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Panty Party

Brevity is the soul of lingerie. — Dorothy Parker

Most of the “lingerie parties” I’ve attended have featured women arriving in their finest lace or leather thongs and teddies. But the invitation on my desk was from my conservative sister Heather, and this wasn’t really a lingerie party — this was a bridal shower with a lingerie theme. We were to bring for the bride, not wear on our bodies, the salacious undergarments.

Whether bridal or baby, most shower invitations addressed to me are treated like used Q-tips — briefly inspected, deemed a bit gross, and tossed away. Such affairs lack a certain appeal for one who prefers to be the center of attention. Despite my usual aversion, however, I was looking forward to attending this particular panty party, as my sister Jenny is no run-of-the-mill bride-to-be.

Mom offered her home, Jane arranged the flowers, I engineered the gourmet cheese spread, Jenny’s friend Rosie played bartender, and Heather — maid of honor and shower virtuoso — attended to shower details such as decorations, games, prizes, and favors. Among the guests of female family members and friends were a few of Jenny’s future in-laws, including Candie, the groom’s mother. As this was the first time the mothers of the bride and groom had met, the initial mood was reserved and polite.

As I understand it, the goal of any bridal shower is to run the future bride through a gauntlet of sentimentality and embarrassment. The first part was handled by Heather, who had pasted love poems to the mirrored wall in Mom’s foyer. She followed that up with a game in which she gave everyone a list of amorous quotations and asked them to name the romantic film from which the quotes were obtained. As for the rest of us, all one had to do was mention Brad, the groom, and Jenny’s face would soften in that sappy, lovesick way.

Making Jenny feel sentimental was a piece o’ wedding cake, but it was not nearly as fun as stoking that other emotion; once we began to torture and tease her, the façade of reserved politeness deteriorated into a delightfully informal crudeness.

Making the bride blush is an ancient tradition harkening back to a time when brides were still virgins who required enlightenment in regard to the dark and mysterious goings-on of the postnuptial bedchamber. In modern times, sex (and, if a couple is clever, living together) is more common than not, so instead of teaching a bride something she should already know prior to walking down the aisle — such as how to navigate her man’s body — we make bawdy references to her private sex life and try to disconcert her with humiliating gifts. Of course, the gag gifts (like penis-shaped pasta called “mac-a-weenie and cheese” or hooker-style garments) are merely entertaining precursors to the real gifts — provocative lingerie.

Heather had told me earlier in the day that a sexually themed party was a way of “celebrating the intimacy” of the soon-to-be newlyweds. Whereas Jane, our eldest sister and expert antagonist, believes it’s part of a hazing ritual all brides must go through before entering the “married women’s club” and that the real reason we torture the guest of honor is because “it’s fun to watch her squirm.” In my case, it’s a good thing I chose to elope. I’m more of a “shocker” than a “shockee,” and I’m sure that my lack of suffering would have disappointed the girls.

My family is so accustomed to my antics that there was great concern as to what my gag gift would be. While Mom and I were having tea a few weeks before the party, I decided to flex my sadistic muscles.

“So, I figured out what I’m going to get Jenny,” I said, and casually sipped. Mom’s face lit up with expectation. I took a moment to savor her ingenuousness.

“Well?” Mom asked. “What is it?”

“I’m going to give her a big strap-on,” I said, relishing that confused look on her face.

“What for?”

I couldn’t repress my smile. This was going to be good. “You know, for Jenny to wear.” I could see by Mom’s furrowed brow that she still didn’t get it. I deliberately refrained from spelling it out so that I could continue to watch her struggle to comprehend the words. The look on her face when realization struck was worth the wait.

“Barb, no!”

“Come on, Mom, you don’t really think I’d do that. Do you?” I said with a smile that also said, then again, you never know.

During the week preceding the party, I continued making references to my gift, using words like latex, funnel, and ball-gag. “Brad’s a cop, so I’m pretty sure they’ve got the handcuffs covered,” I quipped to Jane. By the day of the event, I was satisfied that I had sufficiently terrified my family members.

The gifts were saved for last, ensuring that everyone had been loosened up with alcohol and was offered the chance to bond over games. As Jenny opened her presents, I noted some of her verbal reactions to her bounty. Seeing the pad of paper on my lap, Jenny said, “I know this game. Nothing is coming out of my mouth,” which I immediately jotted down.

Along with some crotchless panties, Jane gave condoms and a pregnancy test. Both Heather and Jane gifted Jenny with a “honeymoon kit” that included edible powder and scented oil. Most packages included negligees so scant they were more like suggestions of lingerie. Candie, uncomfortable with the idea of selecting bedroom clothing for her future daughter-in-law, took a classier route by giving Jenny a gift card to a local spa.

My gift was one of the last. After reading my card, Jenny looked up to catch my eye. In a half whisper only my mother and I could hear, she said, “Is it okay to open?” Her eyes darted quickly over to Brad’s mother, sister, and step-grandmother, then back to me, where they narrowed in trepidation. I gestured for her to go ahead, and as Jenny shrugged and tore into the wrapping paper, I sensed my mother tensing beside me. “Wow, this is just a very awesome…thing,” Jenny said as she made her way through the paper to find a box for a 250GB external hard drive. “I wasn’t expecting this.”

“Oh,” Jenny said with a bit of disappointment. But when she saw the pamphlets and software, she lit up again. “It is!”

“There’s more,” I said, indicating she should continue to fish around inside the box. Everyone else in the room seemed as confused as the bride. Finally, Jenny lifted a cardboard panel to reveal colorful tissue paper, into which six pairs of practical but cute panties had been folded.

My mother breathed a sigh of relief, and Jenny seemed flummoxed. The gag of my gift was to have everyone expect the worst and then throw them with something completely…

tasteful. It never occurred to me that Jenny would have been ecstatic to receive an external hard drive and disappointed to find panties where the device should have been.

Because I felt bad and wanted to put a smile on Jenny’s face (while cleverly stealing the spotlight), I called everyone to attention and, in a raised voice, explained the last game Heather had devised.

“Here in my hand are some things Jenny said while opening her presents. I will read them now, and you are to think of them as though they are the things Jenny will say on her wedding night.” When the playful gasps subsided, I began with: “I know this game. Nothing is coming out of my mouth.” By the time I’d reached the last phrase, “It’s so big, how could I not find it?” all faces in the room were strained from laughing. When I saw Jenny’s face contorted in the unlikely combination of mortification and sheer delight, I knew it was “mission accomplished” for this bridal shower, and I wanted nothing more than to do it again.

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