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Earlier this week I alluded to “an education” in lingerie. Perhaps I should explain.

After graduating from a 3 year program in Child and Youth Counselling, I couldn’t find a job in the Social Service field. The government was cutting back funding, and the city’s services were amalgamating, which meant I was competing against experienced CYC’s. I finally secured a part-time job in a reputable retail lingerie chain.

I was a small town girl…and the neighbouring city was very mild compared to the city I live near now! So my shocking “education” then, pales in comparison to what I’ve since seen and learned. I was pretty naïve and sheltered then, so my experience with lingerie was this:

Underwear: functional granny bra and panties
Sleepwear: cotton or flannel nighties, used for sleeping
Slips & Camisoles – for wearing under your church clothes

I was now entering the world of bustiers and fishnet stockings – lace, sheer, satin, silk & feathers. There was a wide variety of items for sale, and not all were tawdry. But there was a “wall of bras” in more shapes, styles and colours than I had ever seen, plus 2 tables of bras, and 4 tables of underwear. I didn’t know about thongs…for women or men! I quickly learned that it was not professional to handle such garments by holding them as far from my body as possible, with one finger, while trying to conceal an expression of shock and confusion on my face.

It was also my first experience with men shopping! There were three kinds of shoppers. First, there were the minority of guys who were very comfortable in the store, who knew they wanted for their wives or girlfriends (I didn’t ask questions). Then there were those with red faces and “deer in the head light” expressions, stammering incomplete answers, eyes flicking nervously at the door. I think if I’d made a sudden move, they would have darted, screaming, from the store. And finally, there were the guys who were in between…they had some idea what they were looking for, but had no idea what size to buy. Bring home a size too small, they could save themselves by saying “you look that size to me”, but if they brought home a size too big…it could spell disaster! Sad, but true. So instead, they would eye me up and down, hemming and hawing, and gesturing hip and breast size comparisons with their hands.

It was also the first time I talked to a man on the phone who wondered if he would be served in the store, and if he would be permitted to try on women’s lingerie in the dressing room. While it was a surprise to this “prim and proper girl”, and my co-workers were all “a-twitter”, I felt compassion for this man. He sounded wounded and lonely. I even risked giving him my first name, so that he could ask for me, and I would serve him with the same respect that I served my other customers. I don’t know if he ever did come in, but I hope I made him smile that day.

I worked in that store for 5 months and I really liked it. I even became the full-time stockroom clerk with an assistant, over the Christmas season, because the manager knew I could be trusted to work hard and stay organized. But after 5 months, I was laid off. The reasoning was unjust; the experience was painful. But looking back, I think it was God’s way of pulling me on to something better. I would have been tempted to stay at that job for a long time…it was safe and secure. But while it was a fun job (most days), it wasn’t moving me toward independence from my parents or a way to support myself and my son. I had worked too hard to finish high school and college to make a “good life” for us. As it turned out, I went on to more education, both in college and in the BIG city. I can now pick hookers out of a crowd, I’ve been “felt-up” on the subway, I’ve acted in a national TV commercial, I’ve witnessed an armed bank robbery, and so much more!