When panty hose was invented, the relationship between men and women took a turn for the worse. There is nothing conducive to a romantic liaison when panty hose enter the picture. I know because I just tried slipping into a pair. After this rigorous act, I needed to lie down and take a nap.

"These work for every woman," the salesgirl assured, bringing out the latest fashion statement in what constituted a true atrocity. I held the clump of nylon in my hand wondering how I was going to get it over my thighs.

The man who conjured this up, and I say `man' because no woman would be responsible for such a contraption, obviously hated women, and set out to degrade and humiliate them.

On the recommendation of the salesgirl, I brought home a pair. Unfortunately, while I was trying them on, my husband barged in. He caught me in the throes of this despicable display of wanton behavior. It took him a day to recover.

An important rule to follow: never buy panty hose according to the size diagram on the back of the package. If you've ever studied one of these -- for which you will need a degree in physics -- Size A is made for women between 4'1" and 6' who weigh anywhere from 90 to 200 pounds. This is actually a myth. Size A is for pre-teens who haven't yet developed hips. My favorite size is H for Humongous. These are designed for the woman who wants to get through the day doing two essential things: sitting and breathing. Yet, no woman's ego will allow her to admit to buying anything larger than a Size A. Trust me: Size H is for all women who want to have a life.

I once bought a One-Size-Fits-All pair of panty hose. This is supposed to accommodate anyone from birth to death. I tried these suckers on and what I got was a full body stocking. As I sat on the edge of the bed rolling up each leg, they kept growing. The trick was to get them to my waist, then gather the excess, turning it into a thick nylon belt.

These One-Size jobs have unlimited options. If the temperature drops, you can pull them up around your neck to use as a scarf. Or, for the gal who is looking for practicality, tossing a pair of panty hose over the shoulder when food shopping will find it a great receptacle for produce. Yes, One-Size-Panty-Hose can add new meaning to any woman's life.

For those who prefer even more of a challenge, there is panty hose with Tummy Control. These provide a double whammy: overalls for the legs and a built-in girdle-type panty so you don't need to walk around sucking in the gut. While, in theory, this makes good sense, getting a pair of Control-Top panty hose over one's rear is an art that few women have mastered. Control-Top panty hose can eradicate a woman's self-esteem in one fell swoop. Men, if you've ever seen a woman walking around as though she's wielding a couple of tennis balls between her legs, chances are she's wearing some type of Control-Top gizmo that won't make it past her knees. Trust me: this is not for the weak of heart.

I once experienced a moment when my panty hose decided to quit. In the middle of a cocktail party, they lost their elasticity, and began drooping. One minute, I was bantering with a handsome stranger, the next I felt an odd sensation emanating in my lower region as the legs of my panty hose gave way, resulting in a kind of rippling effect reminiscent of a snake shedding its skin.

"Is something wrong?" the man asked, noting the strange look on my face.

"I'm fine," I said as I surreptitiously gave a little tug, hoisting these critters back up where they belonged.

Then he asked the most dreaded question of all: "May I be of help?"

"No," I said with an insouciant air, "I prefer doing underwear alone."

With that, I did a slight pirouette while simultaneously grabbing the elastic panty, giving it a quick but mighty tug while still managing to carry on the conversation with some grace and aplomb. Looking back, I consider this to be one of my grandest and creative feats.

I know a woman whose fiancé broke off their engagement after catching her in a pair of panty hose.

"It was an image indelibly implanted in his brain," she confided. "After that, whenever he looked at me all he saw was a large sausage encased in nylon."

Fortunately, I don't have that problem. My husband and I have a marriage built on mutual trust and blackmail. If he tells anyone how I look in a pair of panty hose, I'll reveal the truth about his Jockey shorts.

Westporter Judith Marks-White shares her humorous views every Wednesday in the Westport News. She can be reached via e-mail at joodth@snet.net or at www.judithmarks-white.com