It's often said that we learn everything we need to know about life in kindergarten. While that's a pretty bold statement, and one up for debate (I, for one, ate crayons), I believe that I learned everything I need to know about myself as a woman behind the plush Pink doors of a Victoria's Secret fitting room.
The summer after my junior year in college, I balanced evening classes with a gig at the infamous lingerie purveyor. Despite the wench-work, which included doting on a few spoiled women with too much time on their hands, I fell in love with the job. Not just for the 30% discount, but for the role I got to play.
I was the quintessential Vickie's sales girl, with a swagger to match, and it made me part of an exclusive sorority of sorts. Strangers would raise eyebrows at the very mention of my part-time profession. But, above all, I was a key part of a delicate ecosystem made up of filmy underthings, women, and the latter's quiet—often desperate—desire to accept themselves.
Trust me, Victoria isn't the only one of us with secrets.
Women tend to vent when they're trying things on. And when it's something as intimate as a black silk teddy with matching garters, things get pretty personal fast.
"Do you think is too much boobage for the first date?" a thirty-something "client" (the preferred term for customer) asked me as she stood in front of me, puffing out her chest like a pigeon during mating season.
"Well, what message are you trying to give?" I'd ask.
"I'm a sexual, seductive diva. But only when I'm in the mood. Which is often, if you treat me right. And I'm not easy. But not a prude."
"Got it. Try this one." And I'd hand her the remedy, a Jacquard lace cleavage-enhancing push-up. It wasn't the most intellectual of talents, but after a while I got pretty good at matching what women wore on the outside with how they saw themselves deep inside.
And I did boast an impressive lingerie collection myself. It's a brilliant ploy, if you think about it: My paycheck—like those of my comely cohorts —was promptly recycled back into the brand. While we may have been scraping to pay rent, we owned our weight in thongs.
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