PERSONAL ESSAYS





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In 1992, I was twenty-three and the girl who had sex on the first date, if not before.

Not coincidentally, I was also drinking too much and dating a lot of low-wattage losers. After a few drinks, I found myself far more interested in what my date was like with his clothes off. To get him to shut up, my underpants came down. But this strategy was getting me nowhere. I was beginning to suspect that it might be better to date people who didn't bore me into having sex. It was around this time I was asked out by someone I actually liked, a person in whom I potentially could invest time and energy. He was a gentle, shy creature, the type who might be scared off by my willingness to — well, by my willingness. How to keep myself from jumping him pre-appetizer?

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The beauty of my solution lay in its simplicity: I would wear a pair of panties too embarrassing to reveal to him.

The panties in question were a pair of threadbare, beige-gray Hanes Her Way, with an elastic waistband that appeared to have been shredded by raccoons. They were at least a decade old. I don't recall ever purchasing a pair of underwear that rose above my navel, which leads me to conclude, reluctantly, that I was wearing my mother's underpants. I can't imagine how this scenario came to pass, but there it is. My mom's panties were serving as a chastity belt. She might appreciate the symbolism, if she weren't praying so hard right now.

I've told this story to friends who can't understand the notion of owning bad underwear. These friends traipse around with wry smiles on their faces, luxuriating in the knowledge that the garment separating their crotches from the public is a pair of silky hand-sewn pink-and-black lace-lined boyshorts. Well, bully for them. As for me, I have long had a collection of good underwear, with some bad ones loitering around like ugly, demented cousins. I wear the good kind when going to a place where I'd prefer to feel like a civilized being and not a subhumanoid in a skirt. The good underwear is not so much for showing off, but for feeling presentable. It's for knowing that if you were to fall from a hot-air balloon, the spectators below would appreciate your sexy satin knickers. Good underwear hoists and flatters. You don't have to worry about your good underwear bagging above the waistline of your jeans or dipping below the hem of your shorts. Good underwear obeys.

Bad underwear is different. No longer comfortable or attractive, bad underwear is worn on laundry days, or when you have the worst period in menstrual history and do not want to destroy a good pair. You only wear the bad underwear when you are staying inside. It doesn't matter how much clothing you plan to wear over it; the bad underwear stays at home. No one may see the bad underwear, ever.

I have long had a collection of good underwear, with some bad ones loitering around like ugly, demented cousins.

This rule is what compelled me to wear my ugliest underwear on the night in question. I had traveled from Brooklyn to Boston to have dinner with Bill, a man I met at a wedding in Maine some weeks before. (I had already dated most of the men in New York, so I had to branch out to the Northeast Corridor.) We had spent hours sitting by a lake, our legs dangling off the dock, sharing a bottle of Champagne while the rest of the wedding danced and whooped it up inside. When I try to remember Bill, mostly what I recall is that he was extremely tall, which might explain why I can't remember his face. What I do remember is that he was nice — nice in a way that most men I had dated were not. He seemed interested in what I had to say. Instead of responding to my jokes with another joke, he laughed. And when he did talk about himself, he did so with charming vulnerability.

"Long-distance relationships," he explained. "They never work. After this last one I swore I would never get into another relationship with someone who didn't live in my city."

I murmured sympathetically, but something told me I was being issued a challenge. I'll never get into a long-distance relationship, he was saying, UNLESS. Unless it's with the perfect woman. I felt duty-bound to take this on. I was going to be the out-of-state girlfriend who proved the exception to the rule. I was going to show him that miles mean nothing when love is everything. Distance be damned, I was going to make him love me, this man whose face I can no longer recall.

Thus, the visit. I was staying at a friend's place so that I wouldn't be tempted to sleep with him immediately. I had to build this up slowly, because that was how our long-distance love affair would sustain itself — the excruciating longing for each other would help the time between get-togethers fly by. This was my guess, anyway. I had no clue how long-distance relationships worked, having never actually been in one.

"Long-distance relationships are doomed from the outset," he said during dinner. I coyly responded by batting my eyelashes in Morse code: I. Know. What You're Really. Trying. To Tell Me. Wink. Wink.

But there was beer, and soon I was forgetting all my rules. All I could remember was no sex, which I reinterpreted to mean, but fooling around is okay. He suggested we watch a movie at his place, which seemed like a completely reasonable idea. Soon we were sandwiched on his lumpy couch, mashing our faces into each other.

