(Photo by Smath via Flickr Creative Commons)
[I wrote the piece below a few years ago about shopping for my then-girlfriend/now-wife, Annie, at Victoria’s Secret. I’ve vowed to post it every Christmas so other fellas know what to expect if they venture into the plush palace of pink. I haven’t stepped foot in the store since.]
For most of my life I’ve pretended that Victoria didn’t exist and that her secret meant nothing to me.
Countless times I passed her store, without so much as a sideways glance. Even if I wasn’t shopping with my my girlfriend (now wife) Annie, I vowed not to scan her windows. Why? Because, I wasn’t a perve.
It’s surprising how developed ones peripheral vision can become. Through mine I saw a pink palace of plush carpet. Everything seemed as soft as a cloud – the lace, the fabric, the cleavage. Inside, leggy, buxom young ladies spoke with accents as they advised hot young co-eds on the wonders of the Wonder Bra. And, oh, the changing rooms. What delicate little rooms of privacy they must be.
With a little imagination my peripheral vision was at least 20/20. Damn near X-ray.
It’s the Wednesday afternoon before Christmas. It happens fast, like a decision to itch your elbow. One moment I’m feigning interest in the candle store across the hall and now I’m walking towards her. Face to face with Victoria.
I’m going in.
Table after table stacked with underwear. Walls lined with bras. If I had died at the age of 13, this is where I would have gone. And, in turn, if I would have gone here at the age of 13, I would have died. My chest is tight and rises and falls with a shudder, each breath shorter than the last. I need help. I need to get in and get out as quickly as possible.
I find her folding underwear. She’s wearing an earpiece to get updates on urgent stock issues regarding nighties. She has dark hair, dark eyes, and an air of holiday retail disgust. She’s a little heavy, and not very leggy or buxom. I picture her in her underwear. I picture the guy who just walked in with the Yankees cap turned backwards in his underwear. In an underwater store it’s hard not to picture everybody in their underwear.
“I need help,” I say.
“What can I do for you?” She stops folding.
“I want to buy my girlfriend the most comfortable underwear you have,” I say. To be honest, I feel a little stupid saying underwear in public to a complete stranger. I ponder using undergarment or skivvies or anything that sounds more prudish.
“Here are some of our more comfortable bras.” She says as she motions to the wall of bras. Cupped and hanging perfectly as if being modeled by some invisible babes.
“Does she wear these?” She points. Then she motions to her own chest. “They cup higher. Or these that are a little lower?”
“Whatever is the most comfortable.” I emphasize comfort too inform her that I’m not like those other guys that come in looking for a little nylon and spandex to sculpt their ladies and leave their secret treasures secret, but just barely so. The perverts.
“What size is she?”
I stare at her searching. I’ve snuck a peak or two at Annie’s bras lying on the bathroom floor. Most are faded and worn to the point where the tags are unreadable. But just yesterday I saw one of her newer ones, no less than five years old. Every guy wants to know his ladies digits.
“White.” White is not sexy. It’s everyday. Red or black would be selfish – like I was dressing her up for me. This isn’t about me. She buys her underwear in packs of 5 at Wal-Mart. I want to treat her to something special that she wouldn’t buy for herself.
“How much is it?” I ask.
I act like I’m not doing any conversions. That $45 dollars does not equal hours’ worth of work. That $45 couldn’t buy me enough underwear to last three years or enough pizza to last a week. $45 Dollars!
“Okay.” I say.
She hands me the bra.
I’m holding a bra. I’ve never held a bra in the privacy of my own home and now here I am at the mall holding one.
“How about panties to match?”
“Sure.” Panties! Panties! Aren’t panties underwear? I wish she would call them underwear.
“What kind does she wear?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I guess something like those.” I point with the hand not holding the bra. The bra-holding hand isn’t going anywhere. It is frozen.
“Well unless your girlfriend is an 85-year-old grandma she doesn’t wear those,” she says.
“Here, she probably wears something like this – the string bikini bottoms.”
Pardon me for not knowing my undergarments, but for a moment I think that string bikini equals thong. I am on the verge of hanging myself with the bra. And then she holds up non-thong underwear. Thank God.
