A Short History of Thongs & Shy Girls

I got my first thong in 9th grade. It was lime-green with tangerine piping, and a little pocket in front for, one can only presume, a condom. I did not, to be fair, actually BUY this obscene item—it was handed to me across a tableful of beaming high school girls at a nice little Italian restaurant.

Shall we backtrack? What happened was this: I joined the lacrosse team my freshman year of high school. It was what the cutest, smartest, COOLEST girls did during spring, and I had vague, half-formed designs of being like these girls. We wore little red plaid skirts and white polo shirts with the name of our school embroidered on back. It was a very STYLISH game.

As it turned out, I was actually rubbish at playing it. I could run for longer than most anyone on the team, with a few notable exceptions (I remember getting looks that seemed to be a mix of admiration and disgust after a particularly grueling workout: “you don’t even look like you’ve been running!”—it was only because I’d been running track before), but I had no skill with the stick, or the hard, tiny yellow ball. The whole thing, frankly, baffled me a little. I understood soccer quite well: and very much enjoyed, I confess, running around a field kicking a ball I could actually SEE. But what was the point of lobbing something so small it might not even be there at all across a space, hoping against hope it would fall into the netted pocket of a team mate’s stick? I spent a lot of time (well, pretty much all my time) on the bench.

Another thing I should mention is how SHY I was. It causes me pain to remember how afraid I was of the other girls, of the coaches, of anybody with a mouth. They would say things to me and my whole body would go cold, my jaw would clamp shut, and all I could usually manage was a tightlipped smile, a nod, and a quick retreat. I was so desirous of acceptance that I couldn’t bear the risk of SAYING anything: what if I did, and they laughed? Generally nothing occurred to me to say back anyway: I would think so long and hard about the appropriate response that it wouldn’t be until I’d left the pitch, been driven home (45 minutes away), showered, and done half my homework before it occurred to me. “Oh!” I’d say into my soup listlessly, at dinner, far too late. “I’m doing well—how are YOU? Tough game today, huh?”

(It was that “how are you” part that always got me. I don’t think it was until about the time I turned 16 that I finally mastered the art of conversational reciprocation. A very small part of me is still a shy girl, but my God, not like THAT.)

I was harmless. I don’t think anybody DISLIKED me; what, anyway, could they object to? I’d given them no ammunition at all. I remember scrimmaging once; the coaches put me on the team with the most seniors, ostensibly so I could learn from them, but I remember saying to one of them, “well, it’s not as if I really count, anyway”, in that self-deprecating way I had whenever I DID open my mouth for a split-second. The girl, whose name and shape I can no longer recall, stands out in my mind for the sole reason that her response was so utterly kind (and so utterly reasonable): “How silly!” she said. “Of course you do!” And then she laughed WITH me, and smiled.

So at the team dinner, spring turning into a pleasant California summer, the hills already starting to dry out, the seniors, who were responsible for distributing gifts to the rest of the team, gave me the flashiest thong they could find: for being, they said, choking on their own cleverness, the most FLAMBOYANT player.

I thought it was a good joke; I laughed along with everyone else, and feigned revulsion at the sickening shades of neon, and acted utterly horrified to be handling such an indiscreet undergarment at a dinner table. I tucked it away in my bag; I had never owned a thong before, let alone something so LOUD. But I had toyed with the idea: I admired girls who could wear tight jeans without panty lines. Anyway, I bet everyone else at the table probably had a thong on.

So being shy got me my first thong free of charge—and what threatens to be a lifetime allegiance to a certain kind of undergarment. Not a bad deal, really.

(Apologies to those, by the way, for whom this may seem to be far more information than necessary. It’s just that I was doing my laundry this morning...)