The Feminist Funderwear Party
Jane Doe, the author of this post, is not the name of any actual person. Jane Doe is an anonymous account under which women can feel free to share stories they normally would not feel comfortable sharing publicly. For more information read “Who is Jane Doe?”
“You’re inviting me to a Funderwear Party?” I asked my female friend again with a nervous laugh, doubting I had heard right.
I’d never heard of such a thing. Was this a code word for a swinger’s underground party? I was an adventurous person but I did not roll that way.
“Yes, it’s a FUN underwear party, hence the name Funderwear. We will enjoy lounging in our underwear for the entire party; talk, drink wine and watch a movie. It’s very freeing. By the way, could you bring that great Comstock gay porno you bought? That can be the movie. Only women will be present…oh wait, my gay friend John might come by later. He can take his shirt off or something if he feels over dressed,” her look of hopeful understanding and anticipation made me question why I did not immediately say yes to spending time with other women in just my underwear.
Well firstly, I wasn’t sure I had a nice bra and underwear set that I’d want to show anyone else. The last nice set I’d bought was when I’d had a boyfriend. Some women will actually wear lingerie, that uncomfortable, flimsy, scratchy excuse for undergarments, but only for a lover. Did I even know where the beast was? So if I said yes, I would have to go shopping and care if the top matched the bottoms.
Secondly, I have to admit at heart I’m a nudist in the privacy of my own home but the idea of hanging out with a group of women, most of which I do not know and outside of the usual gym locker room setting, seemed disconcerting at first.
Would the shades be drawn? Would her new husband be home? And if he was, would he be blindfolded? What if we ordered pizza and we all had to hide when the delivery guy showed up? I had so many questions and concerns, none that had anything to do with wearing only underwear in front of seven strangers.
Then my friend tried to sweeten the deal. “It’s great for a women’s body image. That is something I’m working on right now; learning to love and accept my changing body. So will you go? It would mean a lot to me to have you there.”
I knew my girlfriend had been going through some tough medical changes and I felt for her. She had lost a ton of weight then suddenly gained some back in weird places. Most of her clothes didn’t fit and I’d helped her by telling her when something didn’t fit her new figure right. And if she said she was “working on it” she was and would make major decisions and executed them fearlessly. I admired her greatly for that as she made the life she wanted and not just talk about it the way I did.
I shoved my feelings of trepidation deep down to join all the other doubts about what in the world I was getting myself into and made the daring choice. “Yes,” I said wondering how late Lane Bryant stayed open on a weeknight. “What should I bring to the party?”
“Maybe some wine, the porno, yourself and your underwear,” My friend gave me her infectious cheery smile, bolstering my own feelings of doubt. “I’ll make the snacks.”
I got used to the idea over the next couple of days. Once I got on board fully I became excited for this new and unusual experience.
Perhaps it would be a fantastic chance to be at ease in my own skin. I did worry that it would be a bitch-about-your-body fest. Would each person apologize profusely for their bodies short comings as if they could change their genetics?
I know most women, whether fit, thin, average or heavy, have terrible hang-ups about their bodies. Focusing in on one aspect or another they only see a myopic picture. Thicker thighs, wiggly under arms or slightly rounded stomach are fan favorites. Some worry about their smaller breasts being compared to other women’s fuller cup size, making harsh self deprecating jokes about fried eggs and mosquito bites or crowing about not having to wear a bra. So many fret over the few extra pounds they carry through their middles or butt and the cellulite on the back of their legs to the point of obsessing over it. They don’t realize that all women are prone to have cellulite as a fat storing mechanism for harsh times, just as nature intended.
Maturity does not cure this dimorphic body image, and the prevailing image of teenage model’s and twenty-five-something’s with eating disorders shown in the media compounds the problem. No one over twenty five years old can hope to measure up to those looks. Older woman are no better when it comes to talking of bygone days and what time has done to wrinkle, sag and droop their bodies. Although many older women do take on a more practical view of the body they have lived with for so long they will still say self abusive comments as jokes to their friends. They compare the waddle of a chin, the wiggle of an underarm and don’t appreciate the good health, mobility and enjoyment in life to be had. That is not enough. They want perfection.
I’m not young, thin or elderly. I’m middle aged, fat and have learned to accept my body as is. No trade-ins allowed on this model. Due to a metabolic syndrome I’ve steadily gained weight most of my adult life, regardless of my activity level and eating habits. I’m active. I work out and eat right and if I didn’t my doctor said I’d weigh five hundred pounds. Knowing that you have zero control over what your body is doing can be a bit freeing. I’ll never have a thin body but I do want a strong, healthy one that I can depend on to get me around pain free and for a long time.
