My leggings split. My pilates instructor saw my vagina. I was rethinking everything. “I guarantee she has a designer pussy,” I said between bites of quinoa.
“As compared to what?” Jenny, best friend.
“My Goodwill pussy,” I said and pushed kale around my bowl. “She smells like sandalwood. She smells like aspiration.”
“It’s fine,” Jenny said. “We’ll get you a pair of underwear to wear under your leggings. That’s the normal thing to do.”
I circled my hand around my face. “Panty lines are evil. Panty lines call attention to this, to me.”
“We’ll get you the magic kind, elastic and trim-free,” she said. “The kind that won’t slide or twist.”
She’d read about the World’s Best Panty™ on her phone, a promoted ad slid beneath her cousin’s weekly anti-fracking diatribe. The panties were nondescript, a swath of black satin, a clickable link, and a promise of life-change folded into a seamless crotch panel.
“Worst part? Those pilates ladies didn’t talk to me before. Imagine what it’ll be like now that they’ve seen Mrs. Goodwill,” I said. “They act like I don’t even exist, but guess what, ladies? My pussy’s right down here!”
Blondes in mesh glanced over, faces flushed, lips curled around pink straws, pink straws transporting yellow superfoods, yellow superfoods mashed and regurgitated into green smoothies, green smoothies named Detox Retox and Green Dream Supreme. They shook their long bobs and returned to fish-faced selfies.
“Don’t worry. We’ll get you the World’s Best Panty™,” she said.
“Ew,” I said.
We hated the word.
“Don’t say it,” I said.
“Moist,” Jenny said. “Panty.”
We arrived at the gilded department store, quiet on a midweek morning. We darted around bored salesladies contouring shiny noses. Tested mists of oxygen-activated serum. Examined rose gold sunglasses stacked in rows. Smelled exotic candles in ambers jars, scents like Thistle Tundra and Whisper Noir, scents we couldn’t distinguish, sweet, spicy, hints of burnt orange, dashes of sage.
When we sneezed, the salesladies didn’t say “bless you.” They didn’t look up.
We rode the elevator down to level one, our faces puffy in mirrored ceilings. Unmentionables was behind Men’s Designer, catty-corner from Restrooms, and directly across from Cufflinks. A salesman in linen stared into his phone, grunting at our presence, clearly thrilled, his job selling cufflinks obviously going well.
In Unmentionables, a soundtrack of organs and bells. Salesladies in tight red smocks, hair piled like donuts on thin heads.
“Let us know how we can be of help,” they said.
“Thanks,” we said, smiling, though we were afraid. Their cheekbones could cut.
Their eyes squinted. Their clavicles poked. We knew they’d be mad when they found out: We wore our period undies even when we didn’t have our periods.
Jenny walked the perimeter, her hand grazing lavender bralettes, their ruffled edges floating like moss. Jenny held up a granny panty, limp on a satin hanger.
I rummaged through bins of thongs and bikinis and raw-edged cotton-blend boy shorts, all hand-stitched in the USA. I thumbed through camisoles, tightly rolled, pastel cinnamon buns cooling on a baking sheet.
In Tummy Tuck, the options were more function than form. Ribbed fabric and scratchy seams, torture vices that would etch lines into my abdomen, three pounds heavier than last year.
The Ladies of Unmentionables hovered.
“Is there something you need?”
A life plan that doesn’t involve the suburbs? An anti-anxiety pill that doesn’t give me an asshole rash? A body that doesn’t need tucking, compressing?
“World’s Best Panty™?” I asked.
I tried to locate Jenny in the sea of scalloped lace.
“Good choice. One size fits most.”
Did the Ladies of Unmentionables wink? For once was I part of a club? A person and not a pillar to be bumped against between spin class? A foot attached to a leg attached to a hip? A hip that could bend into mermaid and fold into pigeon, graceful, forehead gently perspiring, the instructor exclaiming about my posture, my flexibility?
“One size fits moist?” I asked, hoping for a smile, anything to show this was real.
“Nothing,” I said “Let’s give them a try.”
In the dressing room, I threw the panties over a silver hook. A pink sign, cursive: Start with a Good Foundation. A black sign, block letters: Thieves Will Be prosecuted! The three-way mirror distorted my torso, lengthened my legs, widened my shoulders. I called Jenny, who I hadn’t seen since Bralettes.
“Where are you?” I said and undressed.
“Where are you?”
“Dressing room.” I dropped my compression leggings to the floor
“Coming your way. I’ve got a contraption here that costs $98 and promises to be like a self-help book for your vagina.”
“What does that even mean?” I looped the World’s Best Panty™ around my feet.
“Okay, I’m here,” she said.
“Where?” I pulled the World’s Best Panty™ over my calves and up around my thighs, where purple veins looped, an endless interstate.
“Here,” she said. “I don’t see you. Hello? Cal? Where are you?”
I wiggled and jiggled. I stretched the tight fabric over my ass. I snapped the elastic against my belly and pulled the BellyBuster™ panel to my underboob. I gulped in air and turned to the three-way mirror. There I was, big yet compressed, satin and skin merging. “Here,” I said. “I’m right here.”
Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice is the editor of Split Lip Magazine. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from American University, where she served as editor-in-chief for Folio, and her short ﬁction appears or is forthcoming in Copper Nickel, Indiana Review, and Booth. She lives and writes in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts. Find her online @thelegitkar or thelegitkar.com.
Illustrated By Meghan Murphy.