February 9, 2010

No-Frills Valentine’s Day

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Where December brings presents and January brings the New Year, mid-February brings anxiety over how a female singleton can properly celebrate and dress for this day of “romantic” connection. In my more youthful, optimistic days (pre-1997), Valentine’s Day was a strict dress code of headbands plastered with large glittery hearts and red knit sweaters from the GAP. Clad in various shades of red and pink, I would unabashedly distribute hand-crafted valentines to various boys, increasing my prospects of a promising future. Lately though, Valentine’s Day has somehow morphed into an odd day of mourning for many single ladies who no longer prance around classrooms putting valentines in boys’ desks or receive delectable presents if they are not officially with someone. And so, while some come to school with sugarplum visions of debuting lingerie hopefully not purchased from Frederick’s of Hollywood, many either acknowledge this day by banding together to drink excessively and gorge on some form of refined carbohydrate, or vengefully dress to claim men at bars.

Even with St. Valentine and his legacy long gone, the American traditions of drugstore purchased chocolates and mind-boggling lingerie have only become more reinforced. There is that scene in Bridget Jones’s Diary, where Hugh Grant amusingly discovers part of Renee Zellwegger’s sly attraction is the colossal granny panties that hold her stomach in, and though they consummate their lust for each other, the incident is quite telling that what lies beneath counts as much as what you cover it with.

A friend who recently talked about her boyfriend’s desire for glow in the dark lingerie, corsets and garter belts oddly brought me back to the day I got my first bra. It was a year-long battle with my mother, marked by strategic rebuttals and insistencies that I was in dire need of an undergarment that was not so much for supporting my undeveloped breasts, but rather my ego as one of the first sixth graders to possess this sacred symbol of maturity and blossoming womanhood. Searching the endless racks of “training bras,” I imagined this new stage of my life to be subtly revolutionary; as sole owner of this newly acquired accoutrement, I assumed the status of a mythical creature: part girl, part woman. And the next day, as I debuted my “brassiere,” I gained a quiet, newfound respect from my peers.

Fast forward about 10 years and sadly only a cup and a half bigger, nothing much has changed. The thing about bras and lingerie is that the very essence of the undergarment thrives off of its existence as an invisible veil of confidence. This I learned in the complex hierarchical politics of the girls’ locker room. Suddenly, the bra and underwear became not only sign, but signifier and signified: a beige bra with no details meant no one saw this but yourself, a red bra meant you were obviously interested in not keeping it on, a black bra was the ultimate indicator that you were no longer a virgin, and a glow in the dark bra…well, really didn’t deserve an explanation.

The advent of February ushers in a mass of articles and television specials that falsely remind young females that hopefully they are only still single because their aggressive intelligence, sharp wit and striking looks are too intimidating for the lack of qualified bachelors in this world. A recent New York Times article, “The New Math on Campus” (February 5th, 2010), sympathetically observes the social repercussions of a scarce, unqualified male population in schools such as the University of North Carolina and Fordham University, where girls have become more desperate and hence more lenient in the ways boys woo them. As the students who were interviewed tellingly confessed, text messages or responses to Facebook posts were reason enough to go home with a boy, let alone be a good gauge of how much he liked you. Continuing to read the article with my head in my hands (because it all sounded so familiar), I could not help but be struck by one line in particular where they revealed the single female’s supposed worst nightmare was being “left alone on Valentine’s Day, staring down a George Clooney movie over a half-empty pizza box.” I suppose it was much easier to gain a mate a while back for this special day; some have told me in ancient English villages, all it took was picking one’s name out of a lottery to be assigned to someone to date, and I can only fantasize that as long as one had all body limbs intact and did not have syphilis, they were a desirable individual to many.

But as much as love, lingerie, fluff, et al. are attached to this holiday, the plan for myself to most likely devour pizza and watch a rom-com this weekend with my girlfriends is actually quite appealing. Lover or no lover, I have found peace with the fact that the lingerie I buy these days is for myself— no more ridiculous undergarments that confuse even me how to put on and others to take off- I have acquired a penchant for lacy boy shorts over the barely qualified thongs I used to wear when I first started college. And it has translated to a newfound confidence in how I appear to others; with my demi-cut bra and lace briefs, I go out each day with a little more confidence, a little less effort in how I look, and a little more area that is covering my ass.

Original Author: Courtney Jiyun Song