In the locker room at my gym, I have noticed something disturbing-thongs; thongs everywhere. While changing the other day, I was doing that locker room thing where you blur your vision a little bit and stare off into the mid-distance to convey to everyone else that you are polite but not prudish, and I accidentally knocked my gym bag into the ass of the lady standing next to me. I apologized profusely (I'm always paranoid that people are going to think I'm a pervert) but I couldn't help but notice two things: the lady was wearing a really skimpy thong, and she was seventy. Which, you know, is fine-she was healthy and had a wonderful figure-but I admit I was surprised. I didn't realize the thong held sway over such a wide demographic.
Out of curiosity, I started an informal survey of the thong-versus-regular-panties situation in my gym's dressing room. After a couple of weeks of surreptitious tallying, I was shocked at the clear domination of butt floss. I had figured the results would be about half-and-half at the outside, but in reality it was more like eighty-twenty in favour of the thong. And it wasn't just the women who wear tight pants or ass-revealing clothing that were sporting the things-it was almost everyone. Stranger yet, these thongs were not (for the most part) of the lacy, racy, meant-to-be-seen-by-your-lover ilk-they were the white, cotton, workaday variety. Somehow, thongs have silently become the default panty for fashionable ladies. When did this happen?
Certainly the thong had its cultural moment in the sun. Back in 1999, thongs were all
the rage. There was Monica Lewinsky's Clintonian "thong flash," Sisqo's immortal "Thong Song" and the mercifully brief thong jewelry vogue. I foolishly assumed that we had left thongs behind, that it would become useful only as a reminder of more innocent times-like a pets.com paperweight or the Fourth Amendment. Instead, they've been quietly supplanting the much-less-aggressive normal-panty species and threatening underwear biodiversity worldwide.
This might make sense if thongs were superior underpants-but really, they aren't. The thong professes to do two things: eliminate panty lines and look "sexy." I'd like to suggest that it achieves neither. I don't know where this panty line-removal hype comes from but, ladies, stop taking crazy pills. I can see your thong lines. They're just as visible as the lines from normal knickers, only they're in a different place. It's not rocket science. Not to mention that with the low-cut jeans that the kids wear today, thongs are much more likely to be seen than regular underwear. I get it that this is the point-it's sexy to have scanty underpants visible above your waistline. But that's if you're twenty pounds underweight and no older than twenty-five. This does not describe the majority of the women I see in the locker room.
As far as sexiness goes, let me just say this: on the average woman, the thong is not the most flattering of undergarments. There is no fabric covering the actual cheeks of the butt, so any sort of cellulite-type imperfection is highlighted-and even exacerbated-by a tight thong's smooshing effect. Thong panties cut mid-hip, a place where many women are (alluringly) soft and fleshy and this leads to weird, unflattering hip divots and the corresponding lumps. Not only do thongs produce just as many panty lines as classic lingerie, they actually disfigure your average-sized, curvy-hipped female. And no, smart-mouth, I'm not just looking in the mirror. As a regular gym-goer for many years, I would estimate that about one in one-hundred asses are flattered by their thongs, and that's out of a pool of women who (presumably) work out.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is the comfort issue. I've worn my fair share of thongs (back in '99 I had bought into the hype) so I'm speaking from experience here. Maybe my ass cheeks are hideously malformed-in which case please feel free to discount the following claim-but all those chicks who tell you that you will "get used to" having a piece of fabric wedged up your butt, and that after a while you'll actually find it "more comfortable" than regular underwear, are either deluded or lying. There is no getting used to what is essentially a permanent wedgie, and I will even avoid discussing here the not-completely-uncommon phenomenon of the "front" wedgie.
Thongs: neither comfortable nor useful. So what gives? Why do so many women regularly endure the near-proctologic embrace of the world's worst-designed undergarment? I'm not sure I'll be able to find out without conducting the kind of locker room survey that would see fully realized my worries about people thinking I'm a pervert. My personal theory is that the international underwear cartel has realized that they can charge more money for less fabric if the world hooked is on the thong, and they have started impregnating their stock with some kind of slow-release mind-control drug, absorbable through the tissues of our most intimate areas. As I make it a rule not to absorb any drugs through the tissues of my most intimate areas, I believe I will stick with my day-of-the-week Underoos. Ladies, who's with me?
Audrey Ference tries her darndest to keep up with what the kids are into these days. Her column appears every two weeks. Read other recent columns by Audrey Ference.