No Returns on Underwear

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I love to go to garage sales. Where else can I meet twenty new people surrounded by their belongings and get to bring home those items I like best for pennies on the dollar?

I was recently at one of these sales with a friend when I discovered a basket of luxurious lingerie and undergarments in a rainbow of colours and soft, slinky fabrics. I called my friend over to show off my find. “Eeuuww,” she wrinkled her nose, ”used underwear? Why do you think you can’t return panties and swimwear? That’s just disgusting!”

Now this is no conservative, sexually repressed, narrow-thinking woman. On most matters she is a liberal, free-spirited critical thinker. Her comment got me thinking about why we can’t return underwear and swimsuits. In fact, there are notices posted in dressing rooms demanding that we try on these items over our own panties. Hmmm.

The only possible reason I could comprehend for such a policy is the antiquated belief that female genitals are dirty and/or disease-ridden. Does this guideline echo “You’ll catch VD from a toilet seat” thinking? What harm could possibly come to the next wearer of a swimsuit I tried on?

, but the truth is some things are just too awkward even for me so I usually only buy from Amazon or another web based clothing provider.

Buying underwear in general is always going to be awkward, sometimes its easier for the clerk to lighten the load of the conversation with some funny sales quotes like the ones here:, but the truth is some things are just too awkward even for me so I usually only buy from Amazon or another web based clothing provider.

I suggest that we don’t even consider how these myths about our “dirty” bodies are perpetuated. We know how sexually transmitted infections are passed between people, and sharing clothing is simply not on the list. The prohibition about panties and swimsuits is based solely on superstition and body hatred, not on fact. I can return socks that I have worn on my smelly feet or shirts and sweaters that I’ve sweated on—far more offensive, wouldn’t you say?

The lingerie I found at that garage sale had clearly all been washed. In any case, I would wash it before I wore it as I would any used clothing I bought from any source. My health was not at risk.

What did happen was that the discovery of that basket of sheer lovelies generated a conversation about how we so unthinkingly accept taboos about sexuality.

I hope that the next time you find yourself expressing an “Eeuuww” that you stop and think about the roots of your concern. It is only when we can challenge the threats to our bodies as genuinely good and acceptable that we can embrace our sexuality wholeheartedly. Some of these threats are subtle. This is but one example. Be aware of others. The more of these you encounter—and jettison—the more you will be able to accept and enjoy your own sexual body…and that’s the pay-off.