VPL, or "visible panty line", is a phenomenon that appears as soon as spring has sprung. It rises with the sap at the merest blink of sunshine. It manifests itself most commonly at weddings, office parties, and even on prime-time television. A recent Blind Date contestant was a textbook example. The lovely lad may not have liked the cut of her jib, but most of Britain saw the cut of her knicks as she waddled up Cilla's stairs to the losers' dressing room. His relief at not picking her, was palpable - so was mine.
I have no sympathy for anyone suffering from VPL. This is, after all, a self-imposed affliction. Don't these people look in the mirror? Or is it the fault of complacent/well meaning/ scared partners, who to the much- voiced "I look fat in this, don't I?", reply "of course you don't, my darling", every time.
I have never been a fan of squeeze-me-quick Lycra below the waist, so VPL was not a personal challenge - that is, until this year's January sales, when I fell for a pair of skin-tight, indigo, boot-cut Sportmax trousers. They were reduced from pounds 169 to pounds 53, so I just had to have them. The assistant rather cunningly reassured me that no, I didn't look fat in them and yes, they were supposed to be that tight; and she had processed my Visa card and lovingly wrapped my brand-new purchase in tissue, before I'd even had time to consider my panty line options.
The ensuing evening gave me a new complex to mix and match with my new trews. I spent a great deal of time in Hennes, selecting a suitable, fine g-string with which to slide into this Lycra garment, and, as this shop is such incredible value, was forced to buy a slinky Wonderbra-style bikini as well. Tops and bottoms are sold separately, so I thought, what the hell, I'll get some g-string bottoms while I'm at it - nice to have a sun-kissed behind.
I thought my other half would have been unable to contain himself, as I gave him a pre-bedtime fashion show. But when it came to the (Pamela- Anderson-eat-your-heart-out) g-string bikini, he hesitated, then shook his head, saying no, this was really 18-year-old-waif gear. I haven't yet got over the fact that he doesn't think I possess the body of an 18- year-old waif. At least I can wear my g-string under my Sportmax boot- legs, and strip off to reveal it in the gym locker-room, in the certain knowledge that most of the fat old birds in there would turn up to board meetings wearing only this piece of dental floss, if they had buttocks like mine.
There is no excuse for revealing your panty line to the world. There are solutions - be they g-strings, trouser briefs, control-top tights, or simply no knickers at all. Before you RSVP to your VIP party, get to the mirror ASAP, and check out that VPL. In case there is any doubt, your reflected rear should remind you of two smooth Cox's orange pippins, not a beach ball tied tightly with string.
Smoothies to get intimate with: LOGG microfibre g-string, pounds 4.99, from H&M (Hennes), 261-271 Regent Street, London W1; Lycra and polyester "trouser knickers" with minimiser knicker-line and seam-free rear, pounds 7, from Marks & Spencer.