I remember seeing a Victoria’s Secret advertisement sometime in the 1990s—before all this Angels business started—that said something to the effect of, “Because your top drawer could use some spicing up.” I found it simultaneously clever for its realization that most women do in fact keep their underwear in their top drawer, and insulting for its realization that I keep my underwear in the top drawer.
I contemplated rearranging my foldables to find some new real estate for said underwear, just to reaffirm some notion that I was an individual and not necessarily subject to any kind of “most women do it this way” rules. The task proved too daunting, however, and I settled for separating my bathing suits out of my overcrowded underwear/bra/sports-bra/socks/hosiery/bathing-suit drawer.
My bottom drawer, which previously held jeans, is now home to bathing suits and slutty lingerie from my bridal shower (jeans now live on the shelf above my closet rod). Over the years, the drawer has gotten fuller and fuller in the kind of way that you don’t notice until one day, seemingly out of the blue, you find yourself shoving an item down into the back corner and hoping that the drawer will close and conceal your real-life Real Simple “before” photo.
How did this happen? I am a fairly diligent Goodwill donator and an embarrassingly stringent laundry folder. (Just let me know if you’d like a clinic on the appropriate folding techniques for thong underwear versus full-bottom underwear. It’s magical.) As I pulled the drawer out and sat down in front of it, determined to do whatever it took to apply my thong-folding prowess to the tangled web of lycra, it dawned on me: while all this time I thought I was dealing with an overcrowded drawer, what I really had on my hands was a time capsule. A mid-twenties, Californian time capsule.
I untangled the web to find every bikini I have owned since puberty. The yellow triangle top number with the vintage French tablecloth print: My first grown-up bathing suit purchase, it indoctrinated me into the common bond of women who pay way too much money for way too little fabric and complain about it with undercover pride. The green and blue paisley string bikini: a rebound from the overpriced scene at Macy’s. My discovery of Old Navy’s stellar swimsuit selection has done me right by retaining both its stretch and its color over the years. The blue and brown tankini: a misguided purchase after an Oprah episode suggested that the tankini cut would help to visually shorten my awkwardly long torso. The zebra print with fuschia trim: a joint gift from both the good Lord and whichever designer at Target finally figured out how to make bathing suit bottoms fit like underwear, keeping my ample butt cheeks generally concealed.
These bikinis and the many others that have taken over my bottom drawer are more than just options for my next beach day. They tell the stories of summers past. The summer I worked as a Counselor in Training at Mission Springs Summer Camp in Santa Cruz and spent my weekends at the Boardwalk; the summer I worked with developmentally disabled kids at the C.K. McClatchy High School swimming pool; the summer I stayed in Santa Barbara, alone, and found companionship in the ebb and flow of the ocean …
The never ending “summers” of my four years at Westmont College, just a shuttle ride away from all of the beach volleyball and fountain drinks that East Beach could offer; the summer spent working as an assistant river raft guide (we preferred the title “gypsy river divas”) on the Rogue with a girlfriend from high school; the study abroad trip to Sri Lanka; my honeymoon on Lopez Island; our first wedding anniversary in Maui; learning how to surf; competing in my first triathlon; the cruise to Saint Thomas that I unbelievably won on the Ellen Degeneres show. These bikinis have seen me through some of the best moments of my life.
How could I possibly part with any one of them? To anyone else they’re just grungy, stretched-out bathing suits with questionable crotch panels. To me, though, each suit is a reminder that I am more than just work and chores and day-to-day. In each grain of sand still caught within the fibers of every bikini that I’ve held onto, there is a reminder that I am a little bit fabulous.