I am wearing underwear that starts above my knee caps and stops just shy of my nipples. This underwear also doubles as military-grade armor and I’m pretty sure it would sustain an atomic blast.
It’s not that I don’t own undies made of lace and sparkles and chiming bells. But on this occasion, when I am preparing to go see my ex, whom I’ve not seen in some time, I felt I needed a secret weapon to give me an extra shot of not-give-a-shit-ed-ness. I wear these undies in protest against the tyranny of singledom. I wear these undies to remind myself that I am a warrior, a kicker of asses, a woman of substance. I am not defined by what I expose, but what I hold with strength. And also, they were the only clean pair left.
I’m not even sure where they came from. They just showed up in my drawer one day. Perhaps they were a land grab from a laundromat dryer. I like to think of it as a, ‘finding an onion ring in your french fries’ situation. Regardless, there they were this morning, so here I am. After rummaging through a pile of mismatched socks and one rogue furry pom pom, I located this last orphaned pair of undies hiding in the back of my shelf like a lost orphan. Relieved I could stave off doing laundry for one more day, (because we all know, laundry only happens when you run out of items that hold your butt in place), I pulled out this strange and otherworldly shaped article of clothing. I initially couldn’t tell if it was a human sized slingshot or a bag for diapers. But since I faced deciding between spending a bulk of my morning doing laundry or wearing this mysterious item and getting on with the rest of my day, I opted for the latter.
I eagerly crawled into the elastic contraption like a space suit. I was unsure of how my first steps would feel. The coverage was so expansive, I initially felt like I was wearing a BBQ cover; every nook and cranny protected from the elements. I felt my body shape insecurities collide with my skewed sense of identity and my mind began to wander. Would wearing these all day feel confining? Would it prohibit my breathing? Would I be able to eat a second portion of grits? Would I suddenly have the urge to slap someone’s hand with a ruler? Would I now know the preamble of the US Constitution? Would I yearn to wear corduroy shirts? Did it feel comfortable to hear the term, “Principle Storey” or “Here’s your subscription to ‘Parrots Monthly’ Miss Storey. Feel free to take it home or read it in the lobby with the other birdwatchers.”
The effect of wearing new underwear should not be underestimated.
What I didn’t expect was to feel a sudden sense of empowerment. It’s been well over an hour and now that I have adapted to their horse-saddle shape and ski-mitten structure, I feel stronger, robust, and capable of lifting a couch. No longer thinking about how my butt looks in the mirror, I’ve become aware my bottom half is saluting me from below. My lower quadrant is focused on not just winning this body shaping battle, but the entire war. From here on out, my body is going to be my ally, and all the troops are getting their shit together.
As I go to face the man who let me slip through his fingers, I want to make sure that I know my power, because then he will too. On the outside, I’ll be wearing an epidermis hugging dress that says, “Bam! I’m punching you in the face sukka!” But underneath will rest my secret superpower: my off-label Underoos. I wield this new energy with grace and humility, holding my chastity, my petition and my prohibition to all things which objectify and keep me from self-appreciation and love. I am not defined or controlled by my sexuality. I control it. Just as this control top controls me.
It is three days later and my meeting of the ex went swimmingly. I was told my hair looked great and so did my toenails, but I know what he really wanted to say was, “Wow Gina, you are holding yourself with a new level of confidence!” And then I would have told him, “It’s Nina. Remember, we were together for a year?” And then I will remember that I never dated this guy, I just stalked him on Instagram.
No no, I’m kidding. He knew my name. He did compliment me and tell me I looked great. I sauntered into our meeting precisely on time and laughed as I embodied Julia Roberts’, Pretty Woman charisma. If I’d wanted to ninja kick the wall, I could have because this underwear came with the bounce of a springboard, the gentle lift of a helicopter propeller, and the swagger of half a bottle of champagne. Dazzling him through our meal with my je ne sais quoi, I ended the meeting early, wished him well and glided away, leaving him lost in a mist of regret and awe.
Later that week, after finally having to break down and launder, I found myself opting for the full-service undies once again. They had served me well and I was getting used to my new found sense of secret agent confidence. I had a dermatologist appointment to get to and could use the mental boost. I’d recently made the mistake of Googling images of moles and felt an urgency in getting mine checked out. For the record, I don’t recommend watching a live feed of mole removals. It’s not pretty. But nobody can say I don’t lead a full life as a single woman!
I arrived late to the appointment and was highly flustered when I walked in the door of the office. The nurse calmed me down by assuring me, “It’s only your skin, don’t worry! Oh, and no one is actually in the office right now, so tell me, what did you have for lunch?” Downplaying the value of my skin and emphasizing that even the doctors were late somehow eased my anxiety. After she left I quickly disrobed to prepare to meet the doctor. Sitting alone in the cold exam room, slowly rocking back and forth, as per my usual waiting-for-the-doctor-behavior, I tried to avoid all contact with the skin poster on the wall to the right of me. This highly detailed illustration explored the various forms of toe fungus and dermatological disasters that can occur on, in, and between the toes. It made me tear up and feel very badly for everyone’s feet.
