I feel like I’ve spent my adult life in an unending search for a decent pair of knickers.
I’m not looking for perfection. I’m not asking my undies to make me look like Margot Robbie. I’m not asking them to cure cancer or end homelessness. I’m not even asking them to match my bra.
All I want is something that will cover my snatch without riding up my arse, showing through my clothes or digging in anywhere. Is that too much to ask? Apparently so, my friends. Apparently so.
Oh, I’ve had moments where I thought I’d found The One. I remember the first flush of love when I tried on those filmy seamless numbers, the scalloped edges lying smooth against my cheeks, the seat of them tautly hovering over my crack without even threatening to enter it. Oh, I was giddy in my triumph, telling the retail assistant that, yes! I will have three pairs for the price of two. And I’ll be back for more on payday. Oh, that was a good day.
And then after the first wash, when they’d been stretched by a day of service there would be a tiny hint of a shift: a sag, undetectable to the human eye but thoroughly detectable to the human bum. After a couple of wears it was like my knickers wanted nothing more than to be on intimate terms with my anus. My crack became an irresistible vortex sucking that flimsy fabric deeper and deeper until nothing but those pretty scalloped edges poked shyly from the depths.
Did I do the sensible thing and throw those knickers away? Oh, no. I’d paid good money for those knickers and they would do their time, dammit. They would sit in the back of my underwear drawer for years. Lying in wait for the day when my A-team knickers were all in the wash and the passage of time had dulled the memories.
“Oh you!” I’d say. I’d pull them on and lovingly smooth the scalloped edges over my cheeks, pull up my pants and look in the mirror, marveling at their invisibility. What were you doing in the back of the drawer, my pretties? Why were you hiding? Were you lost?
And then I’d leave the house and run for the bus.
Fuck you, you crack-whore, sons-of-britches – I’m going to make you wish you’d never been manufactured.
On a really bad day, if I could bear it no longer, I would go to the shops at lunchtime to buy some new knickers to see out the rest of the day. Oh, the underwear department. Oh, how I loathe thee and thy hollow promises of “invisible comfort” and “smooth silhouette”. For I have read of the tags and I have read of the stickers and I have drunk of the marketing blurbs and I know thee to be false.
And let’s talk about trying on underwear, shall we? Am I expected to hand over good money, and put my butt on the line on underwear that I haven’t tried on? Well, kind of, yes, actually. Oh cripes, I hope other people respect that rule about leaving ones own underwear on when trying on knickers. I respect that rule and I am glad of its existence.
But the fact is, it is impossible to know how underwear is going to perform when you try it on over your own underwear. I can get an idea of the muffin-top potential by putting the new undies on over my own and pulling my own undies down at the sides. But the butt is the big but. There is no knowing where those knickers are going.
So, I take a chance on a new pair of knickers. Sometimes I will even ask the shop assistant if I can wear the new ones right away and they will cut the tags off for me so I can pay for them. And I know this will fill some people with horror.
My sister for instance, will not wear a pair of knickers before she has washed them. She can sense the hands of the people who have touched those knickers before her: the person who sewed the knickers, the person who put those deceitful tags on, the people who packed and unpacked them from cartons, the people who stocked them on the shelves or hangers. Most of all she can sense the unwashed hands of strangers who have fondled the fabric, assessing its softness, wondering whether it will pill or maintain its shape. She can even sense the ghosts of the knickers of people who have tried those new undies on over their own undies. She can doubt whether everyone who tried them on left their own undies on at all.
Each of us thinks the other is balmy for our approach to new underwear and that is just fine.
Anyway! Back to the lingerie shop, now wearing my newly purchased underwear. Do I do the sensible thing and throw the old ones right in the bin? NOOOOOOOO.
I once told my friend and colleague (you know – for our mutual amusement) that I had dirty knickers in my handbag.
“Why?” she asks, reasonably. “Because they were so uncomfortable I had to buy new ones”. She looked at me like I was insane and said “THROW THEM AWAY! WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU? NOW. IN THE BIN NOW. DO IT!”
I threw them away.
But that was just one pair. My underwear drawer is still a sad story of failed relationships with knickers. Probing the depths of my knicker drawer is like going back in time. An archaeological investigation into the ancient history of my butt-covers.
At the front is the most recent era: the post-babies, stopped-trying-to-impress-my-husband era. This is where comfort lives. Improbably large knickers that, when I’m folding la
undry in a hurry might accidentally be mis-categorised as one of my children’s tee-shirts. This is my ugly, but happy place.
Behind that are those special-occasion knickers. Notably the shape-wear magic knickers that go from armpit to mid-thigh. Oh, these are the biggest frauds of the knicker world. Yes, they squeeze in the fat from your tummy, but they don’t vaporise it; it has to go somewhere. My magic knickers squeeze my tummy fat down further and further until it escapes exuberantly around my thighs. Because what’s more attractive than a tourniquet of elastic threating gangrene to your lower legs?
Somewhere around here is a great quantity of B-Team knickers. The Warehouse 5-for-$10 packs I bought to take to hospital when I had my first baby nearly 8 years ago. Ones that I fully expected to bleed through and throw away, but washed instead and keep for a rainy – or bloody – day – but that I only wear, reluctantly, if every other pair is in the wash.
Back further – the g-strings. The real show ponies of the underwear world. The date-night knickers. Oh, I know some of you claim to like g-strings. Items that are positively designed to snuggle up to your poo-hole, giving new meaning the term “ass kissers”. I have confronted my thong-enthusiast friends – patronisingly assuming their professed love of g-strings to be a symptom of their slavery to the patriarchy – and they look me steadily in the eye and say “Jess. Read my lips. I like wearing g-strings. I find them comfortable. I prefer them to nanna knickers. Maybe your butt crack is just too long and deep for them, but on mine they feel comfortable”.
I know they must be lying, but just I can’t figure out their motives.
Then, at the very back are the various shapes and styles that worked for me when I was a taut, firm-hipped lass. The bikinis, the cheekies, the hipsters. Hardly worn and in a dazzling array of jewel colours, smooth satin and delicate lace, they are a wonder to behold. But beauty is in the arse of the beholder. I have tried some of these on recently and I look like a rolled roast in them.
I know I should have a clear out. I should thank those knickers for their loyal service or curse them for their false promises and send them off to the great lingerie store in the sky. But what will I have left once the great pantie-pity-party is over? A drawer with no drawers? Haunted by the ghosts of knickers past?
Or a space. A space for a new generation of knickers to call home. A fresh start. The hope for a brighter future.
I need to go shopping now.