By Cathy Reisenwitz
Apparently Millennials aren’t into thongs. As an older Millennial, it’s taken me years and some painful experiences to understand what my 22-year-old coworker explained to me. Lingerie, as it turns out, isn’t about the viewer. It’s about the wearer.
Are lingerie showers still a thing? Perhaps now that it’s nearly universally acknowledged that virginities are not lost on wedding nights, it’s an anachronism to gift a bride-to-be with pretty underwear. It was definitely a thing in Alabama circa 2008. I got a ton of lingerie at my bachelorette party/lingerie shower. So did my friend. I can’t remember if my sister got any when she married the first time. But, then, she was visibly pregnant.
I was so excited. Most of it came from my mom, who caught on to my love for pretty undies when found me secretly sewing together a pair of sexy panties when I was still years away from anyone seeing me in them. I don’t know why, but I felt like I couldn’t ask her to buy me some. I didn’t give her enough credit. She bought me my first thong in high school.
My husband turned out to be unenthused about lace teddies. I don’t blame him. In that era, before I discovered lifting and squats, my butt was flat, dimpled, and pasty. It was not the ass the inventor of the thong had in mind for their product. The thing that put me off lingerie forever, though, happened after my divorce.
I was excited to model some of my wedding lingerie for my new boyfriend, who I thought might actually be into it. I came out of the bathroom wearing it, a little nervous and self-conscious. He took one look at me and laughed. I cried. Still scarred for life from that, tbh.
My ass has gotten better, but thongs still suck. I’m 100% with Millennials here. Maybe, maybe if it fits just right and the material is inoffensive, I can forget I’m wearing one. But as soon as I got to the bathroom, I’m reminded. There is nothing worse than pulling up that thong again. I used to take them off, put them in my purse, and go commando the rest of the night rather than put that up my crevice again until finally I skipped the first part and just started going commando every time I wore a skirt and finding undies that didn’t show when I wore pants. A slip helps cut down on laundry.
My bras are mostly gross. One is kept together with a visible safety pin.
And you know what? No lingerie I’ve ever worn has gotten as enthusiastic a reaction from a man as finding out I’m not wearing underwear. They are so damn cute. I think they think it’s about sex. Also they are lazy. It’s really about reducing my swamp ass.
The problem with the lingerie industry is that it’s sold wrong. The advertising employed by Victoria’s Secret, Fredericks, and major department stores are all intensely male-gazey. Even Victoria’s Secret models don’t look like Victoria’s Secret models. In photos they are lighted, tanned, and airbrushed to within an inch of their lives. On the catwalk they starve themselves for weeks beforehand and make up for lost body fat in their boobs with padded bras.
I’m not some truth-in-advertising, anti-airbrushing crusader. My whole career has been marketing to one extent or another. My self-image is not so wilting anymore that a tanned, thin body makes me feel bad about myself. Did I tell you about my improved ass?
The problem isn’t that the advertising is false, it’s that it’s misdirected. I found a fascinating study in college that showed that only the white middle school girls studied felt worse about themselves after reading fashion magazines. The black middle school girls were unaffected. The authors theorized that the reason is that the black girls didn’t compare themselves to the white girls in fashion magazines. The images were too different to be useful, or hurtful.
I think the reason Millennial women are eschewing thongs and other such lingerie is lingerie advertising. For most of us, tall, thin, young, tanned Victoria’s Secret models too different for us to see ourselves in their underwear. They are the women straight men want to see in their underwear. Their abs induce reverence. I make men laugh.
Victoria’s Secret ruined pretty underwear for me because I believed what their ads seemed to tell me, which was that pretty underwear is for straight men. But as I’ve learned, straight men do not care! Straight men love asses. Even flat, white, dimpled asses. They love little boobs, no lifting and padding into rounded, fake perfection necessary.
Married me forgot what elementary school me knew, sewing underwear no one would see secretly in her room. I haven’t gotten back on the lingerie bandwagon because I haven’t fully re-internalized that pretty underwear isn’t for men. It’s for me. It’s cool Millennials are on that self-love bandwagon. Hopefully I’ll catch up.
Image: Bayarmagnai Maagaa/Flickr