There are few things in this world that remain sacred for us women.
Not long ago, one could unabashedly traipse around the spa in nothing but her appointed robe. Yet now we find ourselves averting our eyes from the stately gentleman next to us, his hairy man thighs peeking out from the issued terry robe while he blissfully recovers from his full-body Lavender Salt Scrub. God help us if we cross our legs the wrong way while we await our appointment.
The other day I went shopping for a nursing bra with my sister Vanessa and her six-day-old baby boy, Link. We walked into the local breastfeeding specialty store to find a man behind the counter. In less than ten seconds of dialogue, I heard him utter the words “how old is your baby?” “engorged,” “swollen,” and “36C” before he handed her a blush pink bra. In less than four minutes, Vanessa had purchased a perfect-fitting nursing bra that, as this competent male shop owner described, would “transform to the changes of her breasts over the coming stages.” Without even voicing my inner thoughts, Vanessa assures me as we leave the store that no, he is not gay … just really good at sizing up the girls.
Another friend of mine explained her shock when a male nurse announced himself as her lactation specialist after the birth of her first child and then attempted to help her squeeze, shield, and siphon her newly lactating bosom into cooperating with baby. Apparently, not even breastfeeding is sacred!
Now, I do think there are certain things we are better off sharing with men. The days of “if it ain’t over a grill or open flame, my woman cooks it” have now been exchanged with “cooking” listed as a favorite pastime on a man’s social network profile. On behalf of all women everywhere, and as much as I love to be in the kitchen myself, I can say that cooking is one “sacred” delight we are most thrilled to share with you men.
So yes, I can handle men in the spa, the kitchen, and may even be swayed to accept the male lactation specialist as the new norm, but there is one female-given right, one sacred privilege, that I cannot bring myself to share.
While the boys spent the afternoon with Dad, I found a few moments to steal away and hit the mall. Once I recovered from the pure joy of being able to bypass the race car double strollers at Mall Services and the relief of not having to avoid the entire Toys ‘R’ Us area at all costs, I set out to get some serious business done—bra and underwear shopping.
I can tell you from experience that this is not the kind of outing you can do with three-year-old twin boys. While keeping one from toppling the scantily-clad mannequin, the other one has already slipped on a lacy double-D black bra and announced to the whole store that he has “boobies.” Imagine my delight when I not only get to peruse the entire store uninterrupted but I also have an entire change room to myself with no need for the constant reminder to stop peering at the woman in the room next door. Oh, this is bliss!
As I entered the store, I immediately came upon a mountain of panties. You know the one ladies. Separated by size in clear bins and overflowing with luxurious lace and comfy cotton. I looked at the sign, expecting the usual three for $25 or maybe even five for $25, but was ecstatic to see ten for $25! This day just keeps getting better and better. I bellied up to the table, ready for the pursuit.
And then it happened.
With underwear already dangling from both my arms like medals for the Frugal Shopping Olympics, I saw him … eyes down, hands in his pockets, following about 3 feet behind his wife. Oh, how badly he wants to be in that store … and yet how badly he wants to get out as soon as possible.
He is suffering from the Panty Plague.
You see, there are only a few types of men in lingerie stores:
- The boys who waddle behind their girlfriends like little puppies on a leash, ready to do any trick necessary to get their treat
- The reluctant and disappointed hubbies—there only to distract the children so mommy can buy every tan, taupe and body-neutral piece of underwear in stock
- The men buying gifts, in and out so quickly that you’re sure the clothing on the racks are swinging as they race by
But stereotypes aside, they all have one thing in common—they’re looking for the flannel. Their eyes dart around the store as each lacy bra, half-clad poster model and hanging bustier is added to their already overflowing visual Rolodex. The visual Rolodex of images permanently burned into their minds whether they like it or not. These men are not looking for flannel to buy, they’re looking for flannel because it’s safe.
I see the poor guy, exhibiting all the usual symptoms of the Panty Plague, and can’t help but think he is visualizing every woman in the store wearing the very thing she is carrying, touching, or even looking at. And there I am, smack dab in front of him, with a dozen pairs of dental floss panties dangling from my arms. Great.
So, move over female lactation nurse and bring on the male day spas, but this is one sacred experience I would rather not share with just anyone…