Empty Drawers



We’re living in a weird twilight zone: somewhere between this, our old – of only a year – home and our next one, still something of a building site where the loos don’t flush and the taps don’t run but which is where most of our furniture awaits us.


Some of our conversations reflect our present half-lit half-life.


Asina, who has been away for a day, gathers the necessary to lay the table for breakfast and returns looking bemused, ‘it’s gone’, she says, ‘the table’. It has. It did. Yesterday. We’ll have to manage on our laps for now.  We remain with just our beds and boxes full of clothes in lieu of wardrobes. The children dig for whatever it is they need to wear. Or don’t bother and make do with pajamas all day.


Amelia insists she needs mine and Hat’s help sorting and packing her underwear as she empties final drawers. With slyly captured audience, she subjects her little sister and me to a running commentary on assorted knickers:


‘These are my mountain climbing pants.’




‘They are roomy and comfortable.’


Ah right. Of course.


‘These are my fat-day pants.’


I have some of those too.


‘These are my radical pants.’




‘See, it says Radical here’ and she indicates the label.


Hat wants to know what Radical means.


‘Girl power’, says her older sister.


‘These’, and she picks up what appears to be a brand new pair of Tesco’s Best, ‘are too good to wear. You bought them for me Mum’.


I did. Because she insisted she needed new ones.  That without them her life would fall apart. As she swore all of her knickers had done already.


‘These’ as she carefully folds another pair, ‘are my party pants’.


‘Why do you have to have party pants?’ a confused Hat demands, ‘nobody’s going to see them’.


I hope not. God, I hope not.


‘Because if I look nice on the outside, I like to think I look nice underneath as well’.


I do not have the heart to tell her that when she has been married for twenty years she will only care about looking presentable on the outside, that her grey washing-machine fatigued M&S undies will be the least of her concerns.  Providing, of course, she has remembered to put them on. I hope that between now and then – tired, sagging, absent-minded middle age – my daughter can indulge in Myla and Agent Provocateur and Bodas


“I iron my knickers before I go out’, she tells a very impressed Hat who is clearly taking mental notes


I’d like to be able to iron my face before I go out, I think to myself. Sod the bloody undies.


‘And these’, as she sifts through the last of the heap, ‘are knickers that look better off than on’.




My daughter is fourteen. This is not the kind of thing you want to hear your fourteen year old daughter say.


She obviously takes note of the alarm which is quickly suffusing my expression.




And she demonstrates.


The knickers look tiny: narrow-hipped, skinny-jean, size-zero tiny.


Abnormally tiny in fact: the waist measurement is about 7 ¾ inches.

Amelia stretches them to a more realistic 27 ¾ inches and they mesh out unattractive and transparent.


Indubitably: they look better off than they probably would on.

I’m relieved she explained.



24 Responses to “Empty Drawers”

  1. R. Sherman Says:

    This post reminds me of the time I sorted the wash for my wife and was confronted for the first time with my teenage daughter’s underwear. Given that to me, she was still five years old, I experienced major cognitive dissonance.


  2. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    I can imagine. We think they don’t grow up as much as we never think of ourselves growing old. My own teenagers hotly dispute me on both grounds.

  3. Mapesbury Mum Says:

    Party pants – when you’re married for 10 years you have a pair – they don’t have holes, they cover the parts that other ones don’t – just in case that dance gets a bit wild or the wind picks up….

  4. Roberta Says:

    I thank God I had boys.

  5. Potty Mummy Says:

    I think there’s some innocence left there RM. Thank god. I dread the day when the boys ask me if I’ve remembered to wash their Lucky Pants… Though of course as they will be at least 30 by the time they start Going Out, I probably won’t feel quite so bad about suggesting they do their own laundry from then on.

    Oh dear. I’m by a river in Egypt, aren’t I? (DeNile, for those of you who haven’t heard that old chestnut…)

  6. Expatmum Says:

    My knicker collection is so bad (grey, stretched, but invisible under most clothes) that my mother buys me M&S sets for birthdays and Christmas. How sad is that?

  7. Primal Sneeze Says:

    Sarah Carey made a great comment on this a while back:

    I have to stop buying “small” smalls. I am 36, going on 37, my arse is now medium.

  8. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    MM: I’m going to get myself some party pants. Admittedly there won’t be much call for their use in outpost. but you never know. if, of course, i can find some …

  9. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Roberta. Read Potty: boys have their own underpants categories, even if they aren’t as up-front about them as girls can be …

  10. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Of course Potty. 30 at least. Even 35. like my own son will be. who at least was not witness to the pants parade so – because he is more innocent albeit older than his sister – will not have gleaned any tips.

