In the fall, as Gwendolyn, my colleague, helped me clean up the conference room at the end of a big presentation, she asked me, “How did you think it went?”
“Good,” I replied, “I was pleased with the level of questions, and even though there were concerns it didn’t take a negative spin. What did you think?”
“Yep, I agree, the content was great…”
“And?” I said hearing more in her tone.
She blushed, “Well, I don’t know if I should say anything or if you even want to know, but you had bad VPL tonight.”
“VPL?” Vagina Period Leakage? Vesicular Prostate Lumps? Wait, I don’t think I have those. Vulgar Profane Language? Oh shit, that was probably it.
“You know,” she paused. I shrugged. “Visible panty lines?”
“Oh,” I said chuckling, “I was afraid it was something that everyone would notice.”
She bit her bottom lip and smiled, “No big deal, I probably didn’t need to say anything.”
In the car, I began to wonder if everyone had noticed. Do people look at the presenter’s ass? Replaying when I was up at the chart paper with my back to the crowd, I cringed. When I arrived home I went straight to the mirror and pulled up my jacket. Sure enough, I had some tight packages tied up with string. Huh. I wasn’t sure what to think so I took the issue to my women’s Compass Group. This group is composed of four women who decided years ago to read great books together that help us find direction in our lives–and have a nice glass of wine every other Monday.
“Do you notice other women’s panty lines?” I couldn’t bring myself to use the acronym.
“Yes, it can come across as frumpy.”
“I wear thongs so I don’t have to worry about it.”
My investigations took me back to the office and I began studying women. It was true! Very few women had VPL. So I decided to try a thong. Lime green. Cute. Though I didn’t understand why something with less fabric would cost three times as much, they fit in my business card holder and I started wearing them on my presentation days. Over time they grew on me and I decided that I wanted people paying attention to my message, not my prime meridian, so I made the switch. It brought to mind an earlier decision I’d made to trade my light-weight bras for something that camouflaged perky nipples (that would be VNO–visible nipping out). Really I’d become quite seamless.
I hadn’t given my underwear choice another thought until my son walked in while I was getting dressed. We have always been an open door family in the morning. Five bladders, two bathrooms, it’s just more efficient.
Leopard print. Purple trim. No VPL was going to interrupt my math presentation.
He blushed and continued, “May I borrow a dollar for the bus?”
He suddenly became very interested in the wall as I wiggled to pull up my slacks.
“Sure, check my wallet.”
In many ways I would’ve preferred he caught me buck naked. While I sometimes struggle to reconcile what is looking back in the mirror, I am comfortable being nude around my kids. For my girls, I think it’s important that I am. In my open-door house growing up, I remember seeing my mom’s body from time to time. She didn’t always have nice things to say about it. Sometimes she would sigh or comment on how big her thighs were in proportion to her body. When my thighs reached a similar circumference I thought, “Oh, I must have big, gross thighs.” Now that I’m the mom I say things like, “My legs are strong to help me run and dance,” or “My tummy is healthy,” or when I have nothing nice to say, “Gee, I have a graceful neck.” My neck never lets me down. After years of work, I enjoy being in my skin and my wish is for them to never stop enjoying their bodies. Jamin is different, though: because he doesn’t look at me as his future image, I wonder if I should be covering up around him, especially now that he is a teenager, if I’m wearing pretty panties. Was he disgusted by me? Could it have been an Oedipal Complex catalyst? Would he be in therapy later trying to erase trampy mom images from his memory?
After feeling anxious through the day, I thought, well, why don’t I just ask him? After all he’s one of the wisest people I know.
That evening I had an opening, “Do you know what VPL is?”
I explained about my interaction with Gwendolyn. Instead of participants paying attention to my clothing, I wanted as few distractions as possible so men and women alike would focus on the teaching and learning.
“But more importantly, I wondered if you felt uncomfortable this morning when you walked in and I was getting dressed?”
He grinned a set of braces with yellow bands at me, “It did seem sort of weird. Like why would you be wearing underwear that went all the way up? But now I understand.”
“Does it make you uncomfortable that we don’t close doors around here? Would you prefer that I start doing that especially if I’m totally naked?”
He shrugged, “It doesn’t bother me to see you guys naked, but just don’t come in while I’m showering.”