*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.
“Can I borrow a pair of your underwear?” she asked.
My childhood best friend and I grew up together and went from wearing school uniforms to miniskirts and crop tops together.
As newly minted young adults, we delighted in donning high heels and short hemlines at the club or tiny monokinis at the beach. We wanted to explore our newfound adulthood and express ourselves through fashion.
We wore tight jeans and low-buttoned shirts, short shorts, tank tops, and ankle bracelets: anything that made us feel pretty.
While my mother liked my new wardrobe and encouraged me to wear what made me feel good, my best friend’s parents frowned upon every article of clothing she bought herself without her mother’s supervision.
I first noticed something was amiss when she showed up at my house wearing a voluminous two-piece skirt and blouse that would easily have fit both of us at the same time. She looked like she had just escaped from a cult.
Her hemline brushed the sidewalk, and her sleeves covered her arms to her fingertips.
“What are you wearing?” I asked.
“My mother made it for me.” She scowled.
The last time I’d seen her, she was wearing a white skirt with a black lace overlay that ended six inches above the knees. This new outfit was akin to dressing in Hefty trash bags.
“My parents threw away all my clothes,” she said, “and my mother made me new ones.”
Later that week, she called me. She sounded exasperated. “Can I borrow a pair of underwear?” she asked.
I met her in a Burger King parking lot and handed over a pair of black bikini bottom underwear with red trim. They were nothing special, just a normal pair of underpants a young woman would wear under jeans or a skirt.
She showed me a massive pair of white cotton bloomers two sizes too big for her. “My mother wants me to wear these,” she said, “but they nearly reach my knees. If I pull the waistband up, it reaches my armpits.”
My friend took the black panties I offered her and threw the offending giant white cotton bloomers in the parking lot trash barrel.
“They’re making me wear knee socks,” she lamented before peeling off her socks and tossing them into the trash atop her discarded undergarments.
Her parents disposed of her high-heeled shoes, leaving her with a single pair of leather loafers she’d worn all four years of high school. They tossed anything with lace or fishnet, but let her keep anything with long hemlines or copious amounts of ruffles.
Even her boots and blazers failed to pass her parents’ judgment. They relegated her to the abovementioned loafers and old cardigan sweaters that were hand-me-downs from her mother de ella.
When she moved out of her parents’ house in the dead of night at the age of eighteen, she took only the clothes on her back. There was nothing else she wanted except freedom.