The Small Naked Drunk Man in the Bottom of My Drawer

This morning I found parity while looking, scrambling really, for socks and I found Drunk Hercules instead. Herc is a key chain fob that broke years ago, and at some point shifted his drunkenness out of my handbag into my top drawer where the undies and socks reside, to live near the frills of my last vestiges of youthful lingerie. I found him after pulling out seven socks with no mate and digging deep into the unknown wastes of underwear I haven't seen for years, where he was wrapped up in a garter belt. And looking at both Herc, of whom I'm so fond, and the utterly impractical garter belt, I realized that Herc would live on down there in my drawer, but the garter belt had reached its expiration date. Over the years I've peeled away the sexy detritus of youth as I settle deeper and deeper into being a fabulously premature retiree. My world reaches as far as the chicken coop and my son's school and I have little need of a garter belt in either of those places. I never did, really, since I always found the conceit of garter belts a little too Frederick's of Hollywood. But when I was younger, I wore them under army fatigues and utility boots, so they became a different sort of message. I'm not sure what the message was, but it may have been part and parcel with my fondness for Hammer Pants and sports coats.

The inaugural blow against sexy underthings was becoming happily married. That happened almost 15 years ago for me, and sexy undies have been in slow decline ever since. The first items on the block were the really ridiculous ones, lingerie I don't think I ever actually wore: slips that I bought from consignment stores, sets that were cute only on mannequins and Kate Moss, absurd gifts from people that knew in some corner of their mind that I would never, ever be caught dead in anything that looked as silly as a mesh bodysuit.

The next to go were the regular work-a-day bras. Once I got pregnant, my tiny demure chest became vava-voom-tastic, and I needed some weird engineering wonders followed by the least sexy of all lingerie: the nursing bra. By the time I caught my reflection in a mirror after a year of wearing the most utilitarian of lingerie, I resolved not to wear them at all. Once my chest deflated I bought tank tops and camisoles, freeing myself from hooks and straps forever.

I visited thongs (a.k.a. Butt Floss) only briefly in my twenties; they had been replaced by bikinis almost immediately. And then came the marketing coup called "boy-shorts," and I thought I had won the lingerie lottery. My undies have been reverting to an almost completely androgynous identity over the years, unnoticed by me until finding Hercules wrapped in my 40-year-old garter belt (it belonged to my mom before it belonged to me, passed hand to hand through the generations, a provocative idealistic hope unrealized through four decades).

I used to keep one nice pair of undies and one nice bra for special events, the ones where I was required to look less like a scrappy boy and more like an adult female. That happens less and less, which is my choice really, but it's a little sad to realize that if I was expected to show up at the Grammy's I would be hard-pressed to find proper underwear for whatever outfit I decided on. More alarming, I would be more inclined toward Spanx than some slightly sassy lingerie set.

So I can't decide. What to do with the garter belt? Leave it as a symbol of the past, a saucy, ridiculous paean to youth? Abandon Herc to my sexless socks and boy shorts? I mean, he's pretty loaded; I'm sure he's got the beer goggles of millenia going for him. Maybe he wouldn't notice that he was down there with completely sexless underthings. But he's a Roman, after all, and Romans were a randy bunch, always looking for a good time in any way possible. Maybe it would be an insult to strip his home of all sexual frivolity despite the fact they will never be used again in my life.

Maybe when I die, hopefully at some ridiculously ripe old age, both Hercules and that garter belt will live on in a drawer, a little testament to fun and friskiness. My son, then grown with a family of his own, will find them there while breaking up housekeeping, and face a little mystery about the person he knew as "Mom."