Second Life, Body Image & Ilesotomies

Please bear with me for yet another random musing on body image. This time it’s about Second Life. For those of you who don’t know, Second Life is a virtual world where you can interact with others. You create an avatar and have control over what you look like, and yes, what you wear.

I’ve been ‘visiting’ Second Life for some time now. It’s a nice diversion and I have made some great friends there. However, you may notice that most SL fashion tends to be, well, shall we say hoochie mama chic. Baring your midriff  (as well as baring other anatomical parts) is the norm.

Here’s where it gets odd….. I have a hard time with my avatar showing off her midriff. Honest! Isn’t that ridiculous. I mean, it is not like I have to worry about her ostomy showing. And yet, I see her as an extension of myself and feel uncomfortable baring my midriff. There is some kind of psychological study in that, don’t you think? Probably the same reason I tend to dress her in winter clothes when it is winter in RL and summer clothes when it is summer in RL.

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Body Image, a rambling post

We live in a world where Victoria’s Secret models are celebrities, Kirstie Alley is called a pig for being overweight, and jeggings are a fashion trend It’s not always a nice place. So, take a young person who is still becoming comfortable with her body, promise her a j-pouch, discover in surgery that she has Crohn’s disease which cannot be treated with a j-pouch, tell her she has a permanent ileostomy when she wakes up, and then let the fun begin.

I know…I’m not very subtle, am I? Yes, I’m talking about myself. But I know there are others who share the story of learning to love their ostomy when they are young. For me, I was in my mid-twenties when I needed to have surgery. Even the doctors I consulted with before surgery acted like I would want a j-pouch over an ileostomy. I was convinced that having an external appliance was the worst possible outcome. But I learned the lesson that I have NO control over certain things, and woke up with an ileostomy. I’ve come to accept and embrace it. I certainly am much healthier because of it. I’ll never forget when I woke up from having my surgery, I said I actually felt better and my dad said with a smile “It’s amazing what removing a diseased organ can do.”

At any rate, in my teens and twenties, I was always very modest about my body. I would prefer to wear baggy t-shirts that didn’t show off my curves. If anything was slightly snug (which usually meant it fit), I would feel very self conscious. Were people looking at my chest? Is this too tight? I wouldn’t want to draw any attention to myself. Heaven forbid.

Then, to suddenly have an ileostomy in my mid-twenties, well….you can imagine what that does to one’s self image. I wish in the hospital instead of teaching me how to take care of the appliance, they also taught me how to take care of my self-image. I was repulsed with the appliance and felt like it was the end of the world. I would have welcomed any tips about what to wear, how to feel confident, anything. Of course, that would come later, but wouldn’t it have been wonderful if there was a program in place that would help me adjust.

It has taken a LONG time, but now in my thirties, I am comfortable with my body, comfortable showing off my curves, and aware of what works on me and what doesn’t. My ileostomy is part of me, and I’m thankful for it since it has helped me be healthy. I still resent looking at a Victoria’s Secret catalog, but not because the models are so gorgeous. No, I resent the fact that I can’t wear a bikini without my ileostomy being obvious. But mostly I resent the fact that I didn’t feel more comfortable with my body at an earlier age.

And the results are…..

So, my hosiery experiment was not exactly a success. Here are the results….

 

  • Hanes Silk Reflections Non-Control Top in Little Color. Ok…..umm…soo…the color was not ‘little’ enough. They had that horrible orange, suntan look. My husband, who never offers fashion advice unless it is an extreme situation, suggested that I swap them for a different pair. They were that bad.
  • Hue So Silky Sheer in Natural. The color was great, and these seemed sturdy enough to hold up to some decent wear. The only problem, and it was pretty significant, was that the crotch seemed  to fall unusually low. Even though the waistband was pretty high on my abdomen, the crotch was saggy. All day at work I felt like I needed to do odd contortions to make sure it did not fall down! Maybe I had a defective pair or something. I will have to give them another try. But, based on my saggy crotch experience, this brand isn’t for me.
  • Calvin Klein Chiffon Sheer – sheer to waist. Gorgeous color. Perfect fit, though the waistband felt a bit low but still was workable. The only problem was that in one day I managed to run two pairs of these! I mean, come on. Both times it happened when I gave the waistband a tug to try to pull it above my ileostomy. I wasn’t pulling it *that* hard. Honest. But these things seemed to run if you look at them the wrong way.

So, bottom line is that I’m still searching. Perfect pair of pantyhose, where-for-art-thou? In a pinch, I would go with the Calvin Klein’s, though I would be terrified of the plague of a million runs.