Despite what most would see as a living hell, I’ve never been ashamed of my body. I’ve always been taller and bigger than other women and some men around me. In my early thirties I also adopted the attitude, if you don’t like what you see then you don’t like me for me. I don’t need body critical people like that as friends and they soon are out of my life. When I’ve seen much thinner, toned and in better shape friends of mine wax on about the size of their butts or moan in despair over the barely their “muffin top” bump above their waistband, it frustrates me. Why aren’t they happy with what they have? I guess not everyone learns to be OK in the body they have. At least that is what I kept telling myself.
I’m fine with this. I don’t care what other women think. They won’t point and ridicule me for being twice their size. I’ll have some good comebacks if they start talking about losing weight and changing my diet from the cakes and cookies they assume I live on.
All the doubts and fears and self recriminations I have worked through over the years came back to chisel away at my body image, creating a growing unease with my choice of accepting the Funderwear Party invitation.
So I went shopping, an activity I abhor, and was now prepared. I did not want underwear overtly sexy or too flashy. It had been difficult finding a nice black satin set in 42DDD bra and size 26W underwear with no see through mesh back, peek-a-boo cutaways and scratchy lace or in a rainbow selection of sickening pastel colors. I went all out. I shaved my legs, usually a three times a year event, my underarms and waxed my bikini area, a once a year event or mainly when I had a boyfriend which I did not have at the moment. I applied body perfume and a liberally used antiperspirant deodorant under the arms and under my breasts and in the crease of my thighs and in the “chafe” area where my thighs rub together, to keep me dry. Finally I felt fully armored for an underwear war campaign.
My friend had called to inform me that she would be pumping the heat up in the apartment so some of the thinner freeze-babies would be comfortable. I’m the antithesis of a freeze-baby. I thought of bringing an ice pack to keep me cool. It was November in the Miwest; perhaps I could just run outside and do a snow angel in the snow bank if I got over heated.
When I arrived at the Funderwear Party the hostess let me in the front of the building wearing her bright white underwear set, making me a bit nervous as she ran back down the hall of her building to her apartment.
I held my breath; sure that one of her neighbors would pop their head out into the hall and ask me why a woman was gallivanting around in her skivvies. Luckily everyone else still wore clothes. I made sure to not be late, fearing I’d walk in on everyone half naked even though that is what we were going to do for the rest of the evening. Still the idea of opening the door to a room full of scantily clad people had weirded me out.
The small apartment felt toasty warm and all sitting areas were covered in bed sheets including one on the floor in front of the main couch. Our hostess stood proudly in the middle of the living room in her underwear, flushed from her run down the hall and told us that the sheets on the couches and chairs felt better on naked skin than the sturdy, scratchy upholstery fabric. I took her word for it. At least her couches weren’t leather. With the heat pumped up I imagined being peeled off the furniture like forgotten gum.
After setting out the food, uncorking the wine and setting our glasses down in our spots everyone took turns undressing in the kitchen and making a grand entrance in a runway model fashion. The ladies cheered on each new arrival and some chose to go only sans shirt or pants or both.
The ladies all had unique body types, weights and skin tones. We all found ourselves really studying each other and finding something beautiful about each woman.
As women will do we complimented each other on our nice or in my case brand new underwear. Some were serviceable white and others reflected the colorful person’s tastes in lace and bow. I particularly like one silent and demure woman’s skull and crossbones set in red satin. Watch out for the quiet ones, I thought.
The hostess started the conversation off with what she liked about her changing body. “No matter how my body changes I still have strong legs. They can walk me for miles wherever I need or want to go,” she grinned happily and passed the talking torch to the next woman.
I’d never really been thankful for my legs. They did have to haul me around everywhere with added weight. I needed to learn to appreciate them. I gave each broad thigh and round knee a pat.
“I’ve always been super thin and have to eat constantly to keep up my weight,” said the next woman then looked down at her loose fitting jeans gaping away from her narrow waist. “I’m lucky I can wear almost any style of clothes I want and they look good on me.” Shyly she looked to the woman on her right.
I had never thought of the problems that come with being too thin, the opposite of my own problem. I gained weight without trying and she lost weight while trying to keep it. Two sides of the same body coin.
One smiling and vivacious lady bounced up off the couch and cupped her breasts, offering her favorite body part, “I like my boobs. They are my best feature.” Indeed she had lovely ones.
I hadn’t really thought much about my large breasts. They were just there. They had been in the way when I had played basket ball in my youth and now had grown into much larger impediments preventing me from ever successfully swinging a golf club. I didn’t love them like this younger lady but I didn’t hate them either. I tolerated the boulders on my front.
