Thursday, July 29, 2010

Why there’s purple underwear drying on my porch

I died last night.

Wait – I mean I dyed last night.

If you’re female and you’re in possession of boobies, you’re aware that white bras get dingy fast. Even before the elastic is shot and the underwire is stabbing you between the ribs, white bras can take on the hue of a dishrag that’s been tied to the ankle of a mule for three days.

If you’re the sort of person who doesn’t care about such things, I envy you. Really, I do.

Alas, I’ve been neurotic about my undergarments for as long as I’ve been wearing them. Not only must they be pretty and presentable, but bras and underwear must match. Always. You know that moment when you’re changing from one bra to another, and for the briefest moment, you’re wearing red panties and a black bra?

I hate that moment. I hate it more than fingernails on a chalkboard.

My friend Larie believes this is a form of mental illness, and she’s probably right. Nevertheless, I recently reached a point where – despite my most gentle laundering efforts – several beloved white unmentionables had turned an unfortunate shade of pale gray.

This was not acceptable.

I went out and bought a packet of purple dye, rounded up the assortment of grayish underthings, and got to work.

Pythagoras found me on the front porch using a kitchen spoon to stir a bucket of hot purple water.

“Do I want to know what you’re doing?” he asked.

“Probably not,” I admitted, “but I’m hoping you’ll appreciate the end result.”

All this effort to turn something old into something with a little more pizzazz – it’s a bit like what writers do every day.

Though I like to think my romantic comedies are quirky and unique, I’m pretty much just telling the same story every romance author tells – boy meets girl, they encounter some obstacles, they fall in love, and live happily ever after. Having my characters play strip-Battleship on a dysfunctional pirate ship doesn’t change the fact that the story itself has been told before.

I’m OK with that. There’s a lot of pressure on authors these days to come up with something “high concept,” something new and special that’s never been done before. But there really are no new stories. There are just unique ways of telling the old ones. Mastering the ability to do that is a big part of honing your craft as a writer.

Do you do anything special to transform your dingy gray story ideas into sassy purple panties? Or if you aren’t a writer, do you know where I might be able to get help for my hang-up with the matching underwear?

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the purple underthings turned out lovely. There are a few funny spots where the elastic turned a different shade than the rest of the fabric, but the overall effect is quite fetching.

I emerged from the closet this morning to find Pythagoras trying to use X-ray vision to see through my clothes.

“Are you wearing the purple stuff?” he asked.

I gave him a coy smile. “A lady never tells.”

“Right. So are you wearing the purple stuff?”


~Jamie said...

haha that is why I NEVER buy white.

EVER.... Like, I barely even buy white shirts--I just hate how fast it gets grossness!

Sierra said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only person who needs underthings to match. If my bra matches the lace trim on the underwear, I'm okay. Buying underwear with patterns means I can mix it up a bit more. I may take it a step further, though - the colors of my underthings must go with whatever clothes I'm wearing. It's sad, I know.

On the writer front, I'm still working on it. I'll let you know when I figure it out.

Anonymous said...

So you're not a Hanes Her Way 7 pack for $6.99 at the Tarjay checkout? That's fine, that's fine. Only one of us can bring sexy back! It's all how you wear it, Tawna. I dare you!

muffintopmommy said...

Um, I didn't meant to post that comment anonymously! I'm proud of my multicolored Hanes Her Way!! :)

Izzy G. said...

I never buy white anything. This saves me from having to buy purple dye :D

Terry said...

I equate grayness with boredom. When I'm bored with my story line I quit writing...BAD!! So I go back to one of the first things I learned about writing. When you get a good idea keep asking "but what if" until it's a great idea. So if I'm bored it wasn't even a good idea! But that technique even works on a bad idea!!
On a side note, anyone every pay to be in a writers group?

Patty Blount said...

What a great analogy!

I share the same mental illness. Undies. Must. Match. I suspect it began from my mother drilling her version of that old chestnut into my head... "If you're hit by a car, do you want the emergency room staff seeing... this?"

I had a wardrobe malfunction at work once... Underwire escape and attacked. There was blood. Luckily, I work with some techie guys who have tools I can steal um...borrow. Yeah, borrow. A pair of plyers and a bathroom stall and I emerged under-wire free... and slightly um... lower to the ground.

Transforming my dingy gray story into a sassy purple one is EXACTLY what lead to a complete meltdown last week, during which I'd convinced myself selling hotdogs on a street corner was actually my calling. I keep falling into the trap of trying to make it all perfect as it comes out of my head...

