My objective is to get in, survey the situation, make a buy, and get out unrecognized.
…and hopefully enjoy the moment.
Temporarily camped out in the luggage section, I have plotted out my path: On the far side of the store is the men’s section. In between here and there, is my actual objective: the women’s hosiery department. Like pilot in a spy plane, I plan a path past the areas of interest and figure out how to circle around them as many times as possible while remaining unnoticed.
I also wish I could stop and smell the roses. This is a multi-splendored journey: The scents of the nearby perfume counter, the aroma of female pheromones wafting through the air, and the olfactory cues that only serious collectors recognize:
Right out of the package, a fresh pair of pantyhose smell something in between the expensive product your hair stylist tries to sell you, and new car smell. These connotations of newness, luxury, and indulgence, are all packaged up in those neatly folded nylon layers of sheer energy.
Every brand packages their pantyhose with different imagery, but the promise is the same:
‘Your legs will tempt all who catch a glimpse of them. Your legs hold secrets that need not be spoken, only whispered about in thin veils of silken color. You will gain gorgeous superpowers of sensuality.’
I am a tourist. Every masculine part of me is thrilled to be a fly on the wall, observing the foreign tongue of the feminine. Not satisfied with observing from afar, I want to live, for a moment, as the locals do. I want to know what it’s like.
In some regard, they are just another style of socks – and yet, everyone knows, they mean something. The Queen of England forbids any of her attendants to have bare legs. All are required to wear “tights” (in Europe, even very sheer pantyhose are called “tights”).
In court, defendants and counsel best cover their legs. Despite being a microscopic and nearly transparent fabric – You’ll be taken more seriously.
On Halloween, every sexy nurse, sexy police officer, and sexy asparagus knows that their costume isn’t complete without fishnets or shiny tan nylons.
What is the difference between bare skin, and skin that’s barely covered by woven wisps of transparent nylon thread, barely thicker than human hair?
A woman once explained it to me: wearing nylons means your skin is covered. Technically, your legs aren’t bare. It’s an idea more than it is a practical reality.
Completely opaque tights? Medium sheer? Ultra sheer better-than-bare nude nylons? She is in control of how much flesh you you actually see. Just as Eve was the only one who truly knew what was behind the fruit – it is quintessentially feminine to be the gatekeeper of the mystery.
Legs are the guarded gateway to creation.
Everyone loves legs.
I am a wanderer in this world of ideas.
From the luggage section, I make my way into the hosiery department, keeping a front facing gaze on the men’s section that is on the far and opposite side of the store. I’m pretending to be in a mission to buy the perfect polo shirt for work. Rather than walking around the hosiery section, I walk through it. After all, a no-nonsense man like myself appreciates the efficiency of a shortcut – that’s how I want it to look, anyway.
The Airforce missed out by not recruiting me: Using my peripheral vision only, I can simultaneously read the tiny printed sizing, style, and color information on a half dozen packages while walking past them. I’m scanning for something new, or maybe a long lost favorite.
I do not want to be seen here. I keep my eyes out for anyone that might know me or any of my friends or family. I want to avoid having the conversation:
“My roommate mentioned that said she saw you at the mall today wandering around the hosiery isle. She said you looked lost.”
My alibi is ready: ‘I wasn’t IN the hosiery section, I was walking through it. I was looking for a new work shirt.’
I pull out my cell phone and pretend to take a call. Any onlooker would assume I am a dedicated husband or boyfriend, baffled by the endless options, calling for clarification as I navigate this wilderness of women’s things- a hero of domestic errands. I keep telling myself, this is just like buying tampons at the grocery store for your wife or girlfriend – a chore that never bothered me. This pretend call also keeps any onlookers from striking up a conversation with me.
I am anything but lost. The irony is that I probably know more about the products in this department than the women who sell them. Denier? Thread extrusion? Boarded vs non-boarded? European vs American hosiery mills? I am a sommelier of silky things. I can tell you all about these things.
My pretend call continues. I appear to be listening intently as I slow down and walk past the shelves with the most interesting pairs:
Hanes Silk Reflections: These are my go-to nylons. I’ll buy a pair if nothing more interesting comes up.
Donna Karan: I love the photograph on the packaging. They are a bit expensive.
Calvin Klein: I’m not sure about the sizing.
Givenchy: I’ve seen a pair of these in a beautiful woman’s drawer before, but they only come in control top, and… well – I don’t like extra constriction in that neck of the woods.
I decide on two different colors of Silk Reflections – one that’s tried and true, one that I’ve never worn before.
Mission accomplished. It’s time to cash out and get out.
An attractive girl is working the cash register.
I’m both terrified and hoping she will ask,
“Are these for you?”
I’ll answer, “No, they are for my wife”.
What I really want to say is,
“Yes, they are”, and for her to reply,
“Oh, these are my favorites! They are so nice. I’m wearing them today. See? You’ll love them, I think it’s wonderful that you wear them. My name is Christine, I’ll help you any time. I work weeknights from 5-9 pm. Come back again soon!”
Once I’ve played this out In my head a few times, I run surveillance to ensure that nobody I know is around. I buzz past the Silk Reflections. I grab what I need almost without stopping. I make my final approach to the register. The beautiful girl attends to me. I present two pairs of pantyhose to her.
Her eyes are a high stakes game. If I make eye contact with her, she will know my secret. The conversation might happen. I hope and I dread.
She scans them into the cash register.
I inspect the carpet below my feet. It is overdue for replacement.
“That will be $22.74”
I hand her my card. She runs it and prints a receipt.
She slides 2 pairs of pantyhose into a small shopping bag.
“Have a nice day”.