When the sixth grade started, I was still a sensible-underwear kind of girl. My Hanes accompanied me to after-school activities like chess club and book club, and I thoroughly enjoyed the security that only thick elastic bands and huge swaths of cotton can provide.

One afternoon that school year, my panties drawer was rocked.

I was lying on the floor of my bedroom, working on a school project, when my grandmother walked in. She said that she had a surprise for me, that it would be “our little secret.” I was thrilled. A gift that had to be kept secret must be good. From behind her back my grandmother produced a tiny drawstring bag. I opened it slowly and pulled out what I thought was a piece of white tissue paper. “Do you like it?” she asked. I didn’t answer because I had no idea what the hell it was. On closer inspection it revealed itself to be a tiny lace undergarment. A thong. My first piece of lingerie.

I wasn’t shocked that my grandmother had randomly bought me a thong. If you talked to her for five minutes or even merely caught a whiff of her perfume—a scent named Poison—you wouldn’t be surprised either. What really got me was her parting words: “Have fun.” Have fun? What was that supposed to mean? Suspecting that the having of this fun could somehow lead to trouble with my parents, I stashed my new acquisition away in my underwear drawer for a year.

In my mind, this thong became somewhat of a “new girl” in the drawer. One can only imagine how my other underthings reacted to her presence. Perhaps they were jealous of her floral lace pattern, or maybe all of the high-rises dreamed of being just like her. Or maybe the other panties saw her as some kind of celebrity. A rock star. No matter how this thong got along with my other clothes, it would be about a year before I would work up enough nerve to “have fun.”

Finally, one Friday in seventh grade, shortly after getting my braces removed, I woke up and put on the thong. I felt great. I felt sexy. I had a wedgie that I feared would have to be surgically removed. I went to first period with high expectations of fun-having and classmate-shocking. I went through all of my classes hoping for at least one “Something about you has changed, but I just can’t put my finger on it,” or maybe even a “Wow, Katherine, no panty lines today.” But nothing happened.

Nothing had changed. I realized that I was expecting to be treated differently based on the fact that I was wearing what I considered to be daring underwear. What had once felt cool and defiant now felt kind of silly. The thong went back into the drawer along with my expectations. It possessed no magical qualities, but it gave me the idea that I was maybe, just maybe, a desirable human being. ♦