It is our second Tinder texting marathon, where all messages are ten words or less, many of which Autocorrect tries to unnaturally fix so that our correspondence resembles more a game of Boggle than the chase-and-catch. I once tried to tell a guy that I was on my way to teach a class and had no time for texting, but that we should grab drinks at the Rubin Museum later; it came out as no time for sexting, let’s get drinks at the Ruin Museum, which is apparently where all the naughty sexting girls go.
Said boy was confused but intrigued, until I corrected the mistake. I’ve recently considered including some kind of warning in my Tinder profile along the lines of artistic intellectual with enormous thumbs, but I worry what that might attract. This particular hipster likes to begin his chats with a simple hey and often ends with are you wearing panties? While a saucy message is appreciated now and then, I do not have the heart to tell him that on this particular day I am in glasses and grading a stack of essays, that to set the record straight, it is actually inconsequential whether or not I am wearing panties since there is always, according to Plato, the Intangible Form of Pantyness, the Panty that is perfect and unchanging regardless of whether I am wearing them. He does not understand that having been asked the question so many times on so many different occasions I have become one with the Panty, that I am the Panty, that I am the Walrus and he is the Eggman.
But I think this might be too much philosophical freebasing so I simply reply, maybe.
Ha ha he writes back, don’t know you know? Maybe you should check.
As an aside, not all men I meet online are panty men. One took me out on a seven-hour date where he never once asked me about panties, thongs, or thigh highs but he did inquire about my dating history, education, family dynamics, and diet and at last looked slightly horrified when I told him the need to eat vegetables continues to elude me. Perhaps it would have softened the blow if I lied and said I didn’t do underwear, either. He didn’t run away in horror at my revelation, but he did order an artichoke heart for us to share and later finished the untouched salad on my plate when I said I was full, all the while reminding me how healthy eating can be fun.
That experience taught me to be wary about revealing personal information, but now, with my hipster eagerly waiting for confirmation, I have a choice. If I say why yes, I am wearing panties, he would ask what kind, and then I would have to confess that I didn’t quite get all my laundry done, that what I have on are considered second-rate panties, not period panties or workout panties, but these are riding up a bit, and not in that sexy, Victoria’s Secret Cheekini kind of way. If I say no, he will want to take the conversation to another level that I, with my clumsy thumbs and an Autocorrect that borders on S&M, cannot go to without kicking sick ducks or locking up tots.
A part of me hesitates, wanting to explore this metafictional moment where it does not matter whether or not I am actually wearing panties, that Schrodinger’s cat has nothing on the state of my lingerie since I am merely appropriating the panty as a theoretical construct, the color of which is to be determined in a matter of seconds, but, as part of the dating/sexting social contract theory, should be red or black. To bring in polka dots, ice cream cones, palm trees or a host of other designs that might be spotted on my second rate buy-three-for-fifteen-dollar collection would be in strict violation of the semantic paradigm. It is only required that the hipster on the other end of the conversation believes the color of the panty to be red even though that is a straight-up lie. I own no red panties. Not even pink or maroon.
The hipster has now sent several questions marks and is most likely beginning to doubt my sanity since it’s taking this long to decide whether or not I’m wearing underwear. I glance over at the stack of ungraded papers that I will soon attack with a bright red pen (which poses a psychoanalytic conundrum of why I have red pens over red panties, but now is not the time). Finally, I write back, how do you feel about polka dots? And thus begins the funhouse Freudian game of fort/da, always returning and never learning, I notice the message has been changed to say polka dogs.
I’m in, he responds.
Nancy Hightower's work has appeared in storySouth, Gargoyle, Prick of the Spindle, Sundog Lit, Literary Orphans, and Word Riot; Her novel, Elementarí Rising (Pink Narcissus Press, 2013) received a starred review in Library Journal and Kinds of Leaving; her short story collection was shortlisted for the Flann O’Brien Award for Innovative Fiction in 2014. The Acolyte, her first collection of poetry, was published by Port Yonder Press in 2015. Nancy currently co-hosts the Liars League Reading Series in NYC, reviews science fiction and fantasy for The Washington Post, and teaches at Hunter College.