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I woke up suddenly, jolted into consciousness by a sharp headache. I was in bed but couldn’t remember getting there last night. Burying my face into my pillow, I tried to piece it together: I remembered running into an old friend on campus and grabbing a drink with him and his buddies. I met somebody at the bar. My friends left, but the new guy and I continued drinking. On the way to another bar, he suggested a strip club instead. And so, me and the stranger got in a cab and went to a strip club on a Wednesday night.

Back in my room, I was suddenly aware of my nakedness. I was clear up until the strip club, then it started to get hazy. I remembered doing shots. I had a heart-to-heart with a stripper about the pointlessness of love. Then a faint memory of playing her bottom like bongos.

That was where the memories ended. I didn’t remember getting home; I wasn’t sure why I was naked, and I didn’t know what happened to the guy from last night. I looked at the bathroom, willing myself to get in there and wash the stale beer taste from my mouth. Then, I noticed something was amiss. I looked down at my bedside table, and my panty drawer was empty. All of my panties were gone.

I pulled on sweatpants and a hoody and ventured out of my room. No panties lying around the basement. I walked upstairs, growing perturbed. The living room was also panty-free. I checked the washer and dryer. Nothing.

I sat back on my bed, dumbfounded. I looked around my room and noticed something else. All of the dirty panties I had left lying around my bed were gone, too. I went into the bathroom. The panties that had been in there were also missing.

Did he take all of my panties? It was starting to seem like that was the only possible explanation. All of my technology was still there, along with my wallet. But the panties were gone. Even the panties I wore last night were gone.

I tried rationalizing. Why would he want all of my panties? It’s illogical. I could understand stealing a few pairs for a fetish. But all of them? What an inconvenience. I had nothing to wear even to go buy more panties. What was he going to do with that many panties? He took at least fifty pairs. And what did he take them in, a bag? I pictured him creeping around my room, a plastic bag in one hand, scooping up my panties with the other.

I sat there, feeling violated. He had even taken my old, stained, period panties. There was no discrimination. I could’ve never imagined a thing like this happening. But just like with any other bad experience, I knew I had to start putting it behind me. I threw on clothes and left for the mall. When I pulled on my jacket, I felt a lump in the pocket. It was my shirt from last night.

On the bus, I avoided eye contact. The situation was objectively funny, but the timing was strange. It had been my first time going out after breaking up with my serious partner of two years. Was it a sign from the universe that contemporary dating had become insane? Or that I should give up on love and embrace a long and lonely life? Or maybe I made a mistake breaking up with Sam? These questions were becoming overwhelming. It was hard not knowing why bad things had happened; Why did that guy steal my panties? Why did Sam cheat?

I arrived at the mall and hurried through the shopping center, trying to ignore the uncomfortable chafing from going commando. I approached the pink-lit archway of my favorite panty shop. It was the same brand I had worn since I started buying my own panties at fifteen. When I was younger, it was where I would go when I was having a bad day. Buying panties was therapeutic. I wouldn’t buy panties because I needed them, but because I enjoyed the process of buying them.

I had the rare opportunity to start fresh. I had owned some of those panties since high school. And I am not the same girl today that I was in high school, I thought. I am smarter, much more comfortable in my own skin. Looking at the bright piles of panties, I considered the responsibility that lay before me. Now that I was single, how did I want to reinvent my panty drawer? From this day forward, all of my panties would be different, never touched or seen by my ex-boyfriend.

These new panties would help push me into the next chapter of my adult life.
I started through the aisle and tried to find panties that represented me. I stayed away from neon colors and feminine pastels. Nothing with writing on the butt. I didn’t want any of the panties that said, “Consent is Sexy,” “Party in my Pants,” or “Cum Over.” My vagina was not a welcome mat.

Over the last two years, I had transitioned organically from thongs into panties that had a wide lace strip around the front and back. They were still technically thongs, but they formed a lacy crescent moon across my butt cheeks. They were terribly sexy. I rummaged through the pile. I wanted responsibly-toned ones that would present me as the put-together woman I wanted to be.

