This story is part of our TMI series. A collection of essays that detail those pieces in our life that have a story to tell.
I still own all the underwear I’ve ever bought, probably. Like, 85 percent of it.
But why? you might legitimately ask yourself. The answer is simple. Underwear is inexplicably expensive. And it takes a long time to wear out, since I don’t do very many things that would cause excessive wear-and-tear, like, say, a lot of butt-scooting on the carpet or skivvy-only horseback riding. I know I’m not alone in this, because over the years I’ve shared this fact and discovered that pretty much everyone is stockpiling ancient underwear.
As a result, I own underwear that is so old that it’s vintage — essentially archaeological artifacts. I’ve got garden-variety skivvies, of course, but I also have floppy and faded high-cut bikinis from 9th grade, ladyboxers whose elastic waistbands announce their brand affiliation, and transparent lacy stretch briefs that make my ass look like a low-rent bank-robber. What I don’t have is g-strings. Not anymore.
Ahhh, the g-string. The g-string came to popularity in the late 1990s, first on strippers, then on twenty-somethings, and then, finally, on Donna, the 60-year-old cashier at ShopKo who is suprisingly racy and not interested in what you think about her undergarment selection, thank you very much and have yourself a lovely day minding your own fucking business.
G-strings were supposed to free your butt from panty lines, so that any butt-gazer would have a pure, smooth booty vista upon which to rest their eyes, rather than, say, the poor butt constricted by the tugging elastic hip openings, those pesky middle parts scooping the natural butt flesh into one central sack of butt, like a cupcake. Muffin top is a problem addressed by relaxing waistbands, and muffin bottom was briefly addressed by removing the sides and bottom of underpants. It seemed genius. There was only one fatal flaw.
Whereas most underwear is designed to fight the inevitable bunching and creeping of fabric that results in an ass crack plum full of cotton, g-strings are literally designed to do just that. There is no other way to wear them. This takes some real getting used-to. And when you do get used to it, you get used to it the way people might get used to having their thumbs duct-taped to their palms, or their shoes tied together. Or a gigantic wad of elastic and cotton wedged into their butt crack.
To combat this, some g-strings are made with ribbon, rather than an elastic and cotton thong. Those underwear, in my humble opinion, make every wearer look like they have been prepped for roasting with kitchen twine, like porketta. I am not sure what look I am going for lately, but I am certain I don’t want “culinary” to be in the list of adjectives used to describe my lingerie collection.
So, me and the hordes of other anachronistic undergarment owners store these relics in the very backs of our underwear drawers, like the lids of tupperware whose bottoms we’ve long ago either melted or misplaced. These undergarment artifacts sit and wait for us to either run out of quarters for the coin-operated laundry, or reach that point in the month where all clothing has been worn and is now piled and festering next to the washer and dryer, while we repurpose Halloween costumes and formal-wear to get through the week in outfits that don’t appear to have previously lined ferret cages.
I admit that I had a g-string era, in which I attempted to wear the trend and acclimate my nerve endings to a constant assault. As is often the case with crap you don’t really want to pay for, gradually my g-strings got older and older. The fabric got natty and grey. The elastic got softer and weaker, until it was really just a long rubber rope. Still, I wore them. One by one, I was forced to throw them away, until I had just one pair remaining of my original collection. I stopped wearing them, eventually, wooed by the disinterest bikini briefs displayed in my butt crack. Of course, I never threw the abandoned g-strings away.
One day, in a frenzied search for clean undies, I was forced to wear the last surviving pair. I already had selected a nice pair of low-rider slacks (work), a long stretchy tank top, and a little babydoll tee. I thought I looked great, but the outfit was torture; the tank top kept creeping up, while the pants kept slinking down. The babydoll tee was also stretchy, but made from some slippery type of fabric. The creep of the tank top caused the babydoll tee to actually roll at the bottom, until, if unadjusted, it would become sort of a Jetson’s-hem crop-top. Every time I moved, I had to tug the pants back up, yank the tank top back down, and then unfurl the babydoll tee again over the whole precarious shabang. It was infuriating. I looked like I was doing some form of “Macarena” dance, choreographed by Mr. Bean. Stupid.
