One of my rituals is to start the new year by putting things that have become chaotic in order, or getting rid of things I’ve decided I don’t need. I might organize my desk drawers, or sift through my hundreds of earrings to pull out the ones I haven’t worn in years, or do yet another purge on our constantly expanding book collection.
This year, though, I’ve tackled something more emotionally fraught. I decided it’s time to let go of my sexy costumes and lingerie.
Although I never considered myself a slut (others might have disagreed), sometimes I liked to dress like one. Back when I was a hottie, I loved short, tight dresses with plunging necklines or long skirts slit to the waist. I’d wear garter belts with stockings, or thigh-high stay-ups, or fishnets with an open crotch. When Adam & Eve or Frederick’s of Hollywood had a sale, I had trouble resisting. Gradually I acquired a collection of attire appropriate for intimate parties or sex clubs or private photo shoots. Occasionally, I’d get the chance to model one of these outfits. The rest of the time, they hung in my closet or sat in a drawer, but knowing I could dig them out and try them on always gave me a thrill.
When I moved from the U.S. to Asia almost twenty years ago, I brought most of this with me. I couldn’t bear to leave it behind. Opportunities to wear any of my erotic finery became increasingly rare, but I cherished it as part of my identity, my alter-ego Lisabet hiding inside the staid college professor.
The past year rudely confronted me with my age, however. In the wake of breaking my arm last July, I felt fragile, weak, scared and suddenly much older. I lost a lot of weight. My knees were knobby. My scars were livid. My butt started to sag. Even my perennially perky breasts were noticeably drooping.
I’m feeling much stronger now. I’ve been exercising to build up my muscles and I’m closer to my ideal weight. Still, I’ve been forced to recognize that although my husband still likes to look at me naked, nobody in the world is ever going to want to see a woman in her later sixties in a corset or a see-through bodysuit. I wouldn’t want to see myself – it would be a bit too painful a comparison with the days when I was an unwitting sex goddess.
Not that I’m bitter; I’m incredibly grateful for all the fun I had when I was younger. Nostalgic would be a more accurate description. You can’t hold on to the past, no matter how you try, but darn, I loved pretending to be a sexpot.
Anyway, earlier today I pulled out the drawers and the plastic boxes, sorted through the contents, and put most of my lingerie in a bag to be discarded. As I did, I was flooded with memories. There was the sparkly, stretchy, translucent mini-dress I wore to Le Trapeze sex club in New York. I found the strapless long-line bra I bought for my “creature of the night” costume one Halloween, and the red-laced Merry Widow from an old friend’s Halloween bash, when my husband and I came as a team of sex researchers.
Halloween: Creature of the Night
Perhaps most poignant was the black satin corset that I bought to entice my Master on one of his visits. He and I disagree as to whether he actually ever saw it. I fictionalized that rendezvous in my story “Reunion” (in my collection Bound and Breathless), and now I’m not sure how much of what I remember is fantasy rather than reality.
It all went into the bag, along with a gorgeous purple satin bustier, unopened packages of suspender pantyhose, and a see-through black lace chemise and shorts set that I purchased but never used.
I’m not sure what I’m going to do with this bag. It’s not the sort of thing you can donate to the Salvation Army, even if we had them in my country. I’m pretty confident I can find a taker though. I have some young friends who might well be interested.
Meanwhile, I admit that I feel brave and virtuous, letting go of this part of my past. Life is constant change. Buddhism tells us that attachment lies at the root of suffering. I want to move on to the next joy.
I don’t need those physical talismans of the sexy siren I once was. I remember. I’m thankful. That’s enough.