Maybe, if I wait for the words to go from bright white to dingy gray, I'll be less frustrated. Then I can make 'em all purple and red and add polka dots... and lace, yeah. Lace.

Linda G. said...

I buy all my under-things in a dingy gray to begin with. That way I never suffer from lingerie letdown. ;)

(Okay, not really. But I never buy white. I usually buy "nude," because I like to tell TG I'm "nude" under my clothes. Poor guy still falls for it and checks everytime. Silly man.)

Penelope said...

Wow, what a lucky husband! My bra and underwear rarely match. Maybe one of these days :)

Anne R. Allen said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one! I've been dying my dingy underwear since college, when I'd get purple or turquoise or kelly green dye all over the communal bathroom and infuriate my dorm mates. But I HAD to. I'm allergic to gray underwear. With me, the pieces don't have to match, but they have to be interesting.

And now that I think about it, my romantic comedies may suffer from that. Kelly green with purple is probably too quirky for most people.

Anonymous said...

Tawna and Linda. You two! Crack me up ;)

abby mumford said...

this is a really great analogy! it's true though - there really aren't any new stories, just new ways to make them sparkle, umm, purple.

and i'm with linda. i buy the nude shade instead of white.

Steph Schmidt said...

With all the modern chemists coming up with magic whatever you'd think they'd have something to wash a bra with and get rid of the ick. My favorite bra just became that nrr gray state but I don't know if Victoria Secret will dye nicely.

Expat mum said...

It gets easier and easier to let go of the underwear thing. Mine are now all a matching gray and I've never been happier. Of course, they're so old they don't actually hold anything up but they match.


Jamie, unfortunately, white happens to be Pythag's favorite color for unmentionables (though he was rather fond of the purple).

Sierra, I can only rarely bring myself to do the matching pattern/color thing. I'm so neurotic about it that the freakin' lace pattern has to match on things. See what I mean about mental illness.

muffintopmommy, I definitely don't judge other women who dig the Hanes special -- I just can't bring myself to do it. I'm not joking when I say I envy you, but I really do almost break out in hives if I fail to match for even a second.

Izzy, I do see the appeal. Maybe I should trade my white-loving husband for a different model?

Terry, are you talking about paying to be in a writers' group like Romance Writers of America (RWA) or Sisters in Crime (SINC)? If that's what you mean, I think it's a great idea and worth the money. If you're talking about a regular old critique, I guess I'd want to know what the money is for. Are you buying wine & snacks for the meetings? Paying membership dues that fund the group's connection to a larger organization? That I might get, but just paying for the privilege of "belonging" to a group? That seems suspicious to me. Others might have a different take though.

Patty, OK, now you MUST blog about the underwire failure! Too funny!

LindaG, that's the great thing about husbands -- they fall for the same tricks every single time :)

Penelope, the funny thing is, I don't think my husband cares all that much. He appreciates the aesthetic for sure, but if I suddenly stopped doing it, I'm not sure he'd care.

Anne, kelly green with purple sounds just BEAUTIFUL to me!

Suz, well, Linda & I live to crack you up :)

Abby, I do have a number of "nude" items lying around, and you're right -- they don't seem to get dingy as quickly.

SM Schmidt, I think there were a couple panties from Victoria's Secret in the batch I dyed last night, and all went well. The only thing that got a little wonky is the elastic on a few things, but it actually looks kinda cool -- like piping around the edges that's intentionally a couple shades lighter. Give it a shot if the bra is really on its way out. The dye is only a couple bucks.

Expat Mum, alas, I don't think I'll ever let go of the matching thing. I've been wearing bras since age 10, and I'm almost 36 now, and if anything I'm getting WORSE about needing everything to match. I have at least let go of my need to have a million different colors/patterns to pick from, and I have a lot more basics (white, black, nude, red) that I can mix and match. That's progress, right?

Thanks for reading, guys!

Kadi Easley said...

I've always dreamed of having matching underwear. Unfortunately covering the kids so they didn't have to run around naked used up any spare undergarment money, and by the time they were grown, it just didn't seem that important anymore. If I win the lottery, I promise myself my undies will all match. My oldest son says if he wins the lottery, he'll never wear a pair of socks more than once. He Looooves virgin socks.

middle child said...

First of sll,...white? No-No-No. Beige is best under anything light colored. And red panties with a black bra is HOT-HOT-HOT!!!!!!!

Kelly Breakey said...

