Friday 18 May 2001

Underwear Over The Internet

A voice came into my head and told me I should sell my underwear over the internet. I had always considered making money from sex to be a perfectly fine thing. This is not to say that I did it. But it had always seemed a fair swap. And I had read many feminist books that saw it that way, too.

I sat down on my chair and tried to make sense of it. I could sell my underwear over the internet and that way I would still be making money from the internet. But, of course, would anyone want to buy the underwear of an out-of-work content producer in her late twenties?

Item One: Black, sheer 'lace'-effect panties, polyamide/viscose/cotton/elastene mix, made especially for H&M. These are the knickers worn on the day she discovered the website had lost its funding. At the end of the day they were found tangled up with her big baggy skater-stylee jeans at the side of her bed. Jeans/knickers/belt were still looped around her left foot when she passed out from tequila consumption. A black Converse One-Star sneaker was also tangled up with the jeans, caught inside the right leg.

Item Two: White sheer panties, pink trim, small pink ribbon rose decoration. Polyamide/elastene/cotton mix. These are the knickers worn on the day she was on the internet for ten hours, posting meaningless messages to strangers on a Bulletin Board, pausing only to make tea, pick up a telephone bill from the mat by the door, and visit the bathroom. In the bathroom she spoke to her reflection in the mirror, defending herself against its silent accusation of atrophy. Please note that repeated washings have robbed these knickers of their initial enthusiastic dazzly-whiteness.

Item Three: Black, sheer, fifties-style 'Big Pants', with black roses in raised embroidery, small ruffle round legs, tiny black ribbon on waistband. Worn the night she met said strangers from Bulletin Board in an unfashionable bar in Central London. She stood on the bar's second level, looked down on hundreds of drunken heads, and felt the fabric work its way between her buttocks as she bent down to fetch a cigarette from her handbag. It was a non-smoking area but she and two other girls smoked anyway, with the intimate complicity of new acquiantances. As she stayed out all night these knickers command a higher price than the others: also, they are her personal favourites.

It would never do, would it. Would it? Though I had originally dismissed the idea, it began to take on a new lustre. Knickers have an awful lot of power for such little things. Perhaps the underwear of out-of-work content producers in their late twenties is an untapped market? Perhaps it is a niche, like the vaccuum-wrapped knickers of Japanese schoolgirls sold in vending machines in Tokyo. The voice continued nagging. 'You have to make some money somehow. This is not a school holiday: this is your life.'

I picked at a hole in the chair; the stuffing was beginning to come out. There was a small speckling of yellow stuffing on the floor under the chair. Evidently I had done this before, without even realising. Everything in my flat was broken or distressed in some way. Once I had found this charming, carefree, artistic, but now, when people came over, I began to imagine their eyes running over the battered chair legs and then turning to my legs and imagining my legs were battered and ruined too.

I firmly believed that you are what you eat: I had eaten only candy for three months when I was seventeen to make myself taste sweet, and whenever I had a slice of greasy pizza I would begin to imagine myself oleaginous as the peppers and mushrooms that slid around on the top of the slice. But perhaps I had got it all wrong; you were in fact what you sat on, and all my insides were on display, scattered all over the floor, gathering dust.

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