  11. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Could be worse Expat Mum: could be your man buying them for you?

  12. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Primal. And at more than that – more than 37 – i suspect my medium is about to morph into Large, as bottom heads south to have convention with the back of my knees.

  13. Mom de Plume Says:

    Hi RM, my daughter is 4 years old. I already dread the day she turns 30 and is allowed out the house unsupervised! Somehow I worry less about my son… mind you he is not yet a year so that problem should only crop up in 30 years time! (also happily languishing by aforementioned Egyptian river along with PM!)

    Hmmm, what a giant bridge to cross from baby girl to teenager!

  14. Tash Says:

    Hilarious, girl! Do your kids know that they are your constant source of new material? I think it’s wonderful, but I’d have thrown such a strop with Mum if I’d discovered her telling her friends about my undies… Of course, now I know she did anyway!!! …It won’t be long before Amelia’s into ‘strings’ too – which reminds me of a friend – in her fifties – whose daughters persuaded her that le string was perfectly comfortable and great for invisibility under tight trousers, so when she and her husband went on a business trip, she took a new g-string to wear under her smart evening pants… Before going to bed she washed it and hung it on the back of the hotel door. They had left and were back home a day or two when her husband came back from the office chortling and said to her “You’ll never believe what the hotel sent to me – said it was left in our room! I told them they’d got the wrong guest – must have been the young couple staying before we got there…!”

  15. nuttycow Says:

    Amelia sounds very organised. I think I still had my head in the clouds with Take That aged 14 and couldn’t care less about my knickers, as long as they didn’t impede juping across ditches, running around playing fields and going exploring in the dam!

    They grow up fast (apparently) but be grateful, at least she’s still talking to you. When I was in my teenage years I think my parents were lucky to get a “good morning” out of me!

  16. Mud Says:

    I always thought that ‘when I was grown up’ I’d only ever wear matching underwear, that somehow this would turn me into a sophisticated woman in charge of her amazingly successful life….

    Sadly I’m still waiting and wearing M&S. Maybe that’s where I’m going wrong??

  17. stacie Says:

    Now I know why my mother went gray early.
    And I thought I was so sophisticated!

  18. Maggie May Says:

    She’s just testing you out! My pants look huge when off! Every one laughs at the size of them……. yet I’m not really big!

  19. Kathleen Says:

    Oh my that was funny!

  20. carol Says:

    Oh dear – just read all the comments and think how sad it is that my mother-in-law buys my underwear for me – and am wondering if I”ll have the same sorts of conversations with my daughters (now aged 4 & 5) – at the moment one of them is still very happy to have her brothers ‘spiderman pants’ hand-me-downs and wears them in preference to the pink ballerina pants that are new!! Oh dear again – what is she going to be like….. images flashing through brain!

  21. The Benefits of Hindsight « Reluctant Memsahib Says:

    […] Reluctant Memsahib the diary of wife, mother and failed domestic goddess in Africa « Empty Drawers […]

  22. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thank you all for comments and reading: Mud, Tash, Nutty Cow, Mom de P, Stacie, Maggie May, Kathleen and Carol: comforted to know that i not alone in saggy grey m&s department.

    Mom d P: a giant bridge indeed: go slowly!

    Tash: i think that’s the funniest story. my husband would doubtless have same reaction. which explains why strings stay firmly behind. usually because i forget to wear them. hate to admit it but bridget jones fat pants are much comfier! i only buy the strings so underwear drawer looks less sad!

    nutty: organised she is not. except for her undies. isn’t that funny?

    Mud: me too, me too: but have never been sophisticated, successful or worn matching undies as per twenty something dreams … is that defeatist?

    Stacie: getting my colour done quickly. v v quickly.

    MM: is that what is was: testing me?

    Kathleen: i thought so too. think she was being serious though?

    Carol: not only will your daughters resist spiderman underpants, but your son will too one day! One day he’ll want hip CK boxers … and his sisters will covet same then.

  23. Alice C Says:

    What a wonderful post. I am wishing that Amelia could come and sort my life out – I feel that she could rescue me from the crushing effect of MissM’s fashion advice.

  24. Iota Says:

    I need some Radical Pants. I could face the world more bravely every morning if I had Radical Pants to put on.

    I love your kids.

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