It was bound to happen some day, but its inevitability makes it no less tragic. A woman who says she was hurt when a small metal clip securing a decorative rhinestone heart flew off her powder-blue thong and hit her in the eye has sued Victoria’s Secret, purveyor’s of women’s lingerie. Macrida Patterson, a 52-year old Los Angeles traffic officer with no prior record of underwear incidents, tells the tragic story in her own words: “I was putting on my underwear and the metal popped in my eye. It happened really quickly. I was in excruciating pain. I screamed.”
I know. A positively chilling tale of near-catastrophic proportions. Even now the hair on the back of my neck remains standing at half-mast.
Who among us has not experienced a similar frightening moment involving his or her very own underpants? Every year thousands of innocent Americans suffer debilitating underwear-related accidents. Many are not as lucky as Ms. Patterson, who, according to her attorney, noted undergarment and swimsuit injury specialist Jason Buccat, suffered an injury to her cornea requiring the application of a “topical steroid.” Adding insult to her thong injury, Ms. Patterson, in treating her devastating cornea abrasion, has now all but precluded herself from pursuing a career as a professional baseball player or Olympic sprinter.
Knock on wood, I’ve never been seriously hurt by my own underwear, although there was that one overcast morning when I shuffled across the floor in my wool socks and, in an over-exuberant burst of early morning energy, hiked up my silk drawers a tad too quickly and thereby generated an impressive bolt of near-painful static electricity far closer to my person that one ordinarily wants to experience electricity of any sort. But then again, I don’t buy my underwear at Victoria’s Secret, and nothing I own in the underwear department falls into the notoriously high-risk thong classification.
In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I wore a pair of underwear that featured either a rhinestone or a metal clip. For me, a simple button on the fly constitutes the height of cutting edge underwear fashion. I spent a couple of hours on the Victoria’s Secret website the other day looking for the offending underwear, but I could not find a single rhinestone mixed in among the pages and pages of leopard skin and lace.
I don’t now if you’ve looked into underwear much recently, but I have, and the results may surprise you. Underwear statistics can be as revealing as the products themselves. For example, 37 percent of women prefer bikini briefs, 23 percent prefer regular briefs, and 19 percent prefer thongs, although that percentage has been steadily increasing. In contrast, 41 percent of men prefer briefs, 27 percent prefer boxers and only 4 percent of men prefer thongs.
Speaking for my fellow male in locker rooms across the country, I can only applaud that last statistic and say a silent prayer of thanks. Of the 4 percent of males who wear thongs, I’d estimate that fewer than 10 percent of them look anything less than frightening when wearing a pair, yet there seems to be a perverse rule that the worse a particular guy looks in a thong, the more likely he is to wear one. (That same rule, by the way, seems to apply equally to men in tank top T-shirts and women in spandex workout attire.)
My underwear research also revealed that in 1991 the average bra size of American women was 34B, while today it is 36C. And did you know that married men change their underwear twice as often as single men, a fact which might help explain why most of those men are still single.
I wish Ms. Patterson all the best in her suit against Victoria’s Secret. Somewhere in Los Angeles right now, underwear experts are busily working away in underwear laboratories trying to recreate the exact circumstances of her injury in the hopes of buttressing her case in court. If she prevails, look for Congress to order that itchy warning labels be sewn into all thongs advising us innocent consumers on the risk of sudden underwear rhinestone ejection, and look for Hanes or Fruit-of-the-Loom to begin selling underwear application safety goggles. And remember, you heard it here first.
Islander Tom Tyner is an attorney
for the Trust for Public Land. He is author
of “Skeletons From Our Closet,”
a collection of writings on the island’s latte scene.