A Letter to All the White Women Whose Panties and Bras I Have Worn

Dear white woman,

Thank you for your panties, for your bras, for your underwear.

You don’t know me, nor do I know you, but our butts share something very intimate, they have enjoyed – mine endured – the covering of the same pairs of panties, and later as we grew, our breasts came to share a similar bond as bras became a necessity for us both.

Many women in my family have worked for you as domestic workers. My grandmothers, my aunties, since [your]infancy. They worked for you until they were ultimately employed by you. You in turn, have raised my bum. Yes, white woman, you are my bum’s keeper.

As a good madam would, for years, you gave the women in my family clothes which you no longer wanted; skirts, dresses, pants, shirts, bras, and your panties. It is almost as if you knew that I existed. I say this because, of course you knew that the tiny diamanté string thong, held together by a miniscule butterfly was too small for my aunt, whose full, wide hips bore testament to the many generations she birthed and raised. You knew that she would not wear them, but the meagre wages you paid her testified that she knew someone who would. You didn’t need to see me to know of me. I am a product of your exploitation.

Or maybe you didn’t think about me, you just came from a world where no one else could be a site of your garbage disposal, a world of excess, and thank God for philanthropy, a landfill opened up to you in the figure of my aunty. She represented lack, an abyss waiting to be filled by that which you needed to dispose of. All of your kind-heartedness would be packed into the notorious big black garbage bag, lest the irony be lost. You are not a good person, madam, but you are a good madam.

What you gave to her, she gifted me.

I am grateful. My family could hardly afford to keep clothes on my back. I wore your panties, all of them. I wore the ones that you kept a little too long, as my butt outgrew them in absentia, and even the ones that you sent a little too early, the ones my ass would have to swiftly catch up with, I wore them. What is a little knot on the side to keep everything up?

When my aunties would give me the big garbage bag, they would remark adamantly, “o ditlhatswe”, you should wash them. I mean, of course right? It goes without saying, wash them, because hygiene. Except, your bras and panties had already been washed, even ironed, blessed be thine ass. I noticed this from the straight lines as I carefully unfolded your underwear. I also know that my aunt knew too, because she would have been the one to wash them, and iron them. This second washing I realise, was a ritual. An attempt to restore dignity to the piece of material through which your farts had escaped for many a time. A ritual to erase untold stains which I cannot bring myself to mention in this letter, it was meant to breathe life into your ‘obroni wewu’ (dead white man’s clothes) as the Ghanaians call them.

However, you never really quite faded, even after my bum knew your panties, my brain knew that your bum had known them first. Sometimes, I would put them away for a while, before wearing them, delay the process. An attempt at induced amnesia of sorts, you can call it. This couldn’t be sustained for too long because the older pairs would start to give in, so I would have to wear the new arrivals, while I imagined what the future ones would be like. You know? The pending gifts which you were currently consecrating with your most intimate parts. Would I like them?

I am grown now, doing pretty well for myself. I can now afford my own pairs of panties, new pairs, I must stress. I thought this would be obvious to everyone, that my black middle-class status would attest to this. I mean… I even contribute towards family weddings and funerals. In fact, very recently when my said aunt lost her partner, I was able to chip in a significant amount towards his burial. I could tell that she really appreciated my contribution, as a sign of her gratitude, she told me to come pick up a parcel at her place. After much delay, I managed to go see her.

With a big smile, nothing short of love, she handed me a big black plastic, one I recognised. It was a big black garbage bag full of clothes from you, just like old times. And right at the bottom of the plastic, I noticed a sight all too familiar to me, your neatly folded bras and iron pressed panties. As tradition dictates, she instructed me, “o ditlhatswe”. Yes, white woman, your panties have followed me right into black middle-classness. They haunt me. I gladly accepted the gift from my aunt and thanked her. Her love does resurrect your deads, better than water and detergent ever could. This is how she has always shown her love, her care, she cannot afford to do it otherwise. And thus, I say, may I never be too good for the white woman’s panties.