In college someone usually had a Victoria’s Secret catalog floating around in the smoking lounge. My friends and I would peruse them and debate whether women’s bodies could actually assume the positions the models adopted, sprawled artfully on the luxurious sofas in the photos. At that point in my life I didn’t shave my legs or even wear bras most days, so I had very little use for the Vicky’s catalog. I think the models might have included Stephanie Seymour though.
I’m not sure why, but in the mid 90s I started getting the catalogs at the apartment that I shared with a buddy around the time I started law school. I was starting to the test the waters of femme gender performance, so I’d peruse the catalogs fairly carefully. One of the main models in those days was Rebecca Romijn. I decided the cotton floral print sets that she modeled were probably safe since they were 100% cotton, although I really struggled with the idea of an underwire. After waiting until a propitious sale, I ordered several matched floral cotton bra and panty sets (selecting the most conservative possible cut).
At some point, after I moved to Cleveland in the late 90s, I got up the nerve to go into an actual Vicky’s in a mall. I felt uneasy, as if I’d given in to the patriarchy in some irrevocable way. Also, the perfume in those joints is omnipresent and terrible. But since I had to wear lawyer drag every day, I needed a proper foundation (the magical wireless bra). And I discovered the sale bins, which were full of a strange salad of brightly colored bras and panties with lurid trim. By this time I’d gotten over my phobia about weird unnatural fabrics covering the nethers. I also no longer reacted to string bikinis as a fetishistic or inherently objectifying cut of undergarment. But there was one continuing mystery: thong underwear.
A girlfriend of mine had once explained that her roommate had told her that thong underwear was a way to avoid panty lines. I researched this by discussing it with my other knowledgeable femme friends, but I still couldn’t buy in to the idea. One of my sisters pointed out that a thong was basically floss that sawed back and forth all day, transferring germs freely from Point A to Point B. (Point B to Point A…?)
But every once in a while, I’d find an intriguingly ridiculous handful of strings and fabric in the Vicky’s sale bins, so at some point in the early 2000s, I bought a few. I figured that there had to be some fun and humor in this lady business. By this point, I’d progressed about as far along the girly spectrum as I ever got before I started having babies: meaning I had learned how to wear foundation and mascara in addition to eye shadow and lipstick, I read fashion magazines and had even gotten parts of my body waxed (not Those Parts!)
Well, when it came to thong undies, I couldn’t see (or feel) what the fuss was about. As I had always suspected, picking a wedgie out of your bum doesn’t get magically better when there is physically no other way for your underwear to be than in a wedgie. I made a good faith effort, but nope. Just nope.
So if you’re a person who never, ever throws anything away, what do you do with perfectly good, semi-premium brand, rarely worn underpants? I moved across the country, I had three babies, I continued to buy my preferred wireless bras when I got sale coupons from Victoria’s Secret. I got various amusing sizes and shapes of underpants from the sale bins. I stopped ever going to the mall, so stopped going to Vicky’s, then stopped getting the catalogs and forgot about ever going there. I discovered one can get cheap festive undies at Nordstrom Rack. And just about every time I got behind on folding clean laundry, I’d see a few scraps of completely useless elastic and satin lurking in the bottom of my underwear drawer and think “No. You cannot give butt floss to Goodwill.”
One day a week or so back I looked in there and thought of something I could do. I could put them in a collage. I had a vision of several of them in a neat geometric figure, on a gridded game board I’d found at the Bins a while back. I just needed some additional images. I wished I had some old Victoria’s Secret catalogs. I probably do actually, but I’m not sure where. But I found a $0.99 comic book at the goodwill that had a similar feel: an Electra comic with all the exaggerated sexuality, extreme morphology and pornographic edge of a Vicky’s catalog. With some dark paranoia thrown in.
I got a knife, some craft paper, modge podge glue and put it all together. Then added one of the thongs. My twenty year old self would be particularly pleased that I fastened it in place with U-nails.
I’m calling it Panty Lines.