WHITNEY CAIN, PHD

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Vonda Lee & Spanx

My mother insists on taking me shopping when I visit.  I’m not sure why we replay the dance of my teenage contrariness through this, but we do.  She suggests I try on things she knows I won’t wear.  My seemingly neutral response barely veils my snarky intent.  And then we’re off.

During my last trip home, mother took me to her favorite department store’s Spanx section.  Her detailed argument concerning why I needed some concluded with, “My friend Sally says all the girls wear them.  Even feminists.” 

Before I could rebut, I heard “Hey!  Whitney?  Whitney!  It’s me, Vonda Lee!  What on earth are you doing here?”  Just past the modern girdles stood my gym class tormenter, Vonda Lee Lunsford.  (If you haven’t, meet Vonda Lee here.) I told her I was visiting over the MLK weekend. 

“Isn’t that great.  I love all three Kings – Martin, Elvis, and Jesus.  They are all kings and they all deserve holidays.  I'm reinventing myself.  You know I worked at Hooters, but I got a job injury.  I said, ‘you know what VL?  You can do something else.’  I might be a substitute teacher, but I'm not sure.  That’s why I’m here.  We'll see. I still see Jimbo when he's not married.  He's real hard to deal with when he is.  Those Spanx will roll down on you if you’re not careful and don’t drink anything cause it’s hard to pee.  Your hair looks better!  Call next time you’re in town.”

Watching Vonda Lee head toward “Smart Casual,” I realized I sort of liked her.  She lives in an “and” world.  There’s room for MLK beside Elvis with Jesus squeezed between at Vonda Lee’s table.  Plus, Vonda Lee isn’t afraid to reinvent herself or to take the space and time to do it. Once a wings server doesn’t mean always a wings server.  Like Vonda Lee, we deserve to take chances on ourselves and see ourselves in new ways. 

And she’s got boundaries. She doesn’t put up with Jimbo’s silliness when she doesn’t have the need or desire.  Best of all, she interrupted the dance neither my mother nor I really wanted to have.  We left and got ice cream.  Spanx be damned.

Whitney Cain