MK ( / South Africa)

No Panty Line Guaranteed!

When I was in Grade 3 or 4, my sisters and I would play a game picking out which of our schoolmates hadn’t washed properly. This wasn’t difficult as the identifying factor was what my late mother had called a ‘high water mark’ and was the sign of a family ‘so terribly, terribly poor that they can’t even afford a little soap and water.’

My mother was a very kind person when we were clean. When we readied ourselves for school in the morning and her inspection revealed that WE had high water marks, we were told that ‘nobody was ever so poor that they couldn’t afford a little soap and water.’

The name ‘high water mark’ presents as an irregular shaped sandy-coloured line, something like the foamy patterns left on the sea-sand as the waves wash in and out with the tide. On someone’s face, the line appears somewhere behind the ears and snakes up and down and alongside the chin, cheeks and neck.

We saw it in many of our peers and more commonly on the faces
of the boys who were well known for their dislike of water. We could never understand how they thought nobody could see behind their ears. To be fair, there were times when one or even all of us escaped mother’s net only to be sent home from school to wash our necks, much to her deep mortification.

It wasn’t as though anyone sported a high water mark on purpose but it was quite the norm back then for large families to share just one bathful of water which was all that could be obtained from the small coal stove in the kitchen. The water grew cold very quickly as one after the other we dunked and dived, in and out, as fast as we could.There was always someone yelling to use the toilet or brush their teeth.Time was of the essence and did not allow for long, luxurious baths in which necks could be well scrubbed and faces washed to look like gleaming red apple cheeks.

In what seems to be at least a hundred years later, we are now faced with the possibility that those who had worn their high water marks with nonchalance have now become parents of a new generation of line-watcher. This time round, the line has nothing to do with either the sea or one’s neck but everything to do with one’s underwear.

The elimination of all visible lines has resulted in underwear designers doing their collective nuts, devising all manner of garments calculated to obliviate all signs that the wearer is wearing anything between their skin and their trousers.

Sometimes a lone soul in a highly stressed state may be seen pushing and shoving through busy streets, even knocking others down in their haste to get home. It is easy to assume that someone must’ve told them their panty-line was showing.

Without doubt, the main objective in a trouser-wearer’s life is the attainment of smooth, unlined, unmarked thighs. Orange peel skin is a big no-no. Nobody would ever dream of laying a good carpet on a crumpled underfelt.

To achieve the long, smooth look, one needs to subject oneself to all manner of indignities, the worst of which is the plastic ‘broeks’ that are worn all day or, at least, until you sweat not only the small stuff but the other stuff as well.

Then there is the creaming process, where much time is spent smoothing on every anti-cellulite cream on the market and beating the hell out of oneself, as long as it guarantees tight, smooth thighs and buns. In reality, all that happens is that one develops very strong arms and well-toned hands.

With the relentless passing of the years, it is inevitable that I have joined the ranks of the media in keeping a sharp look-out for panty-lines.

I seek them here, I seek them there. I study the jean and chino brigade for the slightest sign of a line and when I see one, I become hot and sweaty. I want to rush up and tell their owner that there are special undergarments available to avoid all traces of a line but am forced to stop as I cannot bring myself to speak of these ‘things.’ Or did I say strings? Hmph! A rose by any other name? I doubt they would smell as sweet under any condition. Or trousers. I mean who, in their right mind, would knowingly suffer anal strangulation in the name of ‘no line revealed? ’

Bellymark television ads teach me many things and there is even a pair of long leg pull-me push-you pants available to wear under skirts or trousers. The strong criss-cross reinforced webbing under the buttocks ensures that without lifting a finger you are shaped and smoothed as you walk. Bend and lift. Smooth and tone.

The fact that these passion killers cost the earth only compounds the issue as I ponder what one is supposed to do when this hard-earned pair of shapers has to be washed? More than one pair is cost prohibitive, I would imagine, which leaves only one alternative. Go starkers. No panty-line guaranteed.

by Margaret Kollmer

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