THE THONG STORY
This is what I read at TIME OUT: The Mamalogues last night. It was a great evening and the performers were wonderful and I got a lot of laughs, which I love. Someone even bought my book, bless her heart. I hope she enjoys it. This is a monthly event; if you're a Portland mama, check it out.
Always Shake the Baby Blanket Before You Head Out the Door
A cautionary Tale
July 7, 2003
I want to tell you a story involving laundry, a baby, a second grader and Alan M.
It was perhaps, no definitely, my most embarrassing moment to date. A moment so embarrassing it brought back my high school years in all their agonizing glory; a time replete with mortifying sanitary pad incidents, wardrobe malfunctions, painfully apparent longings for the girl who sat ahead of me in French class, and social missteps that make Bridget Jones seem like Poise Itself.
I was a blushing mess of a mom. Because of my thong underwear.
Nowadays, thong underwear is ubiquitous and even passe. But I had been wearing them since long before there were panty shields specifically designed for thong users, before there was a “Thong Song”, and before one could routinely see the waist-band of a thong rising above a woman’s low slung pants as she walked along the street or bent over to pick up a baby shoe. You couldn’t even buy one in a department store.
Yes, it was an innocent time.
But I was not so innocent, which is where the thong underwear came in. Actually, I was an undergraduate student in Women’s Studies, fervently writing letters to The Daily of the University of Washington identifying as a “radicalesbianfeminist”, all one word, dedicated to changing the world one ideology and pronoun at a time. Despite that earnestness, I was young, had rhythm and found I wanted to spend more time dancing against brick walls in bars than discussing semantics with other women who took themselves way too seriously and never shaved. Which is when I started to meet all these erotic dancers (who took things as they came and shaved everything) and, well, when in Rome… G-strings were de rigueur, hip and hey! No panty lines.
Because who needs panty lines?
But that was back in 1986, when I dared to be different. It was seventeen years, picket fence, Labrador Retriever, wife and three kids later (the bar hopping wasn’t all bad, I met the wife while dancing against the brick wall), and I was still wearing thong underwear, though I’d gone from the ever-so-irritating lace models to the more modern cotton ones that almost smack of respectability. At thirty-eight, while I still cared more about having a cute butt than about comfort, I didn’t necessarily want to advertise the fact, though I did ask our midwife (between contractions during the birth of our third child mind you), whether or not I’d ever be able to wear thong underwear again, because of the dang hemorrhoids I’d developed during pregnancy.
Beyond expressing surprise that this hadn’t happened with either previous pregnancy, she was making no promises. And though she tried to keep her opinion to herself, she was clearly not a member of the “no panty lines at any price” club. She also confessed to being so sensitive to texture she has to buy seamless socks or she spends the entire day thinking “sock seam, sock seam”. My wife suggested that if she tried thong underwear, all she’d be able to think is “butt crack, butt crack, butt crack” all day long.
So on the morning we’re discussing, three months post-partum, I was back to normal (more or less), and running to take our eight year-old daughter to school. We were late. There wasn’t even enough time to whisk the baby out of his safety apparatus if we wanted to beat the bell, so I was jogging up the sidewalk, the baby kicking his blanket with every jolt of the car seat bouncing against my thigh. Happily, we made it into the classroom on time. Happily not only because one should get one’s child to school on time, but because our children are punctuality nuts and fall apart over social solecisms like tardiness. That day, our daughter didn’t have to fall apart, and I didn’t have to peel her off me like a hastily applied sticker.
It was then that the teacher, a nice, mild-mannered man who goes by “Alan M.” (like Josie’s boyfriend, “the cutest boy in Riverdale,” from the Archie comics of the seventies) clears his throat, holds up something between two fingers and says, to me, “Did you drop this?”
I look up, time stands still; I consider dying on the spot. He is holding up a pair of MY thong underwear that was clinging statically to the baby’s blanket and has dropped on the second-grade classroom floor amid the circulating slip-on shoes of a dozen mothers and even more eight year-olds. In a split-second, I calculate my options. 1. Cop to the undies, laugh self-deprecatingly and stuff them in my bag as I shoot out the door. 2. Look vaguely about, as if perhaps they’re mine, I’m not really sure, there’s so much lingerie littering up the joint. 3. Point to any other mother in the room (who looks like she could manage a thong), and suggest it belongs to HER.
While normally I am an excessively honest person, too honest, in fact, for my own good, that day I imagined my reputation for wholesome middle-class motherhood crumbling in an instant; all the blending in, years of after-school chit-chat and overcompensating Carol Brady sweetness on the playground going to waste. So I looked this gentle soul straight in the eye and said, “No.”
At this point my daughter’s teacher begins to realize just what he is holding in his hand. As I turn back to re-buckling the baby in his car seat, adjusting his fresh-out-of-the-dryer blanket to hide my (I hope) non-crimson face, Alan M. mumbles something about “putting it in a bag back here” and quickly makes off with the offending item.
And I think, will I ever be able to look him in the face again? Will he ever be able to look at me without thinking “Thong underwear? Her?”
There are three upsides to this situation as I see it. First, our daughter was focusing on pulling her homework out of her backpack at the time, so she didn’t know it was my underwear her beloved teacher was holding up like something for show and tell. Second, it is something I can chuckle about in my rocking chair years from now, and believe me, I’m saving up stories for when I’m more likely to be wearing an adult diaper than a strip of lycra against my booty. And third, that teacher has a story he can dine out on for the rest of his days. I’m betting laughter rang out in the teacher’s lounge that lunchtime. And considering how hard teachers work, I can’t begrudge them a laugh. The loss of a thong is a small price to pay.