The Evolution of Womanhood

By Susan DeBow

The Evolution of Womanhood

While talking to the owners of a house I wanted to list, my half-slip fell off. Slipped right down to the ground.

It shouldn’t have surprised me, as the elastic waistband was stretched and loose. Still, I had to decide how to recover the white, lumped garment that lay around my feet like a wreath.

Being the talented person I am, I stepped out of it and lifted it up behind me with my right foot, grabbed it and said, “Hum, wonder where that came from.” Luckily, the seller was intent on showing me her begonias so she didn’t seem to notice me discreetly put it in my purse.

I listed the house. It was overpriced and didn’t sell.

Such is real estate.

I was looking at a website that I browse frequently called Everything But the House, and noticed a lot of 18th century women’s gloves and a lot of slips for sale.

That got me to thinking about my slip that had a mind of its own and the many different apparatus I have worn in my life, all attempts to adapt to what the law of society told me I should be doing at that time.

Take garter belts. Today, garter belts are worn to get someone hot and bothered. But in the day, garter belts were worn to hold up our nylon stockings, except the stockings were usually synthetic something or other that snagged or “ran” if I looked at them wrong. The garter belt tried to make the stockings stay up, and the hose wanted to follow gravity and work their way down my legs. I sometimes wore them under my panties so that they wouldn’t end up at my knees.

Another contraption that I am sure caused many women to want to die and come back as a man was the lovely belt used to hold up sanitary napkins. As if cramps and bleeding weren’t enough to make a girl wince and to take to bed the entire length of the menses, this apparatus was a poor attempt to make a pad stay where it should be. Invariably, the pad would creep up my back, usually on my way to chemistry class, where I would then sit, nervously hoping there wouldn’t be a red stain on the back of my skirt when I stood.

I recently read that a woman who lived in the 4th century threw her used menstrual rags at a suitor in an attempt to discourage him. I’d say that probably worked.

And, at least the pads I wore weren’t made of wood chips, which is what they used in earlier times. I will never look at mulch the same way.

Then came panty hose. Although panty hose got us away from garter belts, they weren’t a panacea. They, too, were ruined easily by a bad cuticle. Sometimes I would wear hose with a run and feign like it had just occurred. Some of my sister’s and my worst moments were trying to find un-run hose for church. We stomped around the house with less than Godly thoughts. Pre-church swearing was followed by prayers of contrition.

Fortunately, tampons replaced sanitary pads, and then all we had to do was not forget to take them out and keep our fingernails trimmed so we wouldn’t need stitches from searching for the string that removed the tampon.

I guess we should all be grateful they didn’t make tampons with wood chips.

We also experienced the joy of “The Girdle.” Even though I had no stomach, I wore a girdle. Girdles were fine if they were loose enough to allow you to breathe, but if they were tight, look out. I had “issues.” If I ate while wearing a tight girdle, my digestive tract got the message that my intake should turn into output, soon. Do you know how hard it is to get a tight girdle off quickly while feeling like you are going to explode? And, then, trying to pull that girdle back on while sweating and weak in a bathroom stall while my hose had twisted around down around my ankles…and I was on my period? I was lucky if I got out of that stall in under an hour.

I am thrilled to be past the point where a girdle will make a difference. What’s the point of wearing a girdle to keep my stomach in when the fat will just hang over the top of it and billow like lava flowing down the side of a volcano? Wear a slip? Not me. Nobody has seen between my thighs since the Berlin Wall came down. Garter belts, although not worn on my person anymore, could be used for hanging Christmas cards. And sanitary pads? Nature took care of that.

That leaves the tampon. Although I don’t need those anymore, either, I keep a couple in my purse. In an emergency, I could use them to clean my ears. And, if I find myself in a survival situation, I have heard they make good fire starters.

About this writer

  • Susan Hipkins DeBow Susan Hipkins DeBow is a writer and artist. A hobby of hers is watching Law and Order reruns and then going around telling people she wants to make a “collar on the perps,” and demands a “remand.” She got hooked on Law and Order reruns after seeing Seinfeld reruns 20 times. You can read Susan’s work and see her art, photography and miscellaneous miscellany at If you are nice, she’d like to be your friend on facebook. Go to her Facebook page, Ohio Writer Girl.

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2 Responses to “The Evolution of Womanhood”

  1. Such delightful truths Susan! I appreciate the touch of humor, been there too! :)

  2. Wanda says:

    Susan, I just read your piece. I laughed until I cried, I guess because I’ve been there, done that. My husband was asking why are you laughing so hard????

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