It came in the mail yesterday. I felt a little rejected. A bit sad even when I opened the “Dear John” letter. I was getting dumped, no two multi-strap ways about it.

I was given an ultimatum. By Victoria herself. Earn 1,000 points by Jan 31, 2014 or else. I’d be shunned from exclusive perks, would lose my two times a year free shipping (as if I ever pay for shipping!) and stop getting my $15 reward every 250 points.

Did you get all that? I didn’t. Anymore, that is. In fact, my head is spinning trying to recall the hierarchy of special offers and getting something with “X” percentages off. Was a time, not so long ago, all this filled my brain. I had it down and how to flip it. I was the Wolverine of D Street. In my case, my address is 34 Double D Street.

I just can’t get the energy anymore. My relationship with VS all started with free underwear. Get the credit card and with no fees, you’ll get free underwear once a quarter, or more. Cute neon stripes, polka dots, lace. Fancy, plain – the gamut. Free! Sign me up!

These ARE my panties and G-d praises, for life, they are and ever will be. I’ve even tried to convince the boyfriend, the brother AND the son to get a credit card and stock up on this precious collector’s “pirette” booty of the 20th century. For the men in my life, I pictured it like that 80s play, The Wool Gatherer, where she had all these guys’ sweaters she’d slept with piled high in her closet. In this case, the closet is filled with bright pink and red signature striped bags with the hot pink ribbon. Inside, tissue paper of pink or lopsided hearts, depending on the season, and inside the paper, the present: clean, new $8.50 or $10.50 value, hip-hugger, boy shorts, grandma panties dressed up in lace, thong or bikini brief. All shapes and sizes to accommodate the newest conquest. So, I envision my brother or son – I’m weird ok, I also pimp him out when I see a worthy candidate, or support him deeply in a committed relationship – so I envision, he would have a lady over and as a parting swag gift in the morning, instead of breakfast of pancakes and eggs, he reaches to the closet, pulls from a tower of bags, and hands her one. Here, honey. Have a nice day. A nice life. Great meeting you. With a swagger and a wink, think of me when this cotton touches your lovely lady parts.

Hmmm, does that sound like prostitution? Yeah, my brother and son thought it was too creepy. If it was me, I’d take the panties, even if I’d be haunted thinking about this guy all my life. But I do love swag, so it’d be worth it. And if the guys in my life don’t want to get them for chicks, think of me, huh? I want more.

Yeah, I’m still campaigning.

Where did my relationship with VS sour? It started off so sell. From the underwear, though, it got more and more complicated in the years that followed. The catalogs kept coming. They wouldn’t stop. They’d be exactly the same, but a page would be different. I’d be at someone else’s house, and their catalog with have something that wasn’t in any of mine. It was like there really WAS a secret and the quest was to make sure I’d uncovered every last one.

The many that came to the house I reserved for bathroom reading. At first, that is. I thought I could get through them quickly, and toss them just as quickly. But one thing led to another, secrets revealed and we were inseparable. It was the equivalent to me being the one in the relationship who buys all the dinners, movies and trips to Hawaii after one free kiss. I was in: bras, basic tees, nighttime tees, skinny cords, lounge pants, work shirts, blazers (in case I have a board meeting) and matching pencil skirts, sundresses, sexy night dresses, short, medium and maxi (a term I learned from them) skirts, linen pants, work pants, pjs, beach coverups, long underwear, leather boots, puffer jackets, sweaters of all weights, cotton and cashmere blends, sequined Oakland Raiders’ gear, breezy hoodies. Holiday sparkles and silks, multi-way sweaters, velvet dresses or sexy bodycons. Sexy silk robes. Lingerie.

Oh, and did I leave out bathing suits? I am afraid to count the push ups, one pieces, bikinis. Over a hundred, I’m sure. More? And since they didn’t have the clothes in store, what entailed were endless trips to get the prices and sizes the way I like them. Those plastic bags in my trunk, the anxiety of getting the price adjustments, multiple exchanges and re-buying. More packages in the mail. Codes and offer codes, most of which they rigged it so you couldn’t use them on the same order, so you’d have to juggle it, make multiple purchases, swing the free shipping, call customer service to sweet-talk a supervisor to honor the balancing of codes, since I was such a loyal customer. 

Customer service reps and Glendale store clerks who had to take all my in-store free return shipping bags, see all the outfits on to choose the right one, comment that oooh they hadn’t seen this one – they all knew me. The manager liked me and would sympathize with the frustrations at catalog vs. online vs in-store. Then I learned the easiest way to get free shipping was to order from in-store, so I’d come in with my final lists once they were assembled at first mark-downs, or right before.