I really hate the idea there are no new stories but I get your meaning. What I love about writing and reading for that matter is even though I know deep down that the characters will get together you still wonder and isn't that, that moment of hmmmm, that makes it all worth while.

Now we are all wondering if you are wearing the purple stuff. Come on you can tell us, we won't spill the beans. Promise. Pinky, er Purply swear!

Elizabeth McKenzie said...

Is it any sicker to insist on matching underwear than to, say, have designated underwear. I have underwear I only wear to bed, never, never out in public.

I may have to blog about this someday. I'll let your's die down first so it will be new news when I blog about it. lol.

I love your blog.

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

The whole post was genius as usual, but the last few lines friggin' rocked!

And, yes, I'm w/you. Tops and bottoms MUST match, at least to some degree. If I win the lottery, I'll run out and buy sexy, expensive, matching lingerie, but until then, a pink bra must be paired with panties that have, at least, some pink in them. TMI? Probably. But isn't that what your blog is all about? Yup, I thought so. *hugstoyoumyfriend*

Terry Stonecrop said...

I'm an underwear fusspot too. But I wear only white or black, and I admit I like lacy.

Here's a tip. I have a sink (a plastic tub would work) in my laundry room, I fill with cold water and non-chlorine bleach, lots. Toss my white bras and cami tops in at the end of the day. By the end of the week, I toss them all in the wash. I dry them on hangers in the laudry room. They stay nice and white.

But I must admit those purple ones sound pretty. You should have showed us a pic:)

Oh, my story? Stories aren't as important as bras and panties, really, are they? ~ Heloise:)

Anonymous said...

LOL I love the conversations between you and your husband.

Lily said...

I LOVE WHITE! I feel so clean and fresh when I am wearing my "whities", but alas, you are so right. That vibrant shade turns nasty so quickly and it drives me crazy! I never thought to dye them another color! I might have to try that! I don't really freak out if my tops don't match the bottoms, but I do feel a little extra zing when they do match ;)

Katt said...

The best part is the picture of the kitty litter bucket!

Yup, I've been dying my underwear for what seems like a hundred years, my underwear drawer reflects my color changes over the years.
Problem for me is that I cant' resist dropping in everything else that will fit, inculding towels.

And yes, I must be doing this in my writing - sort of. When I hit boring and saggy, I go back and read that bright shiny chapter one and feel revived, like dingy old underwear in a bucket of dye.

Deborah Small said...

LOL! I can honestly say matching under things is not an issue for me. I just go comman--er--lovely purple panties you dyed there. *g*

I try to write from my character's hearts, and from that, I pray they help make an old story new again. *s*


Unknown said...

My way to spice up my stories is to somewhere along the way pick up a cliché and twist it. You don't need much to make it feel new.

Another thing I do that is tied into that is to give my characters some sort of odd personality trait. My new character will be unable to wear mismatched underwear.

Christi Goddard said...

Wait... people still wear underwear? I must have missed the memo...


kd easley, your whole family will look magnificent in matching socks and underwear!

middle child, will keep this in mind with the black/red combo. *shudder* nope, sorry, just can't do it. IT DOESN'T MATCH!! AAAAARRRGH!

Kelly, are you implying I'm not a lady and that I WOULD, in fact, tell? Hmph.

Elizabeth, ooh, I know what you mean! I used to have "workout underwear" that only went with the jog bras. Then I stopped doing physical activity that required jostling. Problem solved!

Debra, I'm with you on setting aside a few bucks from my future bestselling royalties to buy expensive undies :)

Terry, I'm totally going to try that with the bleach. It doesn't turn things yellow? Thanks for the tip!

Posey, I sometimes wonder if people assume I just make up the conversations with my husband. I am not talented enough to make that stuff up!

Lily, I'm with you, there's something pretty and virginal about white. Hey, why are you all snickering?

Katt, I wondered if anyone would notice the kitty litter bucket! Didn't want to mess up any of the GOOD buckets. We're classy around here.

Deborah, I will never look at your avatar now without thinking COMMANDO!

Malin, amen on the twisted cliches! That's one of my very favorite things to do.

Christi, don't worry, underwear is optional for all novelists. You're just fine!

Thanks for reading, guys!

Terry Stonecrop said...

Tawna, Just be sure it's the powdered NON-chlorine bleach. And it won't yellow.

Or at least it hasn't happened to me. (Always couch, as my lawyer says:)

Janet Reid said...

Wait, am I the only one who wonders why there are no pictures of the purple FenskeFrolics?

I mean, rilly now. SHOW don't tell is the writer's motto.