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My Superhero Underpants

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I came upstairs last night and found my husband Dan pulling something out of the laundry stacked on his bureau. He looked puzzled.

"These aren't my underpants," he said. "Whose are they?"

I snatched them out of his hands. "Mine," I mumbled.

"They look like superhero underpants," he said. "I should buy you a cape to go with them."

It was true. This particular pair of panties -- a bit high in the waist, Lycra, and deep purple -- definitely looked like something Wonder Woman might have worn, if she'd ever wanted to change up the star-spangled bottoms she favored before DC Comics recently updated her outfit.

It wasn't my intent to get into superhero role-playing, fun as that would be. I'm just always on the prowl for underpants suitable for women of a certain age. I'm not talking about trying to be sexier. My husband thinks I'm a hot temptress, even in my ankle-length black down coat (which makes me look like Shamu the killer whale). I just want attractive underpants that won't divulge my secrets or make me as twitchy as a sixth grader in social studies.

Forget thongs. I've tried them all, from those Hanky Panky brand that comes in fun little balls of Easter egg colors to wider, more modest pairs. Whether I'm sitting at my computer or pushing a cart full of groceries, wearing a thong guarantees that I'll get a wedgie. Then I have to remind myself, "That's not a wedgie, that's my thong!!" Plus, the way jeans are designed these days, if I bend over, everyone knows my favorite color.

Bikini panties are comfy, but it's tough to find styles where the lines don't show. That leads to teenagers walking behind you and thinking, "Ew, gross." Plus, after you've had children, wearing a bikini just reminds you of how it felt when there was something between you and tying your shoes. The waistband slices you right where those last, stubborn, post-pregnancy pounds hang out.

The obvious solution was boy shorts, I thought -- good coverage, but still lacy and sexy. Unfortunately, boy shorts seem to be made for boys. Every pair I tried had leg bands so tight that my thighs looked like sausages pinched at the ends.

Maybe the answer was underwear that went right up to my bra, I decided last summer when I got a dress and the clerk talked me into buying Spanx for a smoother look. At home, I laid out my new dress, put my makeup on, and did my hair with a mounting sense of excitement. After all, Spanx has been giving Oprah a waist for over a decade.

At last, I was ready for my miracle foundation garment debut. I pulled the Spanx out of its slim packet. It was skin-colored and felt crunchy between my fingers. It stretched like pantyhose between my hands, but had an odd shape: a square top and legs cut off at the knees. It looked like a preschool craft project. There was no crotch. I tried not to imagine the disaster that might unfold if I guffawed at someone's party joke and needed to pee.

Nonetheless, I inserted one leg, then the other, wriggling the garment over my thighs. When it came to getting the Spanx over my hips, it was like being swallowed by a boa constrictor. My new dress did slide more easily over my waist and hips. However, just as a miracle bra gathers flesh from back to front to make you look like you've strapped on a pair of bowling balls, the Spanx gathered everything in my middle and squeezed it up under my ribcage. I was gasping for air like a dying trout.

Dan came upstairs and slid his arms around my newly tight waist. Our eyes met in the mirror. "Great dress," he said, then cocked his head. "It fits kind of funny around your waist."

"What waist?" I said with a moan.

"Your sexy, gorgeous waist." Dan says things like this to me every day, and means them. But now he grabbed my hips and winced. "What the hell are you wearing? It feels like you're made of cement." He wasn't trying to be critical. Dan is an engineer who just likes to know how things work. I hiked my dress up to show him.

"Jesus!" he said. "That can't be very comfortable. Why are you wearing it?"

Why, indeed? My Spanx has been in my top drawer ever since, along with my discarded thongs, boy shorts and bikinis. Meanwhile, my superhero underpants have risen to the top of the heap. They're comfortable enough for Spin class and don't show panty lines, even under leggings. I am Wonder Woman, after all. Time to go shopping for that gold belt.

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