Listen to Chloe Lunn read 'Panties'
What is my favorite word? Panties. Absolutely. As a youth I dreamt of being an actress if only to provide the perfect response to host James Lipton's question on my favorite show, Inside the Actors Studio. I saw myself smiling secretly as he revealed the origin of the question , always being careful to use the French pronunciation ...descended from Bernard Pivot on the famous show Apostrophe. I refused to disappoint my attentive audience by picking a puny word like love or hope or something. The guests who picked those words (Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts, respectively) were obviously unprepared for the question and were picking words that expressed concepts that they liked, not actual words. I was going to be different. The question posed, I would lean back confidently in my chair and deliver my carefully considered response to the oohhs and aahhhs of audience and host.
But, what it is it about the word panties that symbolizes the perfect marriage of tittering girlish delight—like opening a 3-pack of Strawberry Shortcake drawers and the erotic charge of lingering too long beside an elaborate lingerie display. It certainly couldn't have anything to do with the origin of the word itself. According to Webster, panties is the diminutive of the word pants, used to describe the underwear worn by women and girls. Blah. Undoubtedly, then, it must be the sounds and syllables themselves. Panties, panties... pah, peu, pink? Pretty, petunia, petals? Obviously the "p" sound at the beginning lends itself to an array of feminine words—but that is not the key to its charms. Panteeaazzze. Far less obvious at first is the invitation in the second syllable to delight in the exclusively female domain of seduction, te asing. All girls aged six to eleven who have ever worn a skirt on flip-up Friday understand this. For the uninitiated, flip-up Friday is the most highly anticipated day of the week for elementary school children, where any lady donning a skirt is understood to be receptive to the attentions of gentlemanly suitors. In other words, a girl who wears a skirt on Friday is making an invitation to any ardent admirers to chase her around the playground like a madman for the privilege of flipping up her skirt and seeing what color her panties are. Tee hee.
I was a child of eight when I grasped the exclusively feminine implications of the word. My French born mother whose grasp of English was at times tenuous, had mistakenly referred to my father's underwear as panties. I remember it distinctly, we were all in the car; I was knawing on the back of my father's seat, as was my habit, and my mother mentioned tha t my father needed new panties. He practically stopped the car. Correcting her, he stated that men wore underwear and women wore panties. My mother never seemed to understand the difference though, or else she never cared because to this day she still uses panties interchangeably for both sexes. This never failed to make me snicker behind my father's back as a child when my mother, putting away his underwear, referred to them as panties.
Perhaps her confusion had some historical roots. I discovered that it was only relatively recently in history that people began wearing underwear. In fact modern panties ancestor, the bloomer, was born when they sewed up the leg of the chemise—a distant relation of the slip. The bloomer's chaste appearance can be deceiving though, they were crotch-less. Around the1920s bloomers were replaced by a sleeker, shorter style similar to our boy shorts. It wasn't until the 1950s20that shorter dress fashions necessitated the arrival of the earliest version of panties. It was what she wore and what she sent you for Christmas, affectionately dubbed the granny panty, it was high on top, low on the sides and made of breathable cotton. It wasn't until the 80s that newcomer Victoria's Secret began capitalizing on the Brazilian style thong. It marked the end of the panty as a bastion of womanhood, making the panty and all its sweetness a relic of girlhood.
The first panties I can remember were pink, bikini cut, and festooned with just the right amount of baby pearls and ribbon bows. I rejected all others. It was a chore and a battle to get me to wear anything else. I still remember those classic panties because it marked my initiation into the pleasurable world of femininity and along with flip-up Friday exemplified why it is so good to be a girl.
About the author:
Chloe Lunn is a writer and classical guitarist residing in San Diego, CA. An avid adventurer, she is currently at work on an experimental novel chronicling her travels through Central America.
© 2011 Word Riot