That’s not a corset, mate. THIS is a corset.

Gone with the Wind

When I was a kid and teenager, I watched Gone with the Wind at least a couple of times a year. (I read the book for the first time at age 14 or 15.) And every time, I viewed it with an odd mixture of enjoyment, disgust, fascination, and horror.

This isn’t a post about slavery or bigotry or racism or women’s equality or war or politics, though Gone with the Wind contains plenty of fodder for each. (Not to mention a kaboodle of interesting stuff relating to the psychology of Scarlett O’Hara herself; man, did I ever get a doozy of a shock concerning her when I finally rewatched the movie as an adult! Also: Vivien Leigh? Brilliant.)

No, I’m not delving into any of that today. What I am going to talk about, though, is corsets.

scarlettmammycorset

As a kid and a teen, I watched the corset-lacing scenes with horror. How could any woman do that to herself? How could she breathe? No wonder she couldn’t eat. No wonder there was fainting all over the place. These women had to be crazy to think fashion and other people’s opinions were worth putting themselves through this kind of torture — putting themselves into this kind of torture device.

Corset. Torture device. Every bit as effective as the iron maiden, thumbscrews, and the rack, I had no doubt.

Oh, and then there was this:

Mammy (referring to Scarlett’s waist measurement): Twenty inches.

Scarlett: I’ve grown as big as Aunt Pitty! You’ve simply got to make it eighteen-and-a-half again!

Mammy: You done had a baby, Miss Scarlett, an’ you ain’ never goin’ to be no eighteen-an’-a-half inches again — never. An’ there ain’ nothin’ to do about it.

Eighteen-and-a-half inches. You know what that is? That’s the circumference of…of…well, of I don’t know what. Something very small. Like maybe the head of a small child. Or my cat. (The whole cat, not the head.) Definitely not the waist of an average-height, adult, human female.

Corsets, thought I, shaking my head in amazed disgust. Those are for crazy people. NO DOUBT.

Down with the Corset!

Now. By which I mean, give heed, dear inklings, to meanderings mine as well as in the context of this narrative, we find ourselves in present day. If you recall, I recently gave you a candid look, both in description and in photographic evidence, of my post-pregnancy body. If you recall, in that post I jokingly used the word “corset” to describe the bodysuit thingamajig my physical therapist wanted me to wear in order to help heal my separated abdominal muscles (diastasis recti).

That bodysuit corset thingamajig is this:

Ooh la la. #no #notreally

Ooh la la. #no #notreally

I didn’t like it. It pulled on my shoulders, making them sore and straining my upper back. It slid down. It rode up. Sure, it slimmed down some of the fat pockets on my back and sides, but was a slightly (SLIGHTLY) streamlined silhouette really worth the discomfort? Nay, said the horse. Not to mention the part where I have to unhook it when I want to pee, which makes me feel like I’m wearing a superlarge version of my toddler’s onesies. Great, not only am I out of shape and in pain, I’m also reduced to wearing gigantic baby clothes. I CAN’T WIN.

I wouldn’t wear this thing if I didn’t have to. But if I ever want to heal my abs, get my back into shape again, and return to exercising with any semblance of gusto, wear this gigantic toddler onesie wedgie corset-thing I must.

I had no idea what was coming next.

gwtw-intermission

Physical therapy was still progressing, at least as far as my mobility was concerned. But the pain had plateaued, meaning that it wasn’t getting worse (most days), but it certainly wasn’t improving. My physical therapist suggested placing a sheet of plywood under my mattress. The husband installed it. I also started wearing my mouthguard at night so that I wouldn’t clench/grind my teeth. (Bruxism can contribute to back pain.)

Plywood and mouthguard helped a little; the pain dropped a notch. Then it plateaued again. My therapist was at a loss. My frustration level went up. The toddler kept doing this weird thing called getting bigger, which also meant getting heavier. Soon, every morning began with numb spots on the bottoms of my feet. I couldn’t turn my head.

