By Aileen O'Dowd
I threw away my bed and replaced it with a nest. I built it myself with many, many, many pairs of pantyhose—all the pantyhose I ever owned, from when I was a baby, until now. Forty-three years of pantyhose. I taught myself how to weave and bought an extra-large loom. I took a six-month sabbatical from work. I lost fifteen pounds because I barely ate—just sat there at my loom from morning till night, sustaining myself on the occasional protein shake.
My mom was obsessed with pantyhose. Her favorite brand was L’eggs. They came packaged in plastic eggs, and you could buy them at the grocery store. I remember them in the Safeway cart propped up against the bologna. A Sheer Elegance Control Top in Suntan beside the peas and bread. Milk runs punctuated by Active Support Legs in Nude. We made crafts with the shells. Mom put chocolate bunnies inside of them and hid them all over the house at Easter. One year she hid them so well we ended up with ants. The exterminator was horrified by all of the eggs. My mom’s endless supply of eggs.
Some parents mark the growth of their children with a Sharpie and a doorframe. My mom did it through pantyhose. She saved every single pair I ever wore, sorted and labeled by year, in shoe boxes in the attic. “Look how wide they stretch,” she said once, pulling open a Smooth Silhouettes thigh in Off White. “Isn’t it amazing how strong they are?” I wish I could tell her now that she was wrong—that pantyhose aren’t strong at all. That they can’t even stand up to a hangnail. I’m not naive, I know the truth about this nest. I’ve read every tip, watched every tutorial on weaving and durability. Implemented advanced techniques for reinforcement and resiliency. But it doesn’t matter, it’s all just one cracked heel—one unshaven lover away—from destruction.
There is a Run Resistant foot in Misty Black sticking out of the weave of my nest. I poke it back into the pattern with a nylon-covered toe. Ever since my mom died, I can’t stand the sight of my bare legs. All I see are spider webs. Unruly blue lines invading moon-colored oceans of skin. I cover them in Cinnamon or Semi-Opaque Taupe. I stand on my toes like the mannequins in the mall. They are so lucky, those mannequins with perfect legs. They wear pantyhose just for fun.
If I was a mannequin, I would walk around the world unencumbered by Spandex, flaunting my fiberglass calves and buttery smooth thighs. My heels would never touch the ground. But, for now, I am not a mannequin. I am a single, middle-aged woman with no mom. The world feels too overwhelming to face with saggy knees and cellulite, so I wait here in my nest with my legs propped up against the wall. I let my varicose veins drain into my heart and shop for pantyhose online. There have been many innovations in hosiery. I order thirteen pairs from a new company claiming to have “the strongest tights on the market.” They have a proprietary knit, traditionally used for mountain climbing equipment. They post pictures of pantyhose stretched over conch shells. I am excited, but cautiously optimistic. I want to believe them, I do. But at the same time I know—there is only so much something so fragile can take before it breaks.