For several months, I’d been on the hunt for plain cotton panties. By plain, I don’t mean boring and nondescript. I mean 100% cotton panties. Not a cotton blend. No nylon, lycra, polyester, spandex, elastane or whatever the fuck else is in underwear these days. Plain cotton, preferably with a print or pattern, like stripes, polka dots and animal print. Something cute or funky. I still wanted to feel sassy underneath my clothes, without it having to be a thong or lace panties.
A want so simple should not have been difficult to fulfill. I rarely shop for clothes in stores anymore. I neither have the patience nor the budget necessary for willy nilly or window shopping. On the rare occasion that I want to shop, I usually order online while sitting at my glass dining table in panties. The cotton panties on Amazon and Target weren’t the cut or colors I wanted. If I actually set foot in a shopping center, I’m usually someone’s companion (read: my aunt). I’d search the “intimates” section for cotton panties. I struck out every time. One time I visited outlet stores with my aunt and her best friend. Nada. They accepted the assignment to shop for cotton panties on my behalf on their own time. We don’t live in the same state.
I’m not a Basic Betty who wears grandma underwear. I have a chest drawer dedicated to the dozens of panties I’ve amassed over the years. They’re all types of materials and styles. Briefs, boy shorts, cheekies, thongs, bikini, French cut. Solids, prints, patterns, lace, lace-trimmed. I love them all, especially the ones with invisible pantylines. None are 100% cotton, or at least majority percentage. Some, surprisingly, I’ve had for years. Others tender their resignation when the waist band loses its elasticity, or get a hole in the crotch area. What the hell does that say about my Ph balance?
Others were disposed of because of the dreaded Period Stain. No matter how many days I soaked them in Oxiclean, that dark blotch just wouldn’t disappear. Even though otherwise they’d be a good pair of panties, I tossed them because of an old deep-rooted fear, planted by my Haitian aunties. I should always have on clean underwear in case I get into an accident.
I’m sure paramedics and hospital personnel didn’t care about the state of my panties that time I was in a near-fatal car crash, but in case they did, I’m glad I had on clean and new underwear. Nothing but my bloody clutch purse was returned to me from that night, but at least the doctors and nurses didn’t think I was a nasty bitch wearing dirty underwear. I’m still mindful of my aunties’ advice. Unconscious me won’t be able to explain it’s a stain and not filth.
My period was the catalyst for this cotton panties search. Sometimes during my cycle, I don’t feel like wearing fancy underwear, especially when I’m lounging at home. I want to be comfortable in a brief that provides full coverage. I recently broke the bad habit of sleeping with tampons overnight. I buy overnight pads that seem to stretch from belly button to tailbone. A pair of cheekies is not conducive to keeping that bad boy in place, even if I don’t do karate kicks in my sleep.
A few weeks ago, I was at Kings Plaza with my dude. He was scouting a new phone and articles of clothing before leaving for his monthly Army Reserves duty. At each of the department stores, I checked the underwear section. Of course: epic fail. He suggested we check Victoria’s Secret.
Victoria’s Secret might seem like an obvious solution, but I’m not a Victoria’s Secret shopper—anymore. I had a VS credit card, complete with a balance that had a comma, but not from buying satin panties and plush push-up bras. I was the oddball shopper who went on the Victoria’s Secret site—during sales—to buy clothes and shoes, anything but underwear. They had a good selection of quality clothes. My favorite purple velvet pants came from them.
I don’t make Victoria’s Secret my go-to for undergarments because they’re expensive. TJ Maxx and Marshalls are more my speed. Maybe twice I bought lingerie from VS. I was in-store with someone else. After minutes of browsing beautiful merchandise combined with an irresistible sale, I found myself filling a mesh shopping bag. Years later, the sturdy panties still look and feel great.
My not-yet-boyfriend located Victoria’s Secret on the mall map and led me to it. He barely bats an eye when I put thought into a matching bra and panty set, but gets excited about cheekies. He’s nonchalant when it comes to his underwear. The lucky bastard just buys three packs of boxer briefs wherever he can find them. He’s loyal to no brand.
Jackpot! A sale! It seems like there’s always a semi-annual sale, but whatever. 10 pairs for $35, great. Even greater, cardholders got an additional discount. It took me about 15 minutes to dig through the size medium table. A sales associate was reorganizing it. I hovered near her elbow examining colors and cuts as she sighed, annoyed. As these were period panties, I wanted dark colors. I scooped some reds and navy blues, but a few pinks, light prints with hearts, and one lime green made the cut.
My smile disappeared at the register. Card declined. Unbeknownst to me, it was closed from lack of use. Years ago, after Victoria’s Secret stopped selling clothes other than lingerie, PJS, athleisure and workout gear, I paid off my balance and never used it again. I still received emails and coupons in the mail. I would have to re-apply for another card to get the additional discount.
“I just want some damn cotton panties!”
The cashier took pity on me and gave me the discount using my Chase debit card. She even added the sale price to the eleventh pair of panties I mis-counted.