I have All the Underwear I Need.
He didn’t leave me with a broken heart. He left me with a parade of panties.
Driving home from his house, all I could think about were my underwear. I was wearing some. I just wanted the pairs I had left at his house. He had officially broken up with me. I wasn’t yet sad enough to cry or grieve the end of our two-year relationship. All I wanted were my underwear.
The last time I recall caring about underwear was when I was about seven. They were usually the most obvious gifts under the Christmas tree. I could hear the plastic ruffling under green and red wrapping paper. When I could finally unwrap them, I was engulfed with dazzling panties made for little girls that had pastel-colored days of the week plastered over white fabric.
Growing up as my mother’s only girl in a small DC suburb, I wasn’t one of those privileged girls taught to cherish or even worship her panties. We barely had enough money for food so there were no ceremonious acts of buying underwear, eagerly selecting special colors, or matching them with bras. I only knew them to be some white, black, or beige cotton necessities to cover my butt only to be restocked when I grew out of them or when the seams ripped so much that holes formed in unsightly places.
There were times in high school bathrooms where the other girls would tease about wearing thongs and bikini cut. My ears would practically burn off my head because those were taboo words in my house. Underwear sounded too much like sex so my family didn’t dare utter its name. I was only to consider underwear when I got out of the shower, preparing to get dressed, finding them nestled in drawers near bras or tucked under slips.
It’s the reason why I couldn’t understand how they were suddenly at the forefront of my mind after a moment of devastation. There I was gripping the steering wheel, newly-single, gasping for air, fearing once again that COVID would kill me. Yet, all I could picture were the racy, see-through triangles of fabric dancing away in my mind.
Maybe this was one of my many COVID-induced hallucinations. Or maybe it was some sordid coping mechanism to help me heal after losing the one man I loved more than any of them. Whatever it was, I sat at traffic lights, nearing close to home, wondering if I could will my pride to disappear enough to turn my Chevy around to venture back to my ex’s house to not beg him for another chance — but to reclaim my illustrious butt-huggers.
Before him, I would peruse superstore shelves, looking for the cheapest pair or packs to buy. I just didn’t care. With a grueling career, my underwear was never the topic of conversation. But he made me care. One day, after I fell madly in love with him, consumed by those endless nights of the best sex I’ve ever had, he reeled me into this new fascination, telling me he wanted to buy me a few pairs of the fancy kind — the frilly kind sewn magically together with lace and mesh — made to be adored and ripped off before the act of entanglement began.
He just needed my address and consent to click “purchase.” I gave him both. Immediately, in a state of panic, I assumed he was covertly telling me that my undergarments needed an upgrade — and he may have been. But I then chose to look at his generosity as an act of love and a sign he wanted me.
I’ve been head over heels in love with panties. An obsession with underwear grew right before my very eyes as I spent more time engrossed with online catalogs, searching for the perfect cut, fit, and color. I wanted to be sexy for him. But I wanted them as trophies of status for me. I finally had a boyfriend who loved me and a job that could afford the luxuries I was never taught to appreciate.
Fast-forward to April 2020 when he decided that he didn’t want me anymore. Like so many relationships during last year’s devastating times of quarantine, death, and loss, Covid ended our relationship. Like really ended it. I contracted the virus in late March and after nearly a week of being fatigued, achy, and just a sick mess, I made the decision to leave his house. We couldn’t agree on if what I was experiencing was actually the virus. He didn’t think so. And I couldn’t stop believing it had gotten me. More than anything, I just wanted to be in my own bed to recover as quickly as possible. And I didn’t want to infect him.
We spent weeks apart in some strange pre-breakup cycle — the awkward knowing that the end is coming but not totally sure exactly who is going to utter the words first. He didn’t seem to care about my fainting, chills, or loss of appetite. I couldn’t figure out why. I always imagined that he would be the person I could rely on most if I were ever sick, broke, or just in the worst state of my life. Instead, I navigated what repeatedly doctors told me was a sinus infection alone and abandoned.
The day I felt human enough to visit him again was the day the cycle ended. He claimed his decision wasn’t because I had gotten sick. It was because I had always been codependent — something he insisted he should’ve addressed months before. Maybe he was telling the truth. Maybe he had a point.
Stuck between hurt and shock or just feeling like whatever shit Covid had wrangled in my body, I went to his closet where I had kept all of my cutest outfits. I threw them in a black plastic bag with as much strength as I could muster. I went to his dresser to remove the underwear he had given me along with the newer pairs I had rewarded myself, adding them to the pile in the bag.
Leaving his house, I realized that I was too weak to carry that heavy bag. Fatigue, even a month after my initial infection, seemed to hug me tighter than he did the last time I saw him. I promised to get the bag two days later. The clothes were nice but I really wanted those underwear.
For the last ten months, I’ve been sicker than I’ve ever been, trying to convince area hospitals and doctors that I had in fact been infected with what may be the most dangerous virus since AIDS. Now I know exactly why I wanted those underwear from my ex’s house.
Of course, I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough at my own home to survive until I had the strength to wash clothes again. But they were a symbol of the new me I could always rely on. Buying and having ample underwear for me now was more than just about impressing my “boo.” It was a rite of passage of maturity, luxury, and intimate care for myself.
When I was able to finally take inventory of all my clothing, after months of sickness and weakness so severe I could hardly leave my bed, I found so many pairs of underwear that I could have given a few away. They were all there — pairs I had forgotten existed with the fresh pink tags from that store that greets us in every mall. I sifted through a parade of panties and they were all mine. Purchased by me. And moving forward with me.
I never did go back to get the pairs I left at my ex’s place. I haven’t seen him in almost a year. Somehow, I think I knew that whatever I left there needed to stay there. I’m ok with that. He left me. But I’m left with more than enough underwear to take on my next adventure and into my new life and love as I recover from what tried to kill me but couldn’t.
I figure I may not always choose the right boyfriend but I’ll always choose the best underwear. And I’ve never heard anyone complain about that.