My mother, wise woman that she is, suggested X-rays. My general practitioner, all-around awesome that she is, agreed. The X-rays showed something that shouldn’t have surprised me but was still fairly depressing:

Mild arthritis in my neck.

Mild scoliosis in my back.

Arthritis. At 36. I know it’s not unheard-of for someone my age or even younger to be diagnosed with this, but still. I figured out a long time ago that, powerful genes considered, I’d probably develop arthritis just the way my mother and grandmother did. But I thought that would be distant future, not imminent. I mean, seriously. Arthritis? Wasn’t I supposed to be at least 55 before this party started?

And scoliosis. Is this a new thing? Did this just develop during pregnancy? Can pregnancy cause it? Or have I always had it, and nobody ever realized? Isn’t this something that crops up in childhood? With all the bajillion doctors I’ve seen during the course of my too-short-for-arthritis life, if I’ve had scoliosis the whole time, how is it possible that nobody ever noticed?

It’s been a few days since the diagnoses, and I’m very definitely still *SIGH*ing over this. And feeling way older than any of this merits.

Done with the Corset; Or: That’s not a corset, mate. THIS is a corset.

My doctor says that if I have better back support, the pain of both conditions should/will decrease and go away. In order to gain better back support, I need core strength and stability — of which I’m clearly not getting enough via my onesie-corset-bodysuit. Those separated abs are THE BANE OF MY EXISTENCE. To heal the abs and reestablish core strength, the doc wants me to wear a thing. It’s called a “Belly Bandit.”

bellybandit

The Belly Bandit is supposed to be THE BEST for getting one’s stretched, now oddly-proportioned, post-pregnancy belly back into shape. It flattens and compresses. It squeezes separated abs back together so they can heal. It produces whangdoodles and zippetybobs, and it will most definitely endow one with those ever-elusive vorpal unicorn morphing powers. I guess it’s called a “bandit” because it steals away one’s oversized post-pregnancy belly. I guess.

I buy one. I haul it home and pull it out of the package. It’s a ca. 3-foot-long, 1-foot-wide piece of cloth-covered elastic with front panels of what feels like industrial-strength Velcro. I suck in the belly, flex what’s left of the abs, and wrap my new belly-thieving friend around my waist. I secure the Velcro that would make the Acme Corporation proud. I relax and immediately notice two things:

1. I suddenly feel like my top half and bottom half are finally connected again.

2. Gasp and egad, I AM IN A CORSET.

PRETTY.

PRETTY.

I can’t breathe. Did I get it too tight? I can’t sit down. Oh dear, it’s bunching up in the small of my back. But the package insert says it’s supposed to do this. I can’t breathe. And later, I will pull a Scarlett and eat like a bird because my stomach is too smooshed for more than half a meal to fit into my abdomen.

I remind myself that this is a good thing. I use all the force of my fingers, hands, and arms to pull the Velcro apart and strap the thing back on a little looser. Breathing recommences. A little. I pick up the baby, and my back doesn’t scream at me. Okay, Ms. Bandit, maybe we can be friends after all.

After a lifetime of looking down my nose at those frivolous, 19th-century Southern belles, I now am not walking around in their shoes, but in their underwear. The Belly Bandit slims my waist. I ain’t never goin’ be no 18 inches (never was in the first place; nor 20, nor 25…ET CETERA), but at least the waistband of my jeans now rests comfortably on my hips instead of pinching my flesh. Sure, sitting isn’t comfortable, but the moment I strap on my torture device, I feel my posture improve and my whole body stabilize. For the first time in over a year, I don’t feel like my top half is gonna slide all janky to the right when my feet are leading my legs and hips to the left.

The best and weirdest part is that I can actually feel my abs touching under my skin. I mean, what a testament to how messed up my body is. You’re not supposed to be able to feel your abs touching. What manner of crazy is this? And yet, I do feel it, and in addition to bizarre, it also feels like hope.

