“Selena?” I call out frantically.
“Yes?” she answers with irritation. I can just make out the top of her glossy blond head beyond the distant racks.
“I think this is a phenomenally bad idea. Help me, please?” I whimper.
Selena has dragged me to an upscale mall in downtown Atlanta for a lesson in lingerie, and I’m already searching for the exit door. We’re here, looking for replacements, after the underwear drawer massacre:
“No! I will NOT let you have them!!”
My back is against the wardrobe, heels dug into the carpeting, with arms thrown wide in crucifixion.
“Step away from the underwear drawer!” Selena yells as she approaches.
I steadfastly refuse.
“NOOOO!!!!” I wail as I put up both hands to ward off her advances.
“I am not kidding. If it doesn’t cover your ass, it has got to GO!!” she yells.
In the end I was left with four pairs of Calvins and little else, so now I’m head down in the lingerie department examining underwear choices for women my age, of which there are desperately few. Those marketed directly to the over-50 crowd feature advertisements of “Flatten Your Tummy” and “Slim Your Hips” and “Lose 10 Pounds Instantly.” The tags alone bring me to tears.
I’m currently adrift in a sea of underwear begging Selena to rescue me, as somehow I’ve wandered through the Old Lady section and emerged in a vortex of Young Sluts. Endless variations of lingerie in black, white, and all shades of red and pink…some trimmed with satin, lace, ruffles, netting, sequins, shells, glitter, ribbons, bows, rhinestones, and pearls…surround me, threatening to pull me under. Worse yet, they’re all done up in designs that would embarrass a Playboy art director. What gives, anyway?
As it turns out, Selena and I have unwittingly made our decision to search for replacement underwear the day before Valentine’s Day. Since she’s divorcing her husband and mine lives in New York, neither one of us paid any attention to the calendar. If so, we would have avoided this day at all cost.
“Oh, honestly,” Selena remarks when she reaches me, “when exactly did lingerie get divided into Saints and Sinners categories? I didn’t think thongs could be any thinner than dental floss, let alone tied off with itty bitty satin bows. Let’s go try the Delta Burke line instead.”
“You do realize I’m going to kill you, right?”
Selena shrugs. “We can always go to Intimacy, but I doubt you’re up for it.”
Selena knows I don’t have the nerve. The Phipps Plaza store became famous when Oprah Winfrey put its cups on the map with a personal recommendation, but it’s not the price of a bra ($80) that scares me, it’s the fitting. Selena’s salesperson gently guided her to an assigned dressing room, asked her to strip and face the mirror, then reached up from behind and honked both breasts to judge her bra size. She was right on the money. Selena asked for a cigarette.
“I am not going to have a total stranger cop a feel and then charge me 80 bucks. It just seems wrong. It should be the other way around,” I argue.
“Fine. Then find something here,” Selena suggests.
“Give me a minute. Let’s see…” and my voice trails off while I consider the options.
Low-slung Pepto Bismol-colored panties with matching bras trimmed in chocolate and pink satin rosettes; a black strapless bra with netting and accents of red felt bows and black lace; the three-pack of silk dental floss thongs in white, black, and red; a pale pink, plunging push-up bra covered with fiery red lipstick imprints; polka-dot boy shorts overrun with pulsating Day-Glo cherries; white lace baby-doll nighties featuring side slits and chiffon ruffles; see-through pink pajamas and tanks decorated with candy-colored conversation hearts; various hooker bustiers trimmed in every freaking thing imaginable.
The choices for a woman not my age are endless.
“How about these?” I ask.
I’m holding two camisoles strikingly similar to a saloon girl’s corset or a streetwalker’s outfit from the ’70s — I can’t decide which — with one featuring black satin whale bones and red feathers, while the other is white satin sporting pink cups and straps anchored by miniature rhinestone buckles.
Selena’s face folds as I flag her down with them.
“Yooo hoooo! Hey, Seleeenaaaaa! Which one would your hubby prefer?”
“Stop it!” she hisses.
“Don’t threaten me!!” I answer as I skip away, leaving a trail of feathers shooting out from behind me.
I am so making her pay for this lingerie “outing.” My underwear drawer was perfectly fine.