Many psychiatrists claim that one's emotional maturity is stalled at the onset of an addiction; if you become an alcoholic at 16, you might sustain, for decades, the emotional maturity of a 16-year-old. I think the same is true of pee habits, which means I have the bladder of a child drinking at the capacity of a dehydrated 26-year-old.
Incontinence is not a daily issue for me, but I've had enough accidents in my life to warrant intervention—at our college graduation, I peed in my friend's grandmother's romper (which she let me borrow on the condition that I not pee in it) and subsequently had to be tested for diabetes. The incident happened in large part due to the polyuria I developed as a recovering bulimic and caffeine abuser, and it basically means I produce and pass a lot of urine. Polyuria can be a symptom of diabetes, but it also occurs simply from drinking too much caffeine or alcohol, both of which are diuretics. I am still a recovering bulimic, and have been advised to follow a rehydrating plan requiring at least 2-3 liters of water a day—caffeine intake being a large consideration. Additionally, I take spironolactone, a medication that was originally prescribed as a diuretic for high blood pressure back in the 80s, for hormonal acne. When I am properly hydrated, I have to pee anywhere from 15–30 times a day.
According to a nutritionist I saw at the age of 15, the adjustment period of having to pee a gallon of water every five minutes during rehydration can last anywhere from "a few weeks" to "forever" depending on how long you abuse diuretics. Since I continue to abuse them by drinking coffee every day, I regularly experience bladder leaks, which sometimes compound into full-fledged peeing. So when I recently discovered that the much-discussed "period panty" company THINX had also developed underwear for bladder leaks, I was perhaps way too eager to try them.
Unlike the period panties, THINX's Icon "pee-proof" underwear are not advertised on the subway. They seem to be marketed primarily towards young, active moms and women possibly approaching menopause; the product description claims to keep you dry and "fresh as rosé" even after laughing, jumping, skipping, and sneezing all day long. The website doesn't address the issue of leaks caused by absurdly frequent urination, but I figured that I probably leak around the same amount of pee from consciously exploiting my urinary tract as anyone who spends the day laughing, jumping, skipping, and sneezing with their three-year-old. A normal day for me consists of sitting at a desk for eight hours while drinking my daily required two Nalgene bottles' worth of water, plus whatever other liquids I might consume in a day: seltzer, a few cups of coffee or a latte, and, yes, occasionally even a glass of rosé. I am not willing to give up any of these liquid vices, despite my already-compromised urinary tract, so I accept that I have to pee a lot. It's just not always convenient or possible.
I guess you can't have it all when you are incontinent.
I had the Icon undies delivered to my office, as I had done previously with the period panties. Unlike that of the period panties, which features uterus prints and ice cream cones all over the mailing envelope, Icon's packaging is ambiguous. I decided to change into the underwear immediately, since I was going to see a play later that night and knew peeing would be an issue. A few weeks earlier, I had seen a play after drinking one cocktail and a glass of water; it was a one-woman show with no intermission, and I was seated in the back corner of theater on the inside of a very tight row with no foreseeable escape. The show ran for a little over an hour, and I had already peed substantially in my pants when it ended. As soon as the audience stopped clapping, I sprinted ahead of the stampede to the one existing toilet in the theater.
I was a little disappointed to find that the bikini cut I ordered was unflattering. I expected them to look the same on me as they did on the fit, fun moms from the website, but they are tighter than what I'm used to and made my ass cheeks pucker and flare out, resulting in bad panty lines. I guess you can't have everything the way you want it. The underwear themselves looked chic and sleek on the outside, though, and came in a pleasing heather blue. Once they were on, I can most accurately compare the feel to a soft swimsuit with a panty liner in it. The lining on the inside is not as seamless as it appears on the website (online, you only see the outside of the panties), but again, I guess you can't have it all when you are incontinent.
Before the play, I met my friend at a small Thai restaurant near the theater, where we only had time for drinks and spring rolls. Drinking on a near-empty stomach is never a good idea for me or my bladder, but I ordered a Mai Thai anyway. Even though I don't drink much anymore (because when I do, I pee my pants), I felt that the underwear gave me a little extra security, so I drank the whole Mai Thai and some water. We didn't have time to use the bathroom before the show and were informed upon arriving at the theater that it ran for 85 minutes with no intermission. Great, I thought, and then, Whatever, at least I'm wearing this underwear. Five minutes into the show, I already had to use the bathroom; again I was trapped in a tight row and didn't want to disrupt anyone. I crossed my legs in a way that made my entire pelvis numb in an attempt not to feel my bladder pulsing for the entire show.
After 85 minutes, my bladder was exploding, but the panties remained dry. Miraculously, the underwear withstood several "little leaks" and "tinkles" during the play, and it was nice to ride home on the subway in dry clothes. On the A train, I prayed gratefully to the THINX ads frolicking above me, hoping that someday the company would start advertising their pee panties prominently, too. I have since worn them out several times with mostly favorable results; apparently they aren't designed to withstand a full-bladder release, but nothing ever is.