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.