Saturday, 23 October 2010

Knicker Shame

When I was little my mum bought my underwear. That arrangement came to an end after a humiliating incident on a school trip. After breakfast on the last day of the holiday, my teacher waved a pair of my grimy (they'd lain forgotten on the dormitory floor all week) white polyester bellybutton huggers over her head and said "Now whose are these 'orrible undies?!" while the entire year fell about laughing.

I was too ashamed to admit that they were mine and, with my new clothes allowance, I started buying my own knickers, but not very often. I favoured brightly coloured bikini multipacks from M&S. They were cheap and didn't hold together very well, or maybe I just wore them hard. There were always many more interesting things to spend my modest clothes allowance on. Knickers came last. My underwear was generally in an execrable state throughout my teens, full of stains and holes.

"RH, I think your period's started," said a friend who had just watched me run around the track during a PE class, my useless gym skirt hiding nothing. But when I went off to the toilets I found that what had been taken for a blood stain was just a rather large hole in my green knickers which my pubic hair poked through.

Worse was when my French exchange's mum offered to mend my ragged underwear. Not having bothered to check, I had underestimated the length of my stay and run out of knickers. Anyway, it's a French custom (apparently) to launder the clothes of house guests so that they leave with clean clothes. I was forced to give up my dirty knickers to be washed but I did not allow her to mend them.

Nowadays my knicker draw is like this: three or four pairs of rather nice, expensive silk and lace knickers and the rest utilitarian black (and a few white) cotton. These knickers cost about 20p from Primark. They're practically disposable. I just throw them away before they get too baggy and awful.

The trouble is that anything that is not a natural fibre - so 99 per cent of underwear these days - makes me itch. Even a few percent of lycra disagrees with my pudenda. It's terribly unfair and annoying and also just quite wrong in other ways that I don't have time to write about now. To be continued.

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