Posted by: carolyn / through a widow's eyes | February 9, 2011

The Camisole

My husband was a big fan of the lacy undergarment.

He was frugal, in that he spent his money carefully, but when it came to choosing gifts, he always picked the best of everything. Quality endures, was his theory in all things. Choosing well-made items is money well spent.

Early on in our relationship, long before marriage, he and I, separately or together, began to buy fancy underwear. Elegant underwear. Tantalizing underwear. One could even say slutty underwear. Twenty five years later, I have quite a collection of dainty lingerie, each piece linked to memory. My first acquisition was made with my very first shiny new credit card, many years ago, at a now-defunct high-end downtown department store. Riding up the escalator past Ladies’ Intimates,  I was taken by a vision of tawny pale gold short – shorts and skimpy top, with diaphanous lace straps and bodice. On the spur of the moment, I bought them. That day I learned the word charmeuse. That night I taught the word to Jeff, who was not yet my husband.

This unplanned purchase started a tradition that he happily practiced. He became quite an expert, hefting fabric, examining seams, fingering fine stitching. He chose sheer camisoles with silky spaghetti straps and tiny bows, stretchy lace-up bustiers, buttery – soft jewel-toned silk boxers, brassieres with gossamer lace cups, barely there panties. They are pink or red, or burgundy, or black, midnight blue, fleshy mauve, translucent cream. He bought lingerie for holiday gifts, for anniversaries, or just because. Often, after all other gifts at birthday or Christmas had been opened among family, when we were alone I would find a silky something draped artfully across the bed or a slim package discreetly waiting beneath my pillow.

Sometimes a silky garment appeared for no special occasion at all. It’s a tiny luxury to wear lace under dungarees, under t shirts, under shorts. Makes one feel pampered and special, to secretly feel that small sensuous pleasure of finely made satin or silk slipping against the skin.

Our only child was conceived as a direct result of my wedding underwear, which had been chosen to fit under the decolletage of a low-cut square-necked dress. I had an impulse to model it again one desultory hot afternoon. It was the summer solstice; I remember well. Our baby girl was born forty weeks later to the day. I know that is too much information, particularly for her. Even now as a young adult, if she were to hear this, she would cover her ears and squeal, Ewwww, no, gross! or perhaps, Lalalala, I can’t hear you!

But I digress.

I misspoke. I should have said: My late husband was a big fan of the lacy undergarment.

Whew, I do not think I have ever used that phrase before, out loud or in writing – My Late Husband. But in fact, that’s what he is. Late. Very late. He’s been gone from us a year and a half now. And, as I keep telling myself, he is not coming back. By now I can almost believe it. I can sometimes use past tense verbs in connection with his name without crying. Not always, but sometimes.

There are still land mines that I come upon all unaware, daily. I tripped over a new one this cold winter morning. Maybe I should have seen this one coming from a long way off, but I did not. I was laying out clothes to put on quickly after a shower. As one does. Every single day. I had chosen the rest of the everyday winter outfit: jeans, turtleneck, fleece vest, thick wool socks, plain cotton panties.  I took out a camisole from the top drawer, to wear under the shirt, just like every. Damn. Day. And then it hit me, as I held in my hands the ribbed soft cotton tank, with its sheer pink bodice and wide lace straps. I have worn this so many times. It is one of my favorite things. It fits so well; the fabric is so smooth, so delicate, such pretty colors, so well made. It is a gift from my husband. It was a gift from my husband?

He chose it carefully, I am sure, weighing the virtues of this piece compared to others, and paid for it, brought it home, wrapped it. And gave it to me. I don’t remember the occasion. Maybe a birthday. For some reason it has that look, whatever that might mean. I put it on that day. And then, most likely, shortly thereafter, I took it off. Or he did.

But today I noticed – it’s wearing out. There are pink threads starting to hang off the seam joining pink cotton and pink lace. Someday I won’t be able to wear it any more. It will be a soft lacy pink rag. And then it will be gone. And he is not here to replace it. That thought hit me like a punch in the stomach. Knocked the air right out of me. I maybe even said Oof! And then started to cry. Standing there naked and shivering in the cold bedroom, holding the precious folded garment against my chest.

I know, I know, I am perfectly capable of buying my own underwear. But it is not the same.



  1. Hi Carolyn.

    I loved this. It’s the special little things that you develop as a couple that become so precious, and then become obsolete. I can imagine how difficult it is to see your lingeire either sit there not getting used, or appreciated, or find them beginning to fray. It’s another part of life that others don’t ever take into consideration when they expect you to be “further along.”

    Michael and I obviously, or maybe not obviously, didn’t buy each other lingerie, but we did buy each other a pair of Valentine’s Day boxer briefs one year. I can’t say that the briefs resulted in any children, but you wouldn’t know that from the efforts made. Anyway, the pair of boxer briefs are now something to cherish.

    Recently I was out shopping with my daughter, and I needed to buy some new underwear. Some of them were on clearance, but I didn’t pariticularly like the colors. My daughter looked at me and said, “Dad, who cares what color they are, it’s not like someone is going to see them!” I know she meant it to be funny, or perhaps practical, but I found it be be quite sad. Whenever we used to plan a new vacation, I always liked to surprise Michael by wearing some new underwear. It was a way of spicing things up. Now I stare into my underwear drawer each morning and say, “Dan, just pick any pair. Nobody’s going to see them anyway!”



  2. Hi Dan, Thanks for your thoughts. I love when you comment. We all get this. It’s the small things for us that are so murderous, that can undo an entire day in an instant. If I want to gain any purpose from pouring out this intimate stuff, it’s, yes, the nodding of the head from my wids, but maybe even more than that, I want other (normal?) people to notice what they do have and appreciate it. I knew some of those moments were pretty special then, even the silly ones, but I know it more now.

    And also, I totally get that you would want to like the color! That is pretty basic, whether or not anyone else will see them. Besides, it sometimes sounds like you are on your way to somebody seeing something, sometime…sigh.


  3. Beautiful post. Well told, poignant, yet witty. Good stuff.

    I need to spend more on underwear, I think.


  4. @erikras: but at least not on bath products, claro.


  5. LOL. Touché.


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