Saturday, June 14, 2008

My Underwear is Showing

Underwear looms large in the many appearance-related neuroses (such as You’re wearing too much jewelry and You look too grownup) installed in my by my lovely, well-meaning mother. There are three distinct principles of underwear that my mother lives by and endeavors to have me live by, as follows:

1. You should have a lot of underwear. “I have at least twenty-eight pairs of panties,” she said to me in all seriousness over the phone the other day. “You should have the same. Go to The Gap and get some more. I’ll pay.” Actually, oddly enough, PANTIES is the only category of clothing in which I am not comically overstocked. Now that I have a washing machine in my apartment (in Manhattan! I know! Amazing!) and do laundry about every two minutes, I just don’t need more than a few pairs, and unlike, say, T-shirts or handbags, the general public doesn’t really see panties, so I can’t motivate myself to buy a lot. Although I did go to Victoria’s Secret the other day, where I discovered that A) high-waisted panties are in vogue, which is a great thing for long-waisted, short-legged women like me; and B) Victoria’s Secret does not carry red panties. Who knew?!

2. You should be wearing something under that. “What are you wearing under that?” my mother likes to ask me, pulling my skirt up. She will do this even in front of other people, in public, and God help me if I am not wearing a suitable slip. This means that I now habitually wear a slip with anything that is unlined or made of light-colored or thin cloth, and that means that I am constantly occupied with yanking my slip up or down and bending over to see if it shows, and that means that I often walk around looking like a spastic camel.

3. Don’t let your underwear show. No slips hanging out from skirts, no panties sticking out of jeans, no bra straps hanging out of sleeves.

This last principle is basically common sense – it is, after all, called underwear. So for most of my life, I have taken this pretty seriously and turned my nose up at people who don’t. It seemed to me mere laziness to be walking around with visible underwear. Hey you, I would hiss in my mind, put your clothes on. (The only exception is the case of the deliberate bra-show, which I discussed at length once with my friend KG, and is only acceptable if the bra in question is cute/colorful/ornate/clothing-coordinated and clearly meant to be on display for aesthetic reasons.)

This all changed, though, as soon as the baby was born. As a nursing mom who is always yanking her shirt down in public, I have come to see my bra as outerwear. I have become so immune to my bra showing that I now find it completely acceptable to walk around town like this:

Or this:
Or this:

While I understand that my bra is entirely exposed in these outfits, and I remember a time when such exposure in another person would infuriate me beyond belief, I simply cannot summon up those feelings anymore. Even though I know it shouldn’t, it seems completely OK by me, as Elliot Gould’s Phillip Marlowe would say.

My mother is coming for a two-week visit in a couple of days, and I can only imagine the pain that my new bra-exposing attitude will be causing her. I am considering trying to make up for it by wearing several pairs of panties and one or two slips every day, but I may just settle for taking off all of my jewelry and trying not to look too grownup.

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