And as an intimate partner, VS had boundaries which made pushing them all the more the challenge. One particular nightmare was their policy that differentiated rewards vs gift cards, which have their own rules of use, too. I barely remember, but rewards were what you earned and had restrictions and gift cards had none. During Secret Rewards time, November and another time, I forget, every time you order you get a reward with a secret amount from 10, 20, 50, 100, to 500. I’d time all my purchases, buy them separately to get a reward in each. I never got more than $10, but I’d sit on the phone with a customer service rep and go through each code. Stacked up together, each $10 reward added up. It could be I got $150 in reward cards and I’d usually return what I bought and “trade in” my initial purchases for those rewards. It would either be an exchange or a new purchase, depending upon which had another offer code to accompany it and it could get tricky because new purchases meant shipping. Then, I’d find something else to buy and it might start over. I then figured out how to avoid their restrictions: I’d use my rewards to buy gift cards, which never expired and made great gifts!

A lot, a lot of work for gifts.

VS, I don’t care anymore, I’m sorry. I’ve tried to get out of this before, and it’s like you could read my mind, you bitch. Every time, I was done with you, used all the rewards you had to offer, you seemed to know and send me another $10 reward out of the blue. Just like that! Just for being me, you told me. I felt accepted. I did, you really made me feel part of the cool people. Until, I tried to use the reward, with its restrictions of dates and expirations and more codes to recite. Then, I got weary. Uncle.

I tried to discipline myself. If I saw an outfit three times in different catalogs and it still stuck in my brain, I’d get it. Just to actualize it. With all the work I’d put into getting it and thinking about it, hey, it WAS an accomplishment. I’d be so disappointed if the fabric was cheap, which it often times was. I’d run around the house in the outfit, checking to see that the jersey didn’t cling in all the wrong places (which it did) and that the shade or print had depth (which it usually didn’t.) Though I have to say while buying up African fabrics in African, I wore a few of my VS African-inspired getups and the Zimbabwean marketeers were full of compliments. Sweet. (They thought I’d purchased them at a competitor’s stall in fact, so they were also relieved when they heard VS. They also assumed I was rich then, but I didn’t want to go into the whole charade, simply saying no, cheap and on sale, mostly so they wouldn’t gouge the price of something I was currently buying.)

My kitchen countertop held a special place for ripped out obsessions from catalogs. When I would lose weight, I got especially vulnerable, envisioning myself in some sexy club outfit, in that pose in the catalog. It wet my juices. Except really, I don’t go to clubs much. And when I do, I’m a different weight and that barely box-hiding length of skirt is garish, to say the least. I gave up on lingerie when my boyfriend didn’t care at all, though appreciative of my outer ensembles he is. If he’s wearing whitey-tighties when it all comes down to the skivvies, I decided not to bother myself. I felt like I was getting something done when a catalog picture arrived at my door as a 3-D entity. I could throw away the picture finally. 

Obviously, I had a problem. A Junkie Jezzabelle. Compounding the addiction is the theater in me. I’m able to envision myself as characters in costumes, in all these scenarios, starring Me. With Anthropologie, I am Picnic at Hanging Rock, in fresh cotton or whimsical tops, complete with a wicker baskets on my bicycle, going to the park or an outdoor movie. With Banana Republic, I’m head of a company and calling the shots. With Gap and J. Crew, I’m breezy Mom. With Urban Outfitters, I’m at Coachella. With Free People, I’m at Woodstock or Big Sur.

Victoria Secret sells sexy. Even its basics spin sexy. I’ve got big boobs. VS fondles them with fashion.

I have an outfit for every feeling, layer, weather-change, vibe, melody, theatrical experience. Who am I going to be today? I do wear all this shit. The bathing suits I wear as bras around the house, too, often popping out for a 20 minute break in sunny California to get my Vitamin D and read a chapter. One red Fairisle sweater is my Christmas go-to. Every time there’s a 20s party, out comes the gold-sequined bolero. The tee-shirt dresses, their specialty along with the skinny cords, are the first things I pack for hang-out or beach coverup. My silver sequin holiday wrap sweater is really warm, and my billionaire girlfriend loved it because it matched her tank of the same ilk, which she probably paid an arm and a leg for.

Over the past four years, every time I was sickened by the process, I’d get another reward from all the money I’d spent or saved. Saved is debatable, except that I probably did manage to recycle the same thousand dollar investment, getting double or triple the amounts and quantities. So, yes. Lots of things ended up being free. And of course, the underwear.

But my mind wasn’t free.

I’ve talked all my girlfriends to take advantage of the free underwear. They don’t seem to obsess over it though. I asked my girlfriend last night if she wanted to go together to pick ours up and she couldn’t remember if she even had the coupon and every time she looked it was expired. Me? Sadly, I have the start date memorized and would organize the price adjustment errands around that date, eager after spending money, to feel like at least someone is taking care of me. Going to the Victoria’s Secret on the Third Street Promenade, because it’s quick, really, is the only thing I let my boyfriend see, pretense that I didn’t tarry long, that my decision making processes weren’t tainted beyond all reason.

So, to not be part of this club anymore, I won’t lie, it hurts. A bra gone by the wayside. Then I picture the cheap fabrics, the piles and piles of already accumulated clothes, I simply can’t take more in.

Except underwear. What did Brecht say, “From the cradle to the grave, underwear comes first.” 

Hopefully, VS we can part as friends, no hard feelings. And I’ll think of you every day. Because hopefully, I’ll always have underwear. 

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