I spent a period of time last year selling my "well-worn panties just for you!" online. It was definitely a profitable enterprise; I just didn't have the entrepreneurial fortitude to take it to the next level. I would find myself yelling aloud at people not in the room as I read the emails of potential customers and found myself taking strange, normally flattering things personally:
I got your panties today and was really expecting something dirtier; I will never do business with you and your clean non-smelling vagina again.
Your panties weren't at all stained to my liking. I suspect what you claimed to be discharge was actually egg yolk.*
Another thing that really bothered me about online panty hawking over the internet was the way you had to advertise your wares — with pictures of you in the underwear. In order to rope these paying pervs in, you have to use visuals that will encourage the wanting of the ownership of the drawers in question. There's really no other way to do it and this non-negotiable aspect of the industry drove me insane. (I realize I was agonizing about something a natural born panty slinger would have just sucked up.) I was sending these guys pictures of my scantily clad nether regions with no guarantee they were going to buy anything at all. I felt like I was contributing to their soft-core porn collections for free. This led me to rage at every picture inquiry that didn't end in a sale.
I was obviously not made for the biz, so eventually I closed up shop. I just put my panties in the wash and deleted all my listings. I thought I was done.
Now, I don't share much of my writing with my family. They are really not that interested. Though my mother really has no idea what I write about, she's happy that whatever it is, it's written under the nom de plume of Helmsley (while Fiona is my real name, Helmsley is not). And frankly, there's not much that I write about that I would feel comfortable sharing with her. We've become more open to different topics of discussion as I've aged and have even broached topics that I intentionally skirted with her in the past. Like she now knows concretely the identity of The Tampon Avenger, the mysterious entity who would hit up our house and steal the tampons under the bathroom sink once a month until I was seventeen and got kicked out of the house. That was me — I just didn't feel comfortable telling her that I had gotten my period. She also knows now that I had to spend the night in jail in Phoenix, Arizona for criminal littering. But those were both carefully screened disclosures.
I accept that there are a lot of things about my life that she just doesn't want to know. I understand and respect this. This divide will remain and is not a problem for either of us.
A few weeks ago, I got word that a poem I had written about my dad based on a story she had told me was going to be up at an online writing site. The poem contained nothing that would freak my mom out or make either or us uncomfortable, so I mentioned it to her in passing. I told her I would send her the link to it if she reminded me later.
When she didn't, I forgot all about it.
A few days later my mom called me from work.
Her voice was low and she was almost whispering on her end.
"Fiona, I was searching for your poem and…and…."
"What mom? What's up?"
"Someone is selling used underwear under your name online!"
My stomach dropped down to my knees. Had I forgotten to delete a link?
"Oh I don't know mom. That's weird, but there's a lot of weird stuff online, so I wouldn't worry about it."
"The link is to a site called The Used Panty Portal!"
"Ewww, mom that's really gross."
"Carole was at my desk as I was searching for the link, so I was a bit embarrassed, but on the same page there was also a link for an Asian Escort Service so it was pretty obvious it was the Asians selling their underwear, not you. I really liked the poem by the way."
I got off the computer and quickly searched my name. After a few of my writing credits, I saw it there, Used Panty Portal and clicked on the link. It was dead, and the Google blurb under the link said "site error." I did go to the Portal site but all that came up was a blank page.
Next, I went to check what this Asian Escort business was. My antivirus software advised against clicking on the link, so I didn't. The Google blurb about the link was a mix of an old writer's bio of mine and words like "Asian.Ave" and "Helmsley Escorts." It was obviously some kind of opportunistic advertising tied into my web search.
All I could do was laugh. And hope that being in my thirties and still having to hide stuff from my mom will keep me young.
Fiona Helmsley is a writer of creative non-fiction and poetry. Her first book There Are A Million Stories In The Naked City When You're A Girl Who Gets Naked In The Naked City was released in 2010. Her writing can be found scattered about the print and online worlds and she can be reached through her blog Flee Flee This Sad Hotel.
Image via Brooke Becker/Shutterstock.com