The older woman breezes into the store, smiling and self-assured. She’s 60, maybe 65. Her purchase today will be a single item—wild blueberry love oil.
Tricia Nilmeier takes the woman’s $15 at the cash register.
“Honey, I’m glad you gals had this sexual revolution,” the woman tells Tricia. “I never would have bought something like this home back in the ‘40s or ‘50s. Now I can enjoy it.”
Yes, the sexual revolution appears to be alive and well. In Atascadero. What would Jesse Helms say? The politically conservative part of the county has been quite liberal in lingerie spending lately. Sales are up on garter belts, teddies, love oils, and, um, crotchless panties.
Men and women. Young and old. Petite and full figure. They’re all expected to visit Tricia this week for Valentine’s Day at her Trace of Lace lingerie shop. Don’t giggle. Don’t snicker. Don’t blush with embarrassment or disgust. And please keep reading.
Buying lingerie may be about sex and fantasy to some, but it’s also about self-esteem and the most difficult love of all—learning to love yourself.
Tricia knows. She tells me her story as we stand amid the racks of lingerie in her showroom, a place that features more pink than the Madonna Inn. There’s a box of children’s toys next to the front door. The adult toys are kept discreetly in the back. Peek-a-boo bras and thong panties hang next to Tricia. I stare at the floor a lot.
“By wearing good lingerie, I watch my weight,” Tricia says. “That’s important to me because I used to weigh 200 pounds.” That was two years and 130 pounds ago. The slimmer, happier Tricia used sexy lingerie to reshape her self-image.
“I was in a dysfunctional marriage. I was very unhappy. I didn’t feel pretty, so I never wore anything. Now I’m single. I buy lingerie for me because it makes me happy. I feel good about me.”
Her reasoning has not been lost on others. Tricia estimates that more than half her female customers are full figure—weighing more than 170 pounds. “Lingerie is feeling good about yourself, no matter what size you are. When you start feeling pretty inside, you start wearing nice things.”
“Besides,” Tricia added with a smile. “You’d be surprised how many women wear garter belts to work underneath their business suits.”
Gulp. I’m really staring at the floor now. My face feels as red as the garter belt hanging nearby. I change the subject. We’re in a recession. Families are going without basic necessities. Self-image may be important, but it’s hard to believe that cost-conscious people are willing to spend $50 for a sexy bra.
Tricia smiles again. She’ll be beaming all week as she helps both couples and singles find true love. “Even in a recession, people still buy lingerie,” she says. “They may skimp on food money, but they’ll still come in and purchase a pair of thong panties. They do it to feel sexy.”
I know what you’re wondering. Did I buy any lingerie from Tricia? Did I contribute to the sexual revolution in Atascadero? You’ll have to ask Charlotte. But I’ll give you a hint.
It’s not the floor I’m staring at now.
San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune (February 1993)