Take Me Back Tuesday: On Underpants

***Flipping through some old writing, I found this.  Originally published on Xanga (and featured) I think this piece is roughly circa 2006 or 2007???  Anyway, enjoy***

I never gave much thought to my underpants when I was a kid. They seemed straightforward enough. Ranking them was easy. Plain white obviously took lowest billing. Any color was better than plain white. Bright colors were better than their duller counterparts. Then there were the underwear with flowers or bows. They were pretty enough and more interesting even than hot pink or neon yellow. Top of the heap, of course, was reserved for panties with Disney characters. My preference for Ariel panties bordered on instinctual, and I gravitated towards them the same way that a dog prefers steak to kibble. Little Mermaid underpants were the epitome of panties when I was a little girl.

Fifteen plus years later, and I still have a ranking system for my underpants. They aren’t so much divided by color and pattern anymore as they are by broader categories: the most important being cute/not so cute and pragmatic/not so pragmatic/so far from pragmatic it would make your head spin. These categories allow me to provide balance. For example, if I know that I’m going to spend the day in sweats, I’m probably going to be wearing a cute little thong underneath them to remind myself that I’m not completely unattractive. Alternately, if you find me in the clichéd “little black dress” ensemble, there’s a solid chance that my underwear are white, boring, and very covering. My underwear drawer is all but overflowing, but I can easily categorize at a glance.

The truth is, I have roughly enough underwear in my underwear drawer to last me 40 laundry-free days. If God decided to flood the earth again, I’d be set for underpants. I feel that the historical precedent merits the precaution; the world wide flood scenario has been in the back of my mind for years. I figure that arks don’t come with a fluff and fold, so I’m thinking its best to be prepared. Forty clean pairs at minimum. So perhaps it’s that historically based prudence that keeps me coming again and again to the underwear aisle. Perhaps…

But I’m thinking it’s the glitter. Not unlike packrats, women are drawn to shiny objects. That’s why so many of us have rhinestones on our skivvies. The women’s underwear aisle seems to be (regardless of the store) product of a bored fashion designer eating a bowl of lucky charms. It’s not hard to picture a crazed leprechaun running down the rows yelling: “Hearts, Stars, and Horseshoes!!! Clovers and Blue Moons!!! Pots of Gold AND Rainbows!?!?! AND ME RED BALLOONS!!!” Look hard enough, and I can pretty much guarantee that you will find all of those things…set against pink…and outlined in glitter.

Of course, I can intellectually tirade against this sparkle obsession, but I’m really just as much a sucker for it as the next girl. I’m not much of an impulse shopper, but show me a cute enough pair of underwear, and they’re coming with me to the checkout counter.

I’m fairly certain that I’m not alone. When I make the occasional trip to Victoria’s Secret, I become increasingly aware of just how much women are willing to spend for their glitter fix. To be honest, at Victoria’s Secret, the underpants aren’t the draw for me. Rather, I have one of those bodies that prompts teen magazines to ask boys, “So, are girls like rocks? Just skip the flat ones?” (though I prefer to think of my chest as “gravity friendly”) and I find it easier to find bras at more specialized stores. Still, my intended reason for shopping there does not make me immune to the glitter draw once I get in. More than once, I have walked in with the intention of buying one bra, and, instead, walk out with five new bikini panties.

And while I can catalogue example after example of my own weakness, I’m still not fully sure what the draw is. However, I can personally guarantee that it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with who will see them. In my case, I can tell you with total confidence that the answer is no one. (Unless my cats count, but they don’t seem to have a preference.)

Personally, I think there are two engrained reasons. The first is that, no matter what sort of clothes weather or laziness have you forced into, the right underwear can keep you thinking, “ah, but my underpants are pretty.” This is where the cute and not so pragmatic categories come into play. It seems odd, shallow really, but when Midwestern winters have me in three shirts and at least two pair of socks, my prissy pink, lacy underwear remind me that, somewhere underneath it all, my butt looks cute. (This rationale also applied when I worked retail and was forced to wear khaki pants and an oversized polo shirt everyday.)

The other reason, in my own personal opinion, is more learned. Anyone else remember their mother’s adage: “Be sure to wear clean underwear! What if you got in an accident?” Now, personally, I always thought that whoever pulled me from whatever sort of wreckage this accident entailed should have the good sense not to pants me to check for clean underwear. That is the assumption. After all, the underwear should be the least of your worries if you’re in that position. However, several years back, I learned something: if you get in an accident and are only sort of badly injured, it appears to matter.

About four or five years ago, a friend of mine got into a car accident. She was in the impact zone, and of the three people in the car, she was the only one to remain unconscious. Everyone got a fun-filled ambulance ride (destination – emergency room). Being unconscious, my friend got the extra special bonus of having her clothes, including her favorite pair of jeans, cut off of her by someone she would later identify as “the ridiculously hot intern.” What, pray tell, did said ridiculously hot intern find? Well, whether he actually thought about it or not, he found nasty, second day, granny panties (or, as I refer to such panties in my own collection, day 35).