"Alice," he said as he pulled away, "I just . . . I don't think I'm ready for this."

In response, I put my tongue in his ear. He shut up about his misgivings. But strangely, I felt some reluctance of my own. Why was I hesitating? Then I felt them drooping around my hips: the ugly panties. What had made me to travel across state lines while wearing these? I wondered. What compelled me to take such risks? Perhaps I'd done it as a joke. I imagined myself at my friend's house, holding them out to my friend and asking her how much she'd pay me to wear them on my date. Worse than the panties, even, was the velour bodysuit I was wearing over them. In the early '90s, velour bodysuits were not yet considered hilarious. The snap-crotch made the underwear billow in the back. If he pulled up my skirt, he would see that my ass was about to set sail.


     

  

Commentarium (28 Comments)

Sep 17 08 - 11:32am
SJS

Hilarious, humbling and illuminating much as the streetlight. Thanks for a great story!

Sep 17 08 - 1:18pm
ANY

Excellent essay!

Sep 17 08 - 1:55pm
REM

No man who wants to have sex with you will change his mind based on the panties you're wearing.

Sep 17 08 - 2:55pm
JM

Genius, genius, genius. She is everyone's best friend.

Sep 17 08 - 3:54pm
kg

very funny. good little read.

Sep 17 08 - 3:57pm
CSC

So very close to being to good. Almost, but not quite.

Sep 17 08 - 5:57pm
AVR

I fucking died laughing. I throwing away all of my horrible underwear right now.

Sep 17 08 - 6:36pm
ts

Hilarious and very easy to relate to!

My bad panties are comforting to me. When I am stressed out and throw on sweats to take an 8 am grad school final, I do not want black lace and g-strings. I want huge cotton stretchiness that will be sure to not ride up or scootch down. When I have my period and do not want anyone coming anywhere near my crotch, I swathe it in impenetrable Hanes granny panties. No leaks are getting out of there. My bad panties even have a separate drawer. I dread the day a gentleman caller opens the "bad panties" drawer and sees them in all their stretched-out, stained, holey glory.

Sep 17 08 - 9:23pm
ARO

HILARIOUS. AWESOME. YOU ARE THE BEST!!!!! (Even your parents will think so.)

Sep 18 08 - 12:49pm
bv

That was hilarious, truly very funny. I like the last part where she considers taking them off the street and smiling broadly at him, like an insane person. Wow, great.

Sep 18 08 - 2:32pm
mm

OMG! I wish I had thought of that! Woulda kept me from some obvious mistakes. Great essay!

merlotmom

Sep 19 08 - 7:28am
SP

You are being featured on Five Star Friday:
http://www.fivestarfriday.com/2008/09/five-star-friday-edition-24.html

Sep 19 08 - 11:44am
ted

love it. hysterical. charming. nice voice.

Sep 20 08 - 12:43am
ms

Best thing I've read all week.

Sep 19 08 - 2:13pm
HAK

Too bloody funny. More Alice!!

Sep 19 08 - 9:02pm
dwp

i prefer women without underwear, but i loved your story.

Sep 21 08 - 2:01pm
bg

Great writer, great fiction, one flaw tipped me.
ByronGates@yahoo.com

Oct 03 08 - 12:58pm
ps

great story. I laughed...we've all been there, I think.

Oct 04 08 - 12:51am

this was GREAT ...thanks....we don't see this kinda tallent every day.....made my friday :o)

Oct 07 08 - 8:03pm
CT

Monstrously hilarious. Thank you so much for sharing this and making me laugh out loud, because you KNOW every single girl who wears underwear has bad panties. Excellent!

Oct 20 08 - 5:52pm
SM

That was a great read. I think I'm a lot like Bill, so now you've got me thinking about women I've dated!

Nov 24 08 - 1:15pm
EG

Cute story, made me chuckle and relate.

Dec 13 08 - 12:19am
PHM

Yeah, that whole over-painting windows in apartments, that happens all over New England and like no where else...

Dec 17 08 - 11:34pm
ERG

this was hilarious. thank you.

Jan 08 09 - 12:14am
sb

that was fucking funny. I cried.

That should have been No. 1.

good on ya.

Jan 30 09 - 2:34am
TVB

Bwaa haa haaa!

That made me laugh out loud!

Jul 26 11 - 12:38pm
annelouise

wonderful writing and so relate-able!

Oct 02 11 - 11:36am
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