I have known the wonder of the buttlet. I have witnessed the technology that is the In-Power Line Super High Shaping Sheer. My chest has been lifted to gravity-defying heights, as if each breast was finally ready to meet in the uncharted territory of my upper sternum, as if reaching up toward the heavens. My thighs have seen the glory.

I have experienced the tender, fervent embrace of a 92 percent nylon-8 percent spandex contraption wrapped around my midsection, like a sticky boy who liked me, maybe a little too much. I have reveled in this mild discomfort, and I have wondered about the cultural slogans — "Beauty is pain" — that make women revel thus, the slight suffocation that prompts the smug smile: It must be working!

I have been contained. I have been Spanxed.

Unto us a store is born. The very first Spanx store in the country opened in Tysons Corner in McLean, Va., last month, right on the heels of Hurricane Sandy ("The Spanx must go on," the news release read, even if, perhaps, the power was off). Just in time for us to address the endless platters of Christmas snacks that have affixed the holiday season to our rear ends.

Since the Tysons Corner debut, two more stores have appeared — one at the King of Prussia Mall in the Philadelphia exurbs, one in Paramus, N.J. If these stores do well, others will follow. And Spanx always does well. Forbes magazine estimated its 2011 revenue at $250 million and crowned the company's founder as the youngest self-made woman on its annual list of billionaires. Time magazine named her one of its 100 most influential people of 2012.

For Spanx is — what is Spanx?

Short answer: The brand is one of dozens that specialize in corralling moving parts.

Long answer: Somewhere along the way (maybe when Oprah anointed them one of her "favorite things"?) Spanx became, like Xerox or Kleenex, the specific that stands for the generic, the Thing that stands for the thing. In industry speak, Spanx is "shapewear" or "foundational garments." But it's sassy shapewear. Playful, like something worn or administered in "Fifty Shades of Grey." Spanx! Zing!

"They really do make my stomach look flatter, keeping the bulges in and stopping them from wobbling unattractively," writes one Spanx reviewer on the girly site "I've also noticed that thanks to the longer shape extending to mid-thigh my thighs don't splay out as much when I sit down."

"I was really in the mood to shop, and I really wanted to try Spanx," writes a poster on another site. "I was feeling particularly brave today."

This poster is a man. A cross-dressing man, joyful over his first public foray into trying on women's undergarments. "The Spanx camisole is really comfortable," he writes, and of the overall shopping expedition: "Best experience ever."

It's a touching story.

It's a funny story.

It's a story that suggests that purchasing Spanx gets at some very visceral notion of what it means, today, to be a woman.

Lord, this holiday season, rid me of jiggle. Make me smooth.

Fact: In America, if you can fit into a size 4 — even if you have to wriggle, squeeze, bind, paint and pray yourself into it (even if the seams strain and threaten to burst) — you are a size 4.

On a pre-Christmas Friday evening, right in the bull's-eye of the frenetic shopping season, a line of cars waited through four changes of a traffic light before snaking into the Tysons Corner Center.

The new Spanx store is in a plum part of the mall, in the same corridor as the Apple store and the Lululemon store and the American Girl doll store, next to the L.L. Bean. This corridor appears to be dedicated to things that once existed only in catalogs, but then became culturally important and needed to spring into three-dimensional spaces. The air smells vaguely of Cinnabons.

This particular evening, two men in gray overcoats stand outside the Spanx store, trying to decide whether their wives would consider its contents to be a gift or an insult. The men do not go in.

The women who pass by appear to be drawn by the gravitational force of the Spanx. Detoured from their original destinations, they pause in front of the store as if they'd just remembered something, and that something is their wiggling thighs. They do go in.