Maybe I can feel normal again. Maybe I can live without pain again (because, yes, after a week of wearing the Belly Bandit, I definitely have less pain, and my next pt appointment isn’t until the end of the week). Maybe I can get my abs back.

Maybe, just maybe, I can get my body back.

The Convergence of Rattlesnakes, Angels, and Corsets

Illuminated Van Gogh by Liz Cail McElroy

You might not know this, my dear inklings — but I am involved in a grand scheme to change the world.

I know. It’s hard to imagine that an artsy culture-geek such as I would be so idealistic as to want to alter even an iota of her environment. But, alas and alack, I’m too air-headed to leave well enough alone. Hence, just over a year ago, I embarked with fellow artsy geeks upon a quest to fiddle with reality until said reality suits us.

This quest, me hearties, operates under the name The Consortium, and I encourage you to read more about it here. The basic premise is that we, the Consortium, want to change the world by supporting artists. Supporting artists supports the arts. Supporting the arts changes the world. And there you have it. Egad, Brain.

A patron studies Forever In The Lion's Eye by Courtney Cantrell

Better Than GroupThink

The Consortium has officially existed since November 2010, and this past Saturday, we had our first official function: The First Annual Consortium Arts Fundraiser. This is important because it was the first time all of our artists came together to work on one gigantic project. Much firstness and officialdom!

Over the past year, two writers, an editor, two photographers, a graphic designer, and a project coordinator collaborated to publish three books (one of them is mine, hint hint). ; ) Our director of marketing got us an article in a newspaper. We have multiple other projects in development, involving musicians, computer programmers, copy writers, and voice actors.

We’ve got a passion for producing — everything.

The One Where I Sold Three Paintings

So, we’ve got our fingers in all these yummy, creative pies…but this past weekend was the first time we got into the same pie together. (Ooh La La; Or: This Is Getting Interesting.) We put on a fundraiser: an art contest and silent auction.

And it was CRAMAZING.

We had a life-size rattlesnake sculpture. We had a painting of a world-traveling octopus. The Craftivists, our artsy allies in Topeka, donated a purple lace window illustrating the dangers of corsets. Poetry submissions represented the written arts.

Bill Weger sings They Call the Wind Maria

Photographers extraordinaire Julie and Carlos Velez set aside their cameras and entertained us with song by means of ukulele and guitar. Two Consortium members elicited much laughter with a performance of the classic skit “Who’s on First?” And a professional opera singer, whose voice has entertained audiences as far away as Germany and the Philippines, regaled us with “They Call the Wind Maria.”

I don’t know the numbers of how many pieces sold at auction or how many votes were cast for the winning entries of the art contest. But I do know that three of my paintings sold for more than I’d ever hoped to get for any of my art.

(One painting was a portal into an otherworldly realm; another, a larger-than-life lion’s eye; and the third, a translucent angel. Seeing those pieces go to new homes has made my fingers itch without ceasing for my paintbrushes!)

Carlos and Julie Velez, lookin' artsy.

Why You Should Give a Small Rodent’s Posterior

Actually, scratch that. We don’t want donations of rat tushies. For one thing, it would leave too many rats in a rather awkward position. Also, we’re not into maiming animals. (Although there was that incident with the platypus–)

*ahem*

But seriously. Dudes. You should care about all of this because, if you’re reading my blog in the first place, you already have an interest in (the) art(/s). You already care about how art affects the world and how it affects your world.

And the Consortium, my lovely art-lover, is all about affecting your world in wondrous ways. The Consortium is all about enhancing your world, your culture, your life. Our fundraiser was our first collective step from the breathless, anticipatory shadows into the light.

We are here. We are visible. We’re ready to make something happen. We are making things happen. And if you’re reading this, then the ripples are already touching you.

There. You feel that? That’s the first tiny nudge.

Support the artists to support the arts. The Consortium is doing wonders, people — and lemme tell ya, these pies are finger-lickin’ good.

The Consortium in cramazing hats!