BY MIA FREEDMAN
So I bought these undies. Look, it was bound to happen, me telling you about my underwear in this column. It’s actually surprising I waited this long but it’s been over a month now so I think we can officially dispense with the formalities. I promise to keep it SFW: Safe For Weekends.
A while back, I had a weekend sick in bed (not to be confused with a ‘sick weekend in bed’ which is how someone under 25 might describe the first 48hours of a new relationship). To pass the time, I did some online shopping at Victoria’s Secret where I bought half a dozen pairs of brightly coloured knickers.= display_ad('x18', 'hidden-xs hidden-md mm_incontent', 'MM In Content'); ?>= display_ad('x20', 'visible-xs mm_mob_incontent', 'MM In Content (Mobile)'); ?>
By the time they arrived a few weeks later, I was no longer feverish and had totally forgotten buying them. After several confusing moments wondering who’d sent me undies at work, I remembered it was me and excitedly inspected my new purchase.
Fortunately, I don’t work in law, finance, education or politics so I’m able to wave my underpants about my office and at first glance it seemed I’d bought well. One pair had a cute pineapple print on them. Another pair was a cheery shade of fluro orange.
[Is anyone still reading? I promise this goes somewhere].
“Look” I said to my colleagues, “aren’t they cute?” But as I held them out in front of me for show and tell, I inhaled sharply.
Because the pair of undies with the pineapple print? On the back were the words “TAKE A BITE” in giant glittery black letters . And the orange knickers had “I LIKE IT HOT” printed in equally shouty font across the bum.
Oh no. Rookie error. So now what to do? Because sure, while they weren’t actually crotchless or edible, I would never have knowingly bought sexually suggestive underwear.
Reading that sentence back, I suddenly feel about 85.
The thing is though, I have children, one of whom just started to read. Another is a teenager. And I don’t think their mental health will be enhanced by Mummy announcing that she likes it hot and asking to be bitten on the arse. There’s only so much therapy available in the world and any child of mine will already have a lot of it to look forward to. ‘Sorry-about-that-time-I–forgot-to-pick-you-up-from-school’ etc.
With the offending undies shoved in a drawer, I realised they symbolise a rarely discussed issue: how do you reconcile the duelling identities of mother and woman? A woman who might like to wear raunchy knickers, have sex on the kitchen table or sext the new guy she’s dating.
As many parents have discovered, once your children are mobile, sexual activity of any kind becomes challenging. Babies are born with an in-built sonar to detect any parental stirrings and interrupt them immediately so as to reduce the likelihood of siblings.
It’s difficult enough when you’re trying to sleep with the co-parent of your children but if you’re a single parent who’s dating, you need to fasten your seatbelt.
One of my girlfriends started seeing a new guy last year. Six months in, she still wasn’t ready to introduce him to her three year-old daughter so he was only allowed to visit late at night. This worked well until the little girl had a bad dream and walked in on my friend and her boyfriend having special cuddles on the couch. “In an instant, I went from talking dirty to channelling Carol Brady,” she recalls. “I didn’t even think about it, I just switched, literally from ‘More! More!’ – or words to that effect – to ‘It’s OK, darling, Mummy’s here, you just had a nightmare’.
Without missing a beat, my friend leaped up half-naked and carried her daughter back to bed. “It was dark so she saw nothing and I wasn’t particularly phased because it’s just what you do, isn’t it? Happens to parents all the time. But my boyfriend was completely freaked out. Not just by my daughter springing us but by how I could instantly switch roles like that. It took him quite a while to find his mojo after that…”
Another single friend says she only ever has sex when her kids are staying at their dad’s because she can’t get into the sex zone while straining to hear little footsteps padding down the hall.
In her book French Children Don’t Throw Food, American ex-pat author Pamela Druckerman observes a fascinating difference between French mothers and Anglophone ones; French women don’t compartmentalise their identities into ‘mother’ and ‘woman’.
As one of her French friends explains, “For Anglophone women, the role of mum is very segmented, very absolute. When they wear the mum “hat”, they wear the mum clothes. When they’re sexy they’re totally sexy. And the kids can only see the mum part.’ In France, notes Druckerman, the ‘mum’ and ‘woman’ roles are fused. At any given time, you can see both.
She also notes that there’s no word for MILF (Mother I’d Like To…..know better) in French because the concept doesn’t exist. Same with Yummy Mummy; the ethos being why would motherhood impact on sexual attraction? “In France, the dominant social message is that while being a parent is very important, it shouldn’t subsume one’s other roles.”
Which is awesome but I still don’t know what to do with my undies.
Do you have different identities that you have to move between? Mother/lover? Boss/wife? Student/friend anything that asks you to shift your focus completely ?