The danger of a ridiculously hot intern seeing day thirty-fives must be the reason for our mothers’ warning. That possibility makes the warning all the more immediate: always, always, always wear clean underwear!

Seems simple enough really. The procedure is as follows: pull out a clean pair when you get ready and put them on.             Some people apparently have a hard time with the steps. (Of course, not everyone is as prepared as I am…and even I have been known to haul it to the store and buy a package of hanes to avoid an upcoming laundry day.) Most of the time I think it comes down to laundry – why do it when you can just not? Jeans, after all, can be worn time and again before people catch on…and people see those.

But that’s just one possibility. Evidently some people just forget which underwear have been worn and which haven’t. This is why we have “day of the week” underwear. Helps keep things straight. (Also, a handy way to remember to record your favorite show: every time you pee, your underpants remind you to tape Gray’s Anatomy.) The danger lies in what may happen if you get dressed in the dark. What happens if you end up with a Tuesday pair on a Monday and then get in an accident? That’s right, the ridiculously hot intern thinks you’ve been in the same pair for nearly a week…and that’s just gross.

Of course, not all underwear can be as practical as the “day of the week” underwear, but some do come close. Thongs, as an underwear sub-group, can render that nasty “double butt” (of course referring to the visible lines created by the bikini) a non-issue. This is handy on occasions you find it necessary to wear especially tight pants: biking, yoga, your presidential internship interviews (or was that just during the Clinton administration?). And, though I have an inkling that the world might be a better place if one had to apply for the right to wear thongs with pants (shorts, etc) that might reveal the thong when leaning over or picking something up, the practicality of the lineless panty is undeniable.

Still, it would appear that some thongs were designed specifically to be seen when you bend over. Entire songs are written on the subject. (Ironically, “The Thong Song” was playing when my aforementioned friend later flipped her car down a hill – a subtle reminder from the universe to keep the ridiculously hot intern incident in mind? Perhaps…) Regardless, you have to appreciate the irony of flaunting a pair of underwear originally designed for detection avoidance. (Reminds me of another of my mother’s adages, “Don’t wear pink polka dot underwear under white pants…no matter how cute the polka dots are.”)

Still, pantylines aside, thongs sometimes prove the least practical of undergarment choices. I remember when, while walking through the mall, one of my best friends quietly informed me of her thong/mini-shirt combo. She laughed, obviously less comfortable than she thought she’d be. I laughed, thinking that the situation must be rather drafty and wondering what the best game plan for the escalator would be. I have never made that sort of questionable choice: I have, however, been unintentionally made to regret my decision to wear a thong at least twice. Both times involved jean rippage along the back pocket seam and quiet horror as I wondered just how long I had been unaware of the situation. Those days, I would have given almost anything to have been wearing pink, polka dot bikinis.

Most of the girls I know would rather be wearing cute underwear than not cute underwear and when I meet one with the mis-guided notion that “it doesn’t matter,” I set out immediately to convert her. Once, I went out and bought a good friend a week’s worth of pretty underwear. It was for her own good; she had been wearing the plain, old, white “package of fives” for years, and my filibusters alone had not been enough to convert her. I felt it my duty to buy her something with glitter…and then send it to her via our campus post office…where it could be opened in the crowded campus commons by my unsuspecting friend. Did I mention that it was Valentine’s Day?   Either way, the surprise got the point across, and I now count her as one of my converts. (Although, personally, I like to think of it as more of a Jedi Master/Padawan learner sort of relationship.) Since then, I have made an effort to buy her a few completely impractical pairs of underwear a year. (She recently bought me a Union Jack thong that she called revenge. I, being much more practical, dubbed it day 32.)

This year, I think I’m leaning towards buying her underwear from a “holiday collection.” Victoria’s Secret usually comes out with that sort of thing, mostly consisting of incarnations of their regular collection, but in red and green. Occasionally, you might find something in pink with reindeer flying diagonals across the fabric. This image, despite the fact that it resides on a thong, clearly marks the piece as “holiday” – at least in the world of high end panties. Department stores tend to be less subtle. It is from such retailers that I have added snowman and Christmas tree bikinis to my collection. The archetypal example of holiday panties, however, is far more flamboyant, and perhaps the only pair of underwear I own that I haven’t gotten up the guts to wear: the white lacy thong that plays Jingle Bells. I kid you not. Jingle Bells. Though I have pulled them out of their drawer on several occasions, playing with the idea of wearing them, just once, I still live in fear of the imagined elevator ride where someone knocks into me and everyone suddenly realizes that the music isn’t someone’s cell-phone ringer. I should buy a pair for Kristen. Maybe she’ll wear them in an elevator.



20 thoughts on “Take Me Back Tuesday: On Underpants

  1. Bahaha!!!! Oh, I want to play jingle bells in an elevator! That is CLASSIC! i’m with you on the pretty frillies and glitter fixes. Right now my knocker drawer is crammed full and I have no room for more! This crazed leprechaun has had to step away from the cereal box. Until something is worn enough to justify replacing that is… Great post! Made me laugh…


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