Like your favorite college sweatshirt, undies are best when they're broken-in. And I’m talking years or wear and tear for maximum comfort and which includes, for us ladies, stains.
You know what I’m talking about. Those spots you find when you change your sanitary napkin or tampon and spend the next few minutes briskly rubbing your underwear fabric together with liquid soap and cold water in hopes of a miracle. We’ve all been there because, frankly, periods don’t give a fuck about color continuity.
Why do I bring this up? Kotex, maker of the hip-because-its-in-a-black-box maxi pad, introduced a new product called CleanWear promising to #savetheundies. But I venture that the undies don’t need to be saved. In fact, undies are best worn after they’ve been destroyed by at least a decade of sitting, walking, working out and yes, periods. And with that, I present to you the various stages of The Panty Circle of Life.
This is when you and your new panties are just getting to know one another. There is the distinct and strange smell of Store and Other People’s Fingers that you must wash away before wearing. There are elastic miscommunications, where your inner-thighs and your undies’ inner lining disagree on the delicate dance of Don’t Eat My Labia or Fall Into My Butt Crack. But after a few washes, the waters calm and you reach the next phase in your p'lationship.
As you go about your life, you assign each of your undies one of the following sections:
— No Panty Lines Allowed Undies.
— It’s Sweltering And The Under-butt Sweat Must Be Stopped Undies.
— I Am Going To The Gym And Don’t Care What I Look Like Undies.
— I Am Getting Some And These Are Made To Be Peeled Off Undies.
— If I Die Today, I Want To Be Found In These Undies.
— Whatever Undies.
This phase can continue for years and, if we’re really honest, decades if no holes or tears develop because I’ve got underwear that remembers when Semisonic was a thing and they are my favorite to wear when I just want something soft. Like a blanket fresh out of the dryer, those early aughts and late 1990s draws are the truth ... until Aunt Flow strikes, usually while you’re at work or asleep, in my case, and then moves you both into the next step of your long-term p'lationship.
When numerous bathroom sinks scrubs, bleaching (which leaves a weird yellow hue of its own sometimes) and Shout soaks come up short, it’s time for your embattled panty to start its slow death march. These pieces of underwear are now firmly relegated to That Time of The Month and you care not about what happens while they are between your legs. Nothing can happen down there that a good machine wash boasting Cheer and fabric softener can’t fix. Besides, it's over. Your period has called your bluff and those I Am Getting Some And These Are Made To Be Peeled Off Panties have become Whatever Panties. It is this moment when your draws have reached the twilight of their life, unravelling around the edges and fraying near the designer tag. And finally, when that small hole in the crotch becomes too big to ignore and your partner wonders aloud "What is the point of even wearing those?!" you wave goodbye (with a trash can) and strap on a new pair of Fresh Out of the Box, post-Store Smell underwear and begin the Panty Circle Of Life anew.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby.