There are certain things you aren’t supposed to admit to—things, people might construe as faults in character.

For instance, say you admit you love spandex—tight, shiny, full-of-flesh fabric.

Some might assume you’re an exhibitionist trapped in an ’80s Aerobic Queen’s unitard.

In high school, the mere presence of spandex brought snickers into the locker room, and I wore Umbro soccer shorts over my running tights to dim the jibes.

My college roommate, Amy, ignored such propriety and peer pressure.

She had her mother sew her full bodysuits of shiny Lycra, which she wore to practice each day in high school.

Red unitards with blue polka dots.

This fact alone explains a lot about her.

In college, I stepped into my affection for all things elastane.

I ran cross country and track, where everything came cloaked in these chains of synthetic polymers.

(Of course, Amy deserves credit for inspiring the fondness for such attire, too.)

Special brown and scarlet speed suits.

Pomegranite red spankies.



Even our Halloween costumes were composed of elastane.

When you run 40 miles a week, spandex feels like an entitlement.

It is justified with race numbers, score sheets and the youthful bodies of 20-year-olds.

You come to love it so much that on Saturday night, the sleek speed suit suddenly seems hip enough for a dance party.


And yet, 10 years later, this obsession with spandex continues to stack up in my closet.

Walk into my house on any given day and you’ll see the evidence hung in all forms, colors, mattes and cuts.

In fact, I love my spandex so much that I hang dry every piece of it to preserve the integrity of the material, to protect it from the fiber-degrading heat of a dryer.


Sure, there are practical reasons for owning such clothing.

Lycra bike shorts reduce friction on those long rides: the chamois is essential.

(People like to say biking makes their butt hurt, but what they really mean is that it makes their crotch hurt—or, as I prefer to say, in Gilda Radner fashion, “Oh, my cheechnos!” )

Lycra makes you admit to the truth, even when you don’t want to.

It reveals what you might not want to know.

Or what you want to know in its naked form.

Spandex ensures you see these: the sculpted curve of the gluteus maximus, or lack thereof.

I have been known to swoon over a man for his calves alone.

I love watching tendons and ligaments shift under the cover of skin, of spandex.



Power muscling its way through tiny fibers as neurons fire is unbelievably sexy to me.

Lycra told no lies when, after a winter obsession with a bread maker and eating two to three loaves of bread by myself each week, my waistband was a little tighter than normal.

On the road, on my bike, it allows me to pine for a man pedaling in front of me.

His tattoo a target on his calf as it pumps like a heart, so round and full, like fruit in a garden of temptations.

Michelangelo would have drawn these legs.

I find myself wishing those limbs still touched mine at night.

Spandex reveals my weakness for him, for legs, and men with tattoos.

My weakness for men on bikes.

It reveals that I love, more than a woman is supposed to, that beautiful little muscle just above my knee that bulges midsummer, when I’ve been biking long and hard enough.

Because in my world, beauty is not skin deep; it’s muscle deep.

And I need spandex, in all its profane colors, to keep me honest.

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JENNIFER DUFFIELD WHITE is neither a flower child nor a wild child, merely a hybrid of the two. She was born in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, lived for several years in the Adirondacks, and she now resides in Montana where she field-tests mountain life and the writing life. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in publications including Narrative Magazine, Drunken Boat Journal, Witness, and You can find her nonfiction in places such as Adirondack Life and Women's Adventure. She is a contributing editor to The Nervous Breakdown. Her website is here and she tumbles pretty photos here.

2 responses to “An Ode to Spandex”

  1. […] Spandex, summer, […]

  2. Dexter Spangly says:

    What an amazing and well written article, almost poetry; it resonates with me to a degree that cannot be explained. Growing up in the 80’s I saw spandex in the gym, in the classroom and in social setting. The shiny colors, the way it flowed relentlessly over the skin and the way it outlined the beautiful female body was nothing short of astounding. One day I saw something I had never seen before, I would later learn that it was called a unitard. I saw it on a gal named Marianna and it was shiny dark electric blue. No longer was there a separation between torso and legs (leotard and tights) but instead a flowing encapsulation of this amazing fabric. My fascination for how it felt like to adorn such an outfit and my wanting to touch a gal wearing it was overwhelming, but a cross dresser I was not.

    It would be decades later that I discovered the triathlon suit, wrestling singlet, running tights and swim jammer that I would be able to indulge in wearing something that as a youth I found so intoxicatingly awesome. As the story above explains, it drove me to lose 45 pounds and get in shape so I could wear it and look good so to this I owe my fitness. Today I wear spandex almost daily but yeah, this story really resonates with me, thanks for writing it!

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