I can tell you with absolute certainty what the oldest pair of underwear is.
I know what you're thinking: whoawhoawhoa back up, too much information. I do not need to hop aboard the Overshare Express and read about your ratty old panties. Well if that's what you just thought you can just take it back, you jump-to-conclusions-er.
When I was 17, I was not allowed to wear thongs, so I did what all proper teenagers do: during days off school, I snuck out of my house when my mother was at work, walked to the mall and bought some. It started with the ultra-plain kind they sell at Old Navy, three-packs of simple cotton thongs in neutral colors. I didn't stick to these gateway drugs of the undergarment world for very long, though: things quickly escalated to perusing the super sale racks at Wet Seal for the kind of sexy polyester I had always wanted.
I ransacked the place.
I acquired panties of all kinds of colors and patterns and stashed them away deep, deep in my dresser. I did my own laundry without fail for fear I would be caught and publicly shamed by my mother, who would be extremely disappointed that I was clearly sleeping with every guy in town based on a few purple ruffles. Pantygate would be the end of the world, but it was worth the risk for sure. I was 17 and I wore thongs. I was an adult.
There was one thong I did not have to hide in the laundry.
It was probably my favorite: light beige, silky smooth with flirty, flouncy mesh edges that were sprinkled with light pink and purple sequins. There was a bow on the front and the back.
This thong stayed in my drawer for one reason and one reason alone: it was too small. It was too small, but too pretty to get rid of.
When I was 17, I was the thinnest I have ever been in my entire life, but even at the weight I was, I longed desperately to be smaller.
This thong, my favorite one, was a challenge.
Five years later, I have gained all the weight I lost back and then some. Needless to say, I have never worn that thong. I never even came close to fitting into it, honestly-- no closer than the day I bought it anyhow. Yet for five years and countless spring cleanings, I have held onto that thong. I have picked it up, looked it over and put it back in the drawer for keeps.
Someday, I would think, someday I will be thin enough to wear this.
Recently, I chucked another piece of challenge clothing that I'd become quite attached to. It was a denim miniskirt I got at Old Navy around the same time I bought the thong. I haven't fit into it in years: it is a size 0, which in retrospect I can't even fathom despite Old Navy's penchant for vanity sizing. My boyfriend was with me while I was pruning my closet and brought it out.
"Can you believe I wore this?" I asked. He shrugged.
"Does it fit you now?" he asked. I raised an eyebrow and demonstrated. The skirt got to about the very bottoms of my thighs before it had stretched its farthest.
"Toss it," he said. He's very practical.
"I can't," I protested. "I like it. I don't think I'd ever wear it again even if I could fit into it, but it represents a time when I was skinny." It sounded sillier aloud than it ever did in my head.
"You know, you talk about how okay you are with your weight all the time, but if you were really okay with it, you would just get rid of that thing," he said. "It's stupid to keep it around just to remind you you were skinny once."
I make fun of this boy all the time, but he had a point: why was I keeping a piece of clothing I didn't even want as a trophy of my smallest size? That isn't the kind of body positivity I'm trying to have for myself. Thin Vanessa is not someone I need to mourn. Thin Vanessa and Fat Vanessa are the same person. I do not need that skirt as a memorial. Thin is not my biggest accomplishment, and I don't need to hold onto something in a way that suggests it was.
The skirt went into the box for Good Will. And as corny as it sounds, it was like a weight was lifted from my shoulders.
But I still have these panties, and I don't know what to do with them. Rather, I know what I need to do with them, but I am ever-so-slightly hesitant to make it happen. Even if I am ever thin enough to fit into them, do I really need them around as a reminder? Do I need to keep clothing that doesn't fit me to prod me to be the best I can be? Because "thin" and "best" are not the same. Thin is a challenge I do not need to undertake. I try to take care of my health and treat myself well, but how accomplished I feel in life should not rest on the number on the scale and a $2.00 pair of underwear.
I know what I have to do.
Will it be hard? Strangely, yes. For whatever reason-- and many of you have probably felt the same about clothing-- this particular pair of underwear means something to me. This thong means a time when I was close to some sort of commonly-held physical ideal and a part I battle with every day misses that, wishes so hard I could be that again. It would all be easier, maybe, but I know it wouldn't be because I've been there. No matter what you look like, if you don't love and accept yourself, you will always be unhappy with your appearance. This thong says, too, that even when I was that close, I was not close enough. I was not good enough. I know now that that isn't true. I was good enough all along, and you are, too.
I know what I have to do.
Do you hold on to clothing that doesn't fit? How long have you had it? Don't you think it's time you gave it up?