A tall, thin, solemn faced woman stood in uncomfortable silence a second before blurting out, “I have perfect feet,” she then wiggled her toes showing a nice pedicure in neon green. Then she smiled for the first time that evening.
I looked at my feet. I guess I’d always liked my feet too. They looked just like my mother’s; wide, sturdy and with a high arch.
An Amazon with wide, muscled swimmers shoulders was the next up as I set my more rounded ones against the sheet covered couch. “I like that my arms and legs can move me through the water like a fish.” She posed and popped her amazing guns. “My body is a fucking tool!”
We all hooted and hollered encouragement of her showing off her powerful body.
Each woman’s commentary on a favorite part of her body made me continue to reflect on my own. Of course there were ribald jokes and friendly teasing among many of the ladies whom were close friends. I sat back and enjoyed the feminine energy in the room. There is something soothing about not worrying what other women think of your outfit or hair, jewelry or nails when you are not in peacock mode. We were all on a level playing field, stripped down to our essentials and finding them beautiful.
This Funderwear Party certainly hadn’t devolved into a teenage boy’s dream of what women do when they get together in very scanty clothing. There were no pillow fights or talking about our personal relationships outside of a few body issues some experiences with a lover.
But we did talk about sex as women often do. Watching the porno helped with that. We had a healthy and diverse conversation that both enlightened me and at times became downright funny. Many had unique perspectives and orientations, queer, hetero, transgender and asexual.
When all eyes turned to me my stage fright kicked into high gear. I hauled myself off the couch with not an ounce if grace and struck an exaggerated fashion pose; hands on hips, front leg out, chest and head thrown out and back. For a scary moment my mind went blank. What did I love about my body? When had my body been there for me?
A lifetime of being in this body flashed through my mind. Me as a skinny, wild tomboy often likened to Pippi Longstocking for my ability to climb anything and everything. I fondly remember the unthinking use of my limbs to run and bike in full tilt abandon. The accepted strength and uncanny balance I had as I walked along wooden fence tops and perched on garage roof tops. As I grew up I lifted, played and carted around my numerous younger siblings. I spent my teen years living and breathing school basketball and worked long, hot, brutal hours during the summers on a farm north of the city I grew up in.
A remembered a mad scramble to safety from a lighting storm at a summer babysitting job, carrying a kid on my back and one under each arm up a muddy bank into the woods, leaving the metal canoe’s to drift away. The long trek back to camp and the relieved look on those kid’s parents face when we showed up alive. More recently, the feel of my niece cushioning her cheek on my fat arm and little skinny nephew snuggled on my soft lap as we watched a kids show. My sister saying her firecracker kids never sat still like they did with me.
Through all that this body has been there with me through the hardship and battles.
“I like that no matter what my body has been through it hasn’t failed me yet. It’s strong enough to survive, yet soft enough to comfort someone in my arms.” I knew my words were general but couldn’t pick just one aspect about my body that I liked more.
“What body part to you like the most,” My friend demanded.
I looked down at my capable hands that had been along for the roller coaster ride that my life has been and appreciated them, too short fingers, small scars and all. They had delicately applied paint to a canvas. Bleed when I poked them while sewing on a Halloween costume late at night. They fed ice chips to my little brother’s dry mouth as he silently suffered through the after affects of chemo therapy. I let a small private smile cross my face and looked up at my good friend and seven strangers I hoped would turn into lasting friendships too and said, “I love my hands and how they can comfort others when my words don’t.”
Taking my seat again on the sheet covered couch I gulped a glass of wine as several ladies commented that I had great curves and they loved that I didn’t voice dissatisfaction with it.
After the thrill of trepidation went through me as I stood in front of everyone in my underwear, a larger wave of relief and power flowed over me.
We were all powerful, beautiful women, each with unique features that we rarely appreciated in ourselves. There is not a perfect female body out there in the world to live up to. Genetics, life experiences, illness, maturity and hormones affect our exterior package.
Revel in what you appreciate about your fellow traveler through your life. Nourish it not just with food, activity and beauty products. Feed your good body image with words of support, understanding and acceptance.
When you find yourself criticizing your own body or others, stop yourself and analyze it. Am I giving this work of natural art that I live in its due?
And if you want to promote or celebrate other critical or unsure women in your life throw a Funderwear Party. You’ll be surprised at how rejuvenated and confident you’ll feel after you put your clothes back on and go home to go look in your bedroom mirror.
Hopefully you’ll learn to take in the view of yourself in all its big, small, flat, thin, curved, dark, light, bumpy and tight glory and think, “I like my body as it is.”
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