It’s my mother’s fault. I observed from action rather than words that underwear should match outerwear, and it is a pleasure of being feminine. Watching her dress in lace and hearing the soft brush of satin as she smoothed her skirt over a slip, pointed me to a mental future. When she carefully did it on a Saturday night before her date came, the door of the future was opened and my little girl imagination knew I would someday walk there. Her fashion standard has resulted in my abundance of underwear. My panties, bras, camisoles and nightwear, however, are not friends. They fight for top girl dominance in the washer and dryer. Something I never saw in my mother’s laundry.
Lingerie washing directions seldom say machine wash just like mothers seldom tell us to frequent beer bars, though we (I) do (did). Only the blue-blood silk that insists on martinis, gets hand washed. It still lasts only as long as a bottle of nail polish. What remains is the underwear that’s seen expensive restaurants, but its also seen real living in bars and boardrooms. When there’s a pile of lace, nylon, satin and ribbons from sorting laundry, I put it in the washer.
Several years ago there was a showdown in the dryer between everything else and the bras. When I opened the door nighties and panties were twisted, tangled and nearly breathless in the death grip of half a dozen bras. A camisole I wore as a blouse when fashion demanded it was attacked by a barracuda green bra with polka dots. Maybe it was jealous it was never shown publicly. In the far back were two nighties who escaped the bra attack. Their straps were entangled in an undecipherable clutch of passion or united fear to keep away from the brawl they must have witnessed.
It took half an hour to lovingly and patiently untie, unwrap and untangle all participants. I felt like a nurse in ER trying to save lives, but I only wanted to save my wardrobe essentials. A few panties were hidden entirely in the skirts of nighties or bodice of camisoles and twisted tight as bread packages with bra hardware. Those little hooks fight not only sixteen year old boys, they’ll go to the mat with their cousins from the lower neighborhood.
Panties, camisoles, and nighties lost to the vicious dog bras but I could tell it was a worthy fight. A few filmy panties protected their lace by allowing a death squeeze from bra straps only on the unfrillied middle. A camisole with a front button had unmercifully twisted another bra strap round and round till it was a licorice twizzler. Luckily, everything recovered with a bit of nursing and gentle unraveling, but I learned my lesson.
From then on I sent the children who could play together to the washer and began hand washing the bras. Hanging over the tub from the shower head, they drip and leave spots on the faucets and spout but they entertain my husband and tickle his artist mind in a mix of color as he lies in the tub.
But yesterday eight bras accumulated and I decided to throw them in a gentle quick cycle. Without an outside enemy, they did each other in.
Two blues attacked the magenta. They had it wrapped on both back ends and only one arm strap was free. I think they were jealous. Actually, they’re prettier with their lace but they have to settle for the real me while the magenta “lifts and separates” for maximum illusion before outright lie.
Three whites held down a black and had bitten lace right on the nipple. Tweezers had to gently pry the hooks up to release the luckily undamaged lace. One white is nearing the end of its appreciated lifecycle of personal romantic fantasies. It is also the least equipped to battle with only a front slide attachment. But I can see by the twisting it led the march on the tony Victoria’s Secret black bought during an emotional self-assessment of my declining desirability. I’m not proud to retell I’ve felt that way around younger females. A bit old, a bit weaponless, and not liking myself for feeling it, as I tell myself I’m richer from experience. I’m surprised how I understand, and maybe need to watch, these inner feminine brawls.
Only one bra escaped the fight. It also is one I’ve had a long time. It’s a delicate thing of see through lavender and slim satin double straps. I picked it up and looked it over. It has hooks and could have easily clutched into the others. But it didn’t. It just went its merry little way of gracefully and quietly getting older, ever ready to provide its support and talents where possible.
I relearned my lesson. Manufacturers have their reasons to recommend hand washing. I think they’re trying to protect us from seeing ourselves and learning what’s really there. It’s a different protective illusion, but I like my mother’s idea better.