But I couldn’t seem to decide on anything. When I started dating my last boyfriend, he said that he preferred the crescent moon panties; they left more to the imagination. So I guess when I said that it was an organic transition, I lied. He said he didn’t like the string thongs as much, so away they went.

I continued through the aisle, but the empowered feeling of rewriting myself through panties had dissipated, replaced by a gnawing in the pit of my stomach. It dawned on me that I wasn’t going to find myself in this aisle. I couldn’t know my future or choose to never repeat any of my mistakes. I couldn’t simply decide to never be with another guy who lies or cheats. The guy last night had seemed normal; he didn’t seem like the type who would steal a girl’s panties for, what I could only imagine was, masturbatory purposes. And it’s not that I never expected someone to cheat on me, I just never expected Sam to. After all that, I felt like I would never really know anyone, and that realization left me feeling empty.

The panties continued to surround me. I dug back through the pile with writing on them. As I expected, none of them said, “Property of Roxy,” “Don’t Steal,” or, “Please Don’t Cheat.” They were just panties. They couldn’t tell a guy about my expectations or my past. They couldn’t hide my fears and insecurities. Panties were only there to hygienically cover my naughty bits. I ended up just grabbing a handful and going to the register.

I caught the bus home and sat with my panty bag on my lap, acknowledging that this was not the most graceful entry into adulthood. I had been doing so well lately. I was about to graduate university; I was single because I was smart enough to catch my guy in a lie, and I had good job prospects teaching English abroad. Then I put myself into a situation in which all of my panties were stolen.

I realized that there was so little I could control, in my romantic life, as well as other parts of my life. But what I could control was how I rebounded from these situations. Sam may have cheated, but I didn’t let myself dwell it. Rather, I went out and tried to have a good night. While it didn’t turn out the way I had planned, I still got laid and would forever be the owner of the crazy story of how all of my panties were stolen. My future was going to have many more heartbreaks, probably even worse than this one. I would continue to dust myself off, buy more panties, and move on. I tried to remind myself that the future also held amazing experiences. Maybe I would buy more panties during those times as well.

I looked out the bus window and pictured all of the people that I was going to meet in the future. I wondered what my next partner was doing right now, while I made my way home with new panties after the one-night stand from hell. There was no way to know what the future held, but I tried to consider that exciting rather than terrifying. The bus approached my stop. I clutched the panty bag to my chest and prepared myself, as best I could, to get off the bus.

Roxy Hearn is a dance major and creative writing major graduate from York University, Toronto. She has been published in Incendies Magazine, the Wild Quarterly, Jonah Magazine, Cargo Literary, Pictures & Portraits, Untethered, and Tracer Publishing. She has also studied abroad in England and Italy and loves long walks on the beach with her dog. She is hoping to complete her masters in the upcoming year. Follow her on Instagram, roxyhearn, or check out her website at https://roxyhearnblog.wordpress.com.

Fernanda Sanovicz is a Brazilian illustrator and graphic designer based in New York City. Inspired by personal experiences, street-art, and typography, she creates drawings, posters, silkscreened prints and zines. Sanovicz is currently finishing up her senior year in the Illustration program at the School of Visual Arts. Follow her on Instagram @fesanovicz and @fesanovicz_clicks, and see more of her work on her Behance.

This essay and artwork is shared in collaboration with It's Not Personal, a growing anthology and collective that creates opportunities for women to share their dating experiences in a positive environment. The project aims to progress society's conversations around singlehood, relationships and everything in between. For more information, be sure to follow It's NotPersonal on Instagram, join the Facebook group, and send art and writing submissions to itsnotpersonalnyc@gmail.com.

 

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This essay is shared in collaboration with It's Not Personal, a growing anthology and collective that creates opportunities for women to share their dating experiences in a positive environment. The project aims to progress society's conversations around singlehood, relationships and everything in between. For more information, be sure to follow It's Not Personal on Instagram join the Facebook group, and send art and writing submissions to itsnotpersonalnyc@gmail.com. 

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