Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The Great Knicker Crisis of Nineteen-Ninety-Something

Hard to believe, I know, but I wasn't always this glamorous. I wasn't born with a golden bra on my tits - or indeed with such pretty toilet ducks on my head. And sometimes - just to stop myself from getting too hoity-toity - I like to think back to the days before I started taking all those rude Polaroids of myself and proclaiming myself an idol - days when bra straps were indelibly tinged with jus-de-denim and knicker gussets were rather dramatically moonscaped.

For example, I vividly remember a time when I returned to university after the hols - yes, yes, this is years ago now - and fell straight back into my usual knicker crisis. After working my way through my normal knickers, my shabbier older pairs, my bikini bottoms, my old school PE kit, my swimsuit and some ancient garments resembling a collection of loosely hanging colourless shreds, I found myself staring into an empty drawer with just 5 minutes to go before the bus left. What to do, what to do... ? Go commando, steal some from a flatmate, buy new ones (no chance on my budget)...? Whatever should I do?

It was then that I remembered the pack of cheap frilly knickers my gran had given me for Christmas. There were three pairs in the pack - one white, one pink, one pale blue - and they looked like she'd picked them up at the market for about 50p. The sides were fairly chunky and made from a kind of tacky looking lacey fabric. The middle section looked sort of perforated, as if the designers had intended to make an ironic fashion reference to teabags ("You only get an "Oo" with Typhoo" or possibly "It's the special Tetley perforations that let the flavour flood out"). They were hideous, there was no doubt about it, but they were knickers and they were clean. I ripped open the packet and put on the pink pair. So far so good. And off I went to the campus.

Later I paid a visit to the loo. As I pulled my knickers down, the "lace" spontaneously disintegrated along one side. The side seam just fell apart as if it had never been sewn together at all; as if they'd just glued it together with a bit of flour and spit. Never mind, I thought, it was nearly time to go home, where I could slip into a nightdress and pretend the knicker crisis wasn't really happening. I pulled up my jeans and, walking very carefully, made my way to my last lecture.

When it was over, I walked down to the busstop. As I walked, I began to notice a bulge in my trouser leg. Unfortunately, I didn't quite register what it was. I just thought, "Golly, how mysterious, a wandering bulge," and carried on walking. Then the bulge suddenly shifted and when I looked down I noticed a pink frilly object working its way out of the bottom of my jeans. The situation now became clear: my knickers had fallen down and were currently hanging around my foot, flapping as I walked.

I was surrounded by other students, including Lindsay - the leggy disco babe from my course - and her American friend. Thinking quickly, I stepped onto the fabric with my other foot and, without changing my pace, I deftly pulled my shoe out through the knicker hole in a movement so smooth as to surely be indiscernible to the people around me. Or so I thought. I carried on walking, leaving my knickers lying on the ground behind me. I recall smiling and tripping lightly down the pavement, tossing my hair like a girl in a shampoo advert. I thought I'd got away with it and I was feeling pretty smug. But just as I got into the bus and was preparing to buy my ticket, a guy came running up to me. He tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around. He was panting.

"Sorry," he said, "You dropped your handkerchief. Here."

He opened his outstretched hand to reveal a semi-disintegrated pair of tacky frilly pink knickers. The whole bus was staring as I mumbled my thanks and reached out to take them. As I did so, a sudden flicker of sheer horror passed over his face as he realised what exactly the slightly moist item was that he was now holding out in his hand in full view of a bus packed with other students. Our eyes met and we both blushed a deep, painful, scorching red from the tips of our toes to the roots of our hair. I could hear Lindsay tittering in the back seat.

Both the guy and I spent the rest of our time at university studiously ignoring each other. Sometimes I would catch sight of him slipping out of view behind a friend, his face burning like a red hot poker.

Ah, fun times.

Course nothing as embarrassing as that could ever happen to me nowadays. Because when I run out of knickers nowadays, I have other, more sophisticated and foolproof solutions at my disposal. Such as the scheme I invented only this morning. (Amazing really, how few people seem to have realised that a pair of attractive and fully functional makeshift knickers can be knocked up astoundingly easily by taping a fresh sanitary towel to one's body with a selection of elastoplasts.)

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