Grunge died out. Hoping to monetize the attitude, the fashion industry has tried at intervals to echo the lost look, offering distressed garments at high prices, but these attempts do not illustrate what Grunge was all about. The mainstream cannot adopt a subculture without losing its grassroots nature.

So far, I’m not seeing any sign that women are ready to peel off their Spandex and slip into something more comfortable. I’ve been waiting for that sea change, for some daring designer to introduce loose-fitting jeans for women. Imagine the culture shock, millions of females moving freely through their days, empowered by the anonymity of modest, comfortable clothing. Of course, there is still the matter of make-up, hair dye and Botox, but we have to start somewhere.

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Lovers and Loners, a Short Story Collection

Thanks to my publisher and dear friend Mark McNease at MadeMark Publishing, my second collection of short stories, Lovers and Loners, is now available on Kindle. Those with other types of electronic tablets can simply download the Kindle app to their device. The paperback edition will be out in just a few days.

The stories in this new collection feature female protagonists who struggle for footholds in a shifting world. “Parasites” involves a widow who agrees to have dinner with a man she believes is a killer. “Manatee Gardens” explores the relationship between a mother and daughter who discover common ground at a marine sanctuary. In “Chasing Zero” a woman with a mysterious illness loses her hold on the callous man she adores. “Odds and Ends” follows a woman running errands on the last day of her life.

Lovers and Loners is a study of the human predicament: our eagerness and despair, our hidden fears and stubborn hopes, the blunders we make and the ways in which we are salvaged.

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“Savages” in On The Premises

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I am honored and delighted to have won second place in this contest for my story “Savages.”

On The Premises is an online fiction magazine founded in 2006 by Tarl Kudrick and Bethany Granger.

Stories published in On The Premises are winning entries in short story contests launched each December and June. Each contest challenges writers to produce a great story based on a broad premise supplied by the editors. Winning stories are published in each April and October.

I am grateful to editors Tarl and Bethany for this opportunity and distinction.

Regrets, I’ve Had A few

I recently read a Facebook post that began with three words: “Have no regrets.” The author went on to justify this remark by reminding us that every decision we have ever made has fashioned us into the people we are today. This argument does not seem sufficient. Couldn’t we be more than we are today? Why is it wrong to imagine so?

Dictionaries define regret as a feeling of sadness, repentance or disappointment over something that has happened, especially a loss or missed opportunity. I can’t imagine there’s a person alive or dead who has not experienced this wistful angst. Regret is the product of a robust conscience and a working mind. If we did not regret our mistakes, we would not learn from them. We would be something less than human.

The nice thing about regrets is that they lose no potency by being kept private. I could tell you right now what my top three are, but I won’t. They are mine. Like the small and steady diminishments that come with age, I don’t deny my regrets. I allow them, forgive them; I keep them close. Wrinkles and regrets—what can you do but give them a home?

I can’t believe there’s a purpose to everything, hidden trajectories designed for each of us. While life on this planet is held in exquisite balance, it is also random and unjust, urgent and ever-changing. Our lives are so rife with choices and hazards that regret is inescapable, maybe even an adaptation, a feature meant to foster compassion and humility.

Not that we need to be mired in remorse, mourning the options we didn’t pursue. To dwell on something is to stop moving forward. But if we own our regret, acknowledge where we might have done better, we might in fact do better. Some of the roads we could have taken are closed off now–no matter; more open up all the time.

On the virtual plane, there are many versions of myself, living out the choices I didn’t make. Life is not easy. I wish them well.