After a full day of yanking and tugging, I went to pick my son up from his latchkey program at his elementary school. The kids had gone on a field trip, so they were all in the school gym, sitting next to piles of outerwear and squirming. The gym was full of parents, too, and the place was generally chaos. I squatted next to my sullen 5-year-old, who was emotionally very involved in an issue he was having with the lace of one of his shoes. I cajoled and encouraged him to just tie it again, or better, wait to do it in the car, but no, it was all wrong, he would need to cry for a while about the tie gone wrong before untying both shoes and retying them overandoverandover again until they were identically tight, and uniformly centered on his foot. (Crap like that makes you want to punch yourself in the face until you pass out. I can’t even tell you how many times I have lovingly tied and retied shoes whose terrible tightness disequilibrium was practically killing my poor kid. And don’t even get me started on lining up the hem of jeans with the second row of shoelaces. Sigh.) So, of course steam shot out my ears, and suddenly, tying his shoes became a form of martial art. While I was tying, my tank-top get-up started to creep, creep, creep up my back, exposing the lower flub-chunk area of my midsection, and the upperpart of my butt crack. That was it. I snapped. I reached back and grabbed the stupid effing pants with one hand and yanked up, and grabbed the stupid effing tank top with the other hand and yanked down, as hard as I could. Only it wasn’t the tank top. It was the loose, floppy exposed band of the last pair of g-string underwear.
The first thing I noticed was that the elastic, such as it was, really, really stretched. I think I had it about a foot and a half away from my body, well below my bottom and probably down nearly to the floor before I realized that it wasn’t my tank top. The second thing I noticed was that the front of the g-string underwear was destructively embedded in my vagina, as though I had fallen from a considerable height onto a narrow tightrope. I made a kind of desperate barking sound, when it happened. The noise was alarming enough that it startled my son out of the reverie caused by the confounding enigma of his shoelaces. He searched my eyes, his own face suddenly furrowed with worry. “What’s wrong, mom?” I shook my head, the blood rapidly draining from my face, assumedly to rush help to more far-flung parts of my anatomy.
I scanned the gym to see who had seen me give myself the most ferocious and authoritative wedgie of all time. Nobody. Not one eye, not one person pointing and wincing, nothing. “We gotta get outta here.” I said. I was in shock, so I took the long, floppy band that was now hanging out of the right side of my pants, a loose loop in my hand, and furiously tucked it into the waistband of my pants.
I’m not sure how I walked out of that gym. The minute we were safely in the car, I began writhing around, attempting to somehow excavate my nether regions to remove the offending undies. No dice.They were a part of me, now, and no tugging or pulling was possible without causing grievous bodily harm. I could not imagine driving home in my condition — one red light would kill me, and I kept imagining what would happen if I were to get into an accident. I imagined a doctor gazing at my body in grim and horrified curiosity: what kind of velocity would cause a person’s underwear to garrote their private parts? I’ll bet they never covered that one in med school. No. driving was not an option. I frantically dug in my purse, searching for the Swiss Army knife I typically carried, but I had changed purses, and now, the only object in my purse with cutting potential was a pair of nail clippers. They would have to do. I unearthed the loop of elastic, and frantically used the nail clippers like the jaws of life. I carefully imposed a series of tiny incisions along the elastic band. It took one hundred years. But at long last, I had a free loop. I covered myself with my jacket, unbuttoned my pants, and gingerly extricated the g-strings from my person, like a surgeon.
In my life, I have removed at least two popcorn kernels from my teeth, and many more slivers from various parts of my body. I’ve scratched bug bites, removed tight shoes, and cracked knuckles. And never, not once before or since, has anything provided as much instant relief as I experienced in the moment following the exhumation of the battered g-string. We stopped at Super One, and I chucked them in the trash, knowing deep in my heart that if I returned them to my home, someday, somehow, I'd end up wearing them again.
Anna Tennis is a writer, voracious sci-fi fan, and reluctant host of near-paralyzing empathy, useless superpowers, and partial (9% accurate) psychic ability. She likes long stories and warm sweaters, but not long stories about warm sweaters. She be found on Instagram @annadelorabanana and is a frequent contributor to the site Perfect Duluth Day.
Emily Bernstein is a cartoonist, illustrator, animator, and painter living and working in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has been published by the New Yorker magazine, the New York Post, VICE, WNYC, and Princeton University Press. See more work at emilycbernstein.com.