With a slight knock, the door opened. Startled I jumped to my feet before I looked up to see the face of the doctor. His eyes were large and brown with lashes like that of a young deer and he wore the smile of an excited librarian who had just found me the last copy of “The Sun Also Rises”. He introduced himself as Doctor Thanyanjuguptigoralmar and I immediately felt at ease.
“What brings you in?” He asked me.
“I’m worried about a few moles”. I admitted to him, “I might have done a little Googling and it got me pretty worried.”
“Here’s the thing with Google”, he settled comfortably into his chair and I swear, I saw him bats his lashes. “People never post about the healthy stuff. Just the stuff that is going to kill you in a fiery death.” Oh this guy is a jokester. I think to myself, “Tell me more you sexy skin professional.”
I ask him about the various moles on my face and back and he proceeds to explain to me they are healthy and normal. He rattles off twenty-two different names for the various types of moles, which sounds to me like a like role-call list of the Duggar family children.
“What about this thing on my lip?”
“That’s a Venuos Lake. It’s cosmetic.”
“And what’s this one?”
“That’s a hebadebe zangercrust.”
“Is that a pizza topping?”
“Only under extreme circumstances.”
Dr. Thanyanjuguptigoralmar was making me feel incredibly calm. For a guy who has to look at scaly moles and fungus all day, he sure had a good sense of humor. This made me comfortable enough to consider showing him one more mole unfortunately situated at my groin. Do women have groins? You know the area I’m talking about, right? It’s where your leg bends and your pubic hair potentially will get caught in your zipper. Well, that’s the area I’m talking about.
Rolling off the high of our witty banter, I think now is the time to ask about the last awkward mole. As nonchalantly as I can, I pull aside my robe to reveal my beloved power undies. I then realize I did not think this through. Pulling them back takes a steady hand and I’m trying to pry a viewing space as well as not reveal the expansive nature of my underwear. To try to quell my nerves, I start to mumble about the heat wave and channeling my best Jerry Seinfeld, ask, “What’s the deal with parking on Sunset Boulevard?” But inside I can’t stop thinking, You idiot! Why the hell are you wearing your Xena Warrior Princess undies to this exam?! And why for the love of all things sacred, didn’t you shave your legs?
What was I thinking, wearing such aggressive undergarments to this appointment? Didn’t I have the foresight to know he’d be checking that mole? And why did he have to be so witty and handsome? Then I thought to myself, would it have mattered if he hadn’t been so cute? This doctor was watching me roll back the clothing equivalent of the Great Wall Of China. Would I have been mortified if he hadn’t had those glistening teeth and doe-eyed lashes? What did me finding him attractive have to do with my embarrassment over my otherwise confidence-enriching underwear? Why did it matter?
My best guess: human nature. Even though my underwear gave me a secret confidence, they were only for me and my dance-party-of-one to enjoy. And while I didn’t care what anyone thought, my imagination was being hijacked by my outfit. Even if I didn’t stand a shot in hell, I didn’t need my control top getting in my way right now.
As I quickly tied together both the robe and what remained of my self-esteem, the doctor said to me, “You can come back any time to have me check on them.”
Birds began to sing. I lit up. “Can you be my doctor forever?!” I blurted out. I sounded like a twelve-year-old asking Santa for presents in perpetuity. I didn’t care. He’d left me an opening and unlike the Northern Wall I was wearing, I was going to climb through any breach I could find.
And then, I forgot about my underwear altogether. I imagined coming back the following week with another mole question. “Does this one look ok?” Pointing to my newly shaved calf recently slathered in a coconut lotion infused with honey and glitter. My leg would catch the light just so, and he would notice how well I wore a mule heel with a hospital gown.
Then in another week or so I would come back to point out the freckle on my left hand. The one just at the base of my ring finger. I’d comment how it had been there, alone, patiently waiting for many years. Then ask, “Is that one healthy?”
He’d always reassure me my skin looked great but also gently remind me to use sunblock. He’d rattle off more medical names for skin cancer and we’d laugh innocently together at the various ways to remove a melanoma.
This dermatological cat and mouse would go on for several months before I would muster up the courage to email him on his Kaiser email address. I would be brave and ask him out, but only after the email I’d sent him had made its way through the inboxes of the 1-800 number, the scheduling secretary, and his nurse who told me to calm the fuck down, that first magical day.
I pictured us getting married under a very well shaded chuppah on a mountaintop. All the party favors would be hand knitted satchels made of Peruvian wool from his hometown and inside each would be a travel size bottle of SPF 50 sunscreen. People would find pronouncing my last name stress-inducing, but regardless I’d make them try every time. Our children would be both artsy and analytical and have names like Chrysanthemum and Perseverance. And they too would wear super-power underwear that would give them grounding, strength, and self-respect.
As I left my doctor’s appointment swimming in dreams of my future children, I was reminded of the beauty of not knowing what is to come, but taking stock in loving myself every step of the way.