My aunt sent me a gift certificate to Victoria’s Secret.

When I opened the pink envelope and saw what it contained I panicked. Oh no!

My ‘I’m-not-interested-in-lingerie’ exterior was forever fractured. Secretly, I was delighted. I got to venture into the lacy unknown.

When I finally got around to driving out to the mall, I instantly regretted my clothing choice of baggy khakis and a light blue shirt. I looked vaguely masculine, not at all like someone who was bursting with excitement to enter the den of underwire. I let my hair down, applied lip-gloss, and tried to walk in as if I owned the place. I probably just looked even more ridiculous.

“May I help you?” squeaked a voice from the region of my elbow.

I jumped and turned. There stood a four and a half foot tall, graying, saleswoman, obviously modeling the latest pushup bra under what would otherwise be a not too revealing v-neck sweater.

“Um.I…” It was hard to look down a foot and a half and then focus exclusively on her face. “I’m.uh…” Matching set! screamed my mind. Lacy underwire! Padded something! “Do you have pajamas here?” my chicken mouth asked.

“Of course,” squeaked the woman, and she was off, through pink perfumed piles of silk, to the very back of the store. There stood a feeble rack of pajamas on which swung a few pairs of flannel pajamas with star patterns, big-eyed cows and smiling clouds.

Great. “Thanks,” I muttered. “Just what I was looking for.”

She melted away and I shyly glanced out of the comer of my eye towards a pile of thongs not too far away, right by the changing room door. Thongs aren’t really my thing as far as I know, but what did I see beyond? Wonderful, glorious matching bras and panties! Just what I needed. If I just grabbed them and lunged into the changing room, no one would notice. No one would crash through the ceiling suspended by a nylon rope, grab my shoulder and bellow into my ear, “Are you qualified to have that underwear?”

With those reassurances in mind, I slunk across to the set of racks by the door, checked the ceiling for cracks, blindly grabbed a hanger, and ducked into the changing room. I leaned against the door, panting. Safe.

It was only then that I looked down at the underwear in my hand. Horror! It was what appeared to be an extra-extra-extra large spotted pink and yellow bikini top with matching thong! In my haste I had grabbed from the wrong rack. This was not the tasteful light blue underwear I desired. For the first time it occurred to me that I might actually have to pay attention to what I was doing. I had to have my wits about me, check the sizes and prices, and try not to behave like a guilt-ridden lunatic. It took nerves of steel to shop at Victoria’s Secret. Thus it was with new purpose that I hung the offending garments on a peg and strode out of the changing room

“Excuse me, honey,” peeped the voice at my elbow.

“Gaaaah!” I screamed, before I realized that it was not Will & Grace’s Karen suspended from the ceiling but the same sales associate as before. So much for cool, calm and collected. “Erm…yes?” I amended, trying to resume my former brief placidity.

“It’s store policy that you must return any tried-on items to the rack they came from,” she said with precision. “You went in with an extra-extra-extra large, polka-dotted matching bra and panties set. It is important that you return it, or our security personnel will be under the impression that you are, in fact, wearing the set now.”

My terror was limitless. I envisioned a strip-search with me on a glowing white table and an ominously squeaky voiceover intoning, “Nope, she’s not wearing ’em but…eugh! Look at what she is wearing!”

Different voices would come in and out like a restaurant scene in a movie.

“…baggy…”

“…doesn’t match.”

“Hanes Her Way? I haven’t seen those since the nineties!”

“Where in the name of God is her underwire?!?!?”

“Has she no shame?”

I snapped abruptly back into reality and said in a panicked voice, “I’m not wearing them! They’re too big, I swear!”

“Then put them back on the rack,” she said.

I glanced over my shoulder, half expecting a large crowd to have gathered. They would be wearing 40’s film noir costumes and some of them would be recording my embarrassment using clicking cameras with oversized flashbulbs. The women would all be wearing green matching underwear sets, lace, underwire, and all, and they would be visible under their semi-transparent white shirts. Their underwear matched their eyes, but no one would know that since it was all in black and white. Instead, everyone else in the store would think that their shirts matched their platinum blonde hair.

But no, there wasn’t a strand of platinum blonde in sight and the only green bras were on a corner rack. On the other hand, there were about six women checking out negligees a few feet away and concentrating so hard on not staring at me that it was fairly obvious that there was nothing they’d like better to be doing. I met one of their eyes, a girl who looked like she was about ten. She didn’t flinch: obviously a hardened Victoria’s Secret shopper. I wondered why she was here if she didn’t even need a bra yet. I on the other hand, with six more years under my belt, was trying not to succumb to a rising paranoia.

Only a little hesitantly, I walked into the changing room, seized the hanger, and returned it to its rightful place. I sighed. This was good. Maybe now I could grab the right thing, try it on, and be out of here.

“Here now, that wasn’t too hard,” shrilled my elbow-angel, jolting me yet again.

“Now may I help you? Were there any more pajamas you wanted to see?”

I looked down, tried to make eye contact, failed, made cleavage contact instead, panicked. I tried to concentrate on something else. Think how proud you locker room buddies will be! encouraged my mind. Think how you’ll feel when this is all over and the underwear goddesses are congratulating you on your choice! I glanced over at the women by the negligees. Their heads snapped away.

“Well?” squeaked the woman at my elbow.

I turned and ran out of the store.

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