by Shannon Savvas
At five, I wore white panties with flowers and tiny pink satin bows on the waist at my belly button.
At thirteen, I strutted in snake-hip knickers. My favorites were the Days of the Week embroidered in pinks and purples and greens, with matching polyester edgings, shiny and sleek as silk at the legs. Each day embroidered across my bum brought new promises, ambitions and dreams ill-formed but bright with fuzzy details. Those knickers were the envy of my school gym class. And I knew, we all knew, for sure if any boy (specifically Peter Walters) from the Catholic De la Salle Brothers’ school up the road copped a glimpse, they would be driven mad with desire for – well, for whatever desire demanded although I couldn’t figure out how panties figured in the kiss and cuddle equations I daydreamed when Davy Jones lookalike Mr. Beckett explained the secret life of the Isosceles triangle.
At twenty-five, I wore size twelve lacy thongs, all lurid colors and synthetic fibres from Daisy Chain, a Victoria’s Secret wannabe, on my hopeful available-for-sex days. As a result, right next to my prescription of birth control pills was my tube of Canesten cream because who knew my coochie, minge, muff or whatever you want to call it (I prefer vagina, but that’s just me), needed to breathe? For my unavailable period days, I wore big navy pants. Until my best friend’s fiancé taught me every day was an available day.
At thirty-five, after two pregnancies, I admitted defeat (temporary, at least that’s what I swore) and bought size sixteen white bikini briefs, because my husband Scott thought them schoolgirl-sexy but I sure as hell was no longer a virginal teenager (I did consider a version of my childhood Days of the Week set but decided not to push my luck with slutty slogans – It Isn’t Gonna Lick Itself or Ball games Allowed – that were so far from sexy unless the beholder happened to be a smutty juvenile male battling pimples and testosterone – both me and Scott were way past that). I bought instead pairs trimmed with vintage lace, floral lace, French lace, embroidered lace, anything to rescue my femininity which had floundered in the sea of soiled nappies, feeds and leaking breasts. For anniversaries and special occasions, I kept a pair of lacy black Brazilian knickers with discreet tummy control and uplifting bra to match, but they didn’t control, uplift or get much use because Scotty was more smutty juvenile than I’d realized and deciding he liked thongs more, went looking for them down the pub.
At forty-five, several diet-and-dammit combos and an expensive underused gym membership kept me in a size sixteen at a squeeze. I bought French knickers which looked neither French nor alluring, no-VPL shorts which, true, had no visible panty line but did nothing to disguise my muffin top belly and sent me to the twilight zone of light-control, high-rise body shapers until creeping cellulite forced me to purchase industrial strength thigh herders.
At fifty-five, it got harder to find pretty pants in a size eighteen but good old Marks and Spencer’s started a line for the fuller-figure woman and some young designer thought flower sprigs spreading like ground creepers across our bums and tiny satin bows at our waists would compensate for decline and disappointment. All they did was to bring cruel memories of perfect little bodies before alcohol, comfort eating, hormone-induced chocolate cravings and leftover fish fingers and chicken nuggets eaten with our fingers from the half-eaten suppers of our offspring, before all of that conspired to whack us out of shape and out of desirability.
At sixty-five, Tena Lady pants (no one can tell except the goddamn wearer) for those of us with dodgy bladders, ruined by childbirth, and unimproved by surgery, pelvic floor exercises or dodgy exercise gadgets bought on Instagram that look like a space-age sex toy in aesthetically pleasing colors, are a WTF reminder that the downhill slope is very fast, very slippery, and very steep.
So to the young thing manning the cinema ticket booth asking if I want the old age pensioner concession when I’m trying to pay normal adult price (sod the bloody two-pound saving – my dignity is worth more) I simply deny, smile and think with a certain glee, just you bloody wait; a bottle of Merlot and a box of boozy chocolate truffles all to oneself sure beats going dancing in uncomfortable-as-shit sexy underwear and crippling heels.