Hosiery, Part Deux

Ok…I have an important event coming up this week and pantyhose will certainly be a part of it. However, which type? This weekend I loaded up on some different types of non-control top sheer pantyhose. They are:

1) Hanes Silk Reflections Non-Control Top in Little Color

2) Hue So Silky Sheer in Natural

3) Calvin Klein Chiffon Sheer – sheer to waist

I’m hoping to test out which is the most comfortable (particularly with my ileostomy) AND which actually looks the best. I have pretty pale skin, so it’s tricky to find a ‘natural’ looking shade that isn’t too yellow, too tan, or too white. By the way, a 6 year old cousin once said “you are the whitest person I’ve ever seen”….umm…er…ok. She is from California and all so I guess I’m not like the bronzed beach babes she is so used to.

I’ll let you know what the verdict is!

A Teenage Waist-land

So, is anyone else thankful that we seem to be over the hump of the ultra low-rise pants? I mean, the type that are so low that you see butt cleavage and that you wonder how the pants are actually staying up at all. It is incredibly annoying that the most fashionable pants options are relegated to low-rise. I don’t think we are out of the woods yet, but at least it is now possible to get pants that are ‘mid-rise’ or sit at the ‘natural waist.’ What would really work best for me is true ‘high-waisted’ pants. My ileostomy is placed fairly high, and for comfort as well as a slim look, I love a high-waisted pant. Since this is usually not possible, I am content if I can find a mid-rise pant that is still not super tight at the waist, so as to give me a bit of breathing room with the ileostomy.

Anyways, I haven’t found the magical pair of pants. I usually need something mid-rise or higher, with belt loops. The contoured waist doesn’t work well on me. Jones of New York dress pants have a fairly high waist, and seem to work well on me. But my ongoing struggle is to find pants for work that aren’t frumpilicious and that fit well. I welcome any and all suggestions!

Panty Hose

Amazingly, it was only recently that I got up the courage to wear tights or pantyhose for a full day at work! Previously, so afraid of having anything cutting across my waist or putting undue pressure on areas that couldn’t take it, I wore thigh highs. These usually worked fine, but are not really feasible under anything very clingy. Otherwise you can see a line on your leg, and heaven forbid, whatever part of your body spills over the top of the thigh high bulges out. I fondly call this the ‘mutton chop’ look. Eh.

Finding hose that do not have a control top is not easy. Apparently every woman in American wants to be ‘held in’ by a control top. I want the oppposite! Donna Karan and Calvin Klein has a nice line called “The Nudes” but they are uber sheer, and for me, uber fragile. They are also sort of pricey at $20 a pop.

i did have some luck with L’eggs brand. I tried No nonsense, but found the colors a bit sallow on me. Hanes has a nice one without a control top, but the color (travel buff) is very pale. I need something that doesn’t make my legs look like I’m wearing a nurses uniform.

For tights, I like the Ann Taylor Loft brand.

Suggestions? Any brands that work well on you?

The Holy Grail: Jeans

Ok, so admittedly it took me a long time to find a pair of jeans that would work well with my ilesotomy. The unfortunate low-rise trend caused me all sorts of issues, since my ileostomy is placed fairly high on my abdomen. I know some people don’t have issues with their pouches appearing well above the waist line, but I seem to be rather…um…prolific in my output and really don’t care for the pouch expanding above tight pants, making my belly look lopsidedly pregnant.

I basically wrote of jeans for the longest time. And those I wore were either uncomfortable or so baggy to give me a high waist line that they did nothing to flatter my figure. And then one day the clouds parted and I heard angels sing and I found the right jeans for me. The ones that work for me are Ralph Lauren jeans. Just the plain old Lauren jeans they have at Macy’s, not the uber expensive type.

And now, thanks to some backlash over the low rise phenomenon, and the realization that women above the age of 15 have more success avoiding the ‘muffin top’ by having pants with a higher waistline that holds them in, there are many more options available! Another angel-singing moment for me was finding Levi’s 512 Perfectly Slimming Jeans. These jeans are awesome! I live in them when I’m not at work. They are firm enough that they hold my appliance in, and yet have enough stretch that they are very comfortable. They also look really sharp. I realize it is still a bit high for a waistband, but I usually don’t tuck on my outer top (I always wear a tank underneath and tuck that in though…it helps compress everything AND helps me avoid flashing my appliance to the world when I pick up my son).

Seriously, if you are looking for jeans, I highly recommend the 512’s.