How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Myself (In Versace)

I’m scared to buy a pair of underwear.

The facts on the ground: I am in a Chicago TJ Maxx, on my birthday. I want to buy myself expensive underwear because I desire a pair and a birthday is an oasis of indulgence.

I understood body dysmorphia, from a distance, whether through dating, a handful of women’s studies classes, or being alive and awake. It wasn’t until I was scared to buy the underwear, though, that it connected in those words. I used the phrase “body dysmorphia” to describe it to a friend, over a third cup of green tea. I’m not sure “body dysmorphia” is the correct term, but if it gets the reader close to the nexus of fear, panic, low self-esteem and shame that I experienced at the time, then it’s good enough.

The rack of Versace underwear is on the east-facing wall, and I see the undergarments. They are white and on the black waistband, the Medusa logo appears in silver. They cost $15 a pair. Compared to women’s underwear, this is a steal. I know, I know. The value proposition was what got me (how depressing), and so I had to argue with my own voice saying. “Don’t get ideas.”

I must reach to take down a pair. They’re high up on the wall, so I pace back and forth in front of the wall, mumbling my oral arguments in favor of spending the money. Five minutes doesn’t convince the jury, so I walk to a different part of the store and pretend to paw through the other boxes of clearance underwear. Five more minutes and the jury was still hung. I walk elsewhere to look disinterestedly at socks, while the voice in my head continued.

I’ll abridge the positions it took: I could buy Ancillary Justice with the money. I don’t fit the profile of a person who wears Versace, and more to the point, I’d embarrass myself wearing something sexy. It would be trying too hard. Versace underwear and that gut? Please. Don’t. I have man tits, who am I kidding? I should stick with something safe.

That’s the saddest part of all, because it’s me telling myself I don’t deserve the confidence boost of wearing an expensive brand. Versace is for people who look attractive. Versace is for people with money. Versace is for people with white teeth, a well kept beard and a chest like slab of marble. Versace is for people who aren’t me. The experience was me reminding myself I don’t deserve Versace underwear until I hit a goal post that is forever just out of reach.

Which is silly. Versace (like any product) is for anyone with the temerity to pay whatever the goods cost that day and with confidence, pleasant surprises occur. And beyond that? Tiny luxuries may give us the extra confidence we need to negotiate for more money, kiss somebody, or hit send on an email. At those times, I want all the confidence I can get.

I buy the underwear.

Here’s the equation: If you believe you don’t deserve good things, odds you won’t ask for them. And if you don’t ask for them, well, unless you’re going to steal good things, you can be kept undervalued by your employer, lover or whomever you interact with. They won’t spend the money or time on you that you deserve. I don’t know what you deserve, but I imagine you deserve better.

The sentence “I believe I am worth the expansion of my self-image to say that I am willing to be imperfect and think of myself as a sexually desirable person, as represented by purchasing underwear that is branded above my station” isn’t headline material, but that’s what this is at bottom. Or more accurately, “If it wasn’t my birthday and I wasn’t given dispensation by society to indulge myself, I would not have had the backbone to buy a pair of marginally more expensive underwear, and what that reveals about my beliefs is pernicious and sad. It is also obvious I am leaning on my reading of No Logo three years ago for support and not illumination.”

The story ends or trails off there. I am wearing the underwear as I write this final paragraph. The product feels a little small, but I’ll live. Perhaps I may even grow into them.

[Edited images via ftape and Shutterstock]

James Hepplewhite was a music blogger in a previous life. He can be found at @jimheps on Twitter or jim.hepplewhite on Instagram.