“Yeah, something like that would work,” I say, hoping she will hand them to me so I can run for the counter.
She doesn’t. “Now, seamed or seamless?”
“I guess seamless. They sound more comfortable. Besides,” I point to the table of seamed bottoms, “those look like the ones she gets in Wal-Mart by the bundle. Really, is there any difference…?” I continue on down this path completely and unintentionally devaluing this woman’s position as an undergarment salesperson before I finally realize that I should just shut it.
“This table is all seamless,” she says.
She starts to look through the neatly folded piles of panties, when she is interrupted, “Excuse me. I’m about a size 6. What would that be?” The woman is in her 40’s and appears to be calm as can be, as if she spent everyday searching out the perfect pair of underwear while 27-year-old me looks on.
I picture her in her underwear. I can’t help myself. I’m completely not attracted to this lady. Actually, she’s pissing me off. Who does she think she is trying to steal my sales rep (whatever her name is – I won’t read the name tag for fear that she thinks I’m trying to check out her chest)?
They continue on to talk about sizes and cuts.
I don’t hear them. I’ve got bigger problems. The realization has set in: I have to touch panties. The search for a medium begins. Ever so gently I pick through the stack.
Minutes or days go by, when the sales rep says, “You may want to consider these boy cut panties.”
Miss Size Six says, “I always wanted to try a pair of those.”
“Are they comfortable?” I ask.
“Yep, just like the bikinis. You can barely tell they are there. The main difference is that a little bit of butt cheek hangs out the bottom.”
She motions with her hand to where they hit her butt cheek. I picture her in boy cut panties. I picture Miss Size Six in boy cut panties. Hell, I picture me in boy cut panties.
“The boys,” she nods at me, “really like that.”
“Well which ones are more comfortable?” I ask.
“They’re the same. It all depends if you want to buy them for you or her.”
The torture! Deep down I hope that the pink of my surroundings disguises the flush in my face.
“I’ll just go with those.” I point to the bikinis.
I hem-haw around as if it doesn’t really matter to me. Color doesn’t really matter to us guys who just want to treat their ladies to overpriced seamless undergarments. Why would we care? Only pervs care.
“Here’s a white pair to match the top.”
Now I’m holding panties and a bra. I leave the two women talking about butt-cheek-hanging-outage and how much is sexy and how much is just too much.
If I wanted, I could crush up both garments and shove them into my pocket. They would take up next to no room, yet the check out girl feels the need to put them in a stiff pink bag with “Victoria’s Secret” written in big, sexy cursive. As quick as I can, I stuff the bag into another bag.
I bound out of the store. I don’t look back. Once again, I pretend Victoria’s Secret doesn’t exist.
“… feigning interest in the candle store across the hall.” Been there.
Hahaaha… that was a funny experience you got there.
We don’t have Victoria Secret store (yet), but we do have La Senza. Similar.
I remembered how all the male (and little boys) spouses were just standing outside the store, while waiting their wives or girlfriends ran sack the place.
I myself always try to accompany my girlfriend when she do her shopping. Include this kind of shopping.
When we both have our first experience shopping in this store together, I do sense a bit of awkward feeling but I keep in mind to be a good shopping partner and not wondering my eyes around and answer every time she asks “Are these suits me?”
Sometime I suggest her some products on the counter (you know, just to speed things up).
Later, I ask her, how she felt about me with her there in the store, with other female customers. She told me that she is happy because she can shop this stuff with her man and feel comfort at it also.
Even though how bad i wanted to just went in to that shoe store beside it rather than La Senza.
Just to keep in mind to us, men, never wonder-off in that store. Our eyes that is.
You were one brave man. I heard once that no experience is ever wasted. Who ever knew one day you would become an underwear expert? But you have the good sense to keep your knowledge within the, uhm, practical frontiers. Heck, I don’t go into Victoria’s Secret, and I have been a woman for a long time.
Ryan so you were the one staring so intently at the M&M’s display.
Shin, well put. Wandering eyes are trouble in stores like this.
Terry, The more awkward the experience the more value it has to me as a writer. I put myself into some really stupid situations in the name of a good story, but this one just kind of happened on its own.