What, Exactly, Are Big Girl Panties?

Sometimes when I’m out to lunch with my dad, he’ll say something along the lines of: “yeez, Heather … you should probably stop woofing down those french fries like there’s no tomorrow, or you’ll have to upgrade to big girl panties.” The oddity that is our father-daughter repertoire aside, I always think of this when I hear someone say “time to put on your big girl panties.”

Of course when people say that, they don’t mean you’re getting a little hefty around the backside. Well maybe they do, but for all intents and purposes we’ll assume that what they really mean is: it’s time to act like a big kid. They mean that it’s time for you to grow up. For you to make a decision you don’t want to make. Follow through with an action you don’t want to do. It means that you need to make a sacrifice, be an adult, and act your age.

And it means the big R. Responsibility.

I can think of  a few examples in recent memory that I wore my big girl panties.


in the grocery store parking lot

Yesterday, in the grocery store parking lot, a skirmish unfolded and I was confronted with the need to hitch up my big girl panties and move along quietly. A woman parked next to us as we were getting out to walk into the store, and she therefore was walking in about the same general area as us from car-to-grocery. As we all crossed the lot to the store, a car pulled up very quickly and started honking, the driver yelling “hurry up!!” Rude, I know, but having the Pookies in tow meant I needed to keep it down to set a good example.

“Some people are in such a hurry,” I said calmly as we finished walking into the store, but then the woman that had parked next to us turned around and started screaming at the car. “Bite me you son of a bitch!” she screamed, causing everyone in the parking lot to turn and look. Inside she was my personal hero; outside she really needed to pull up her big girl panties and move on.

Last Friday, over text message with my Trailer Trash Mom

I invited my mother over for dinner over the weekend and she accepted. I know what you all are thinking: I was being too kind. I was, but then I really wanted to get more dirt on what is going on with her Hillbilly Husband/New Mexico trailer-drama. What can I say, I like a good story. So she told me she’d let me know which day worked better with my grandparents’ schedule and then I didn’t hear from her for a few days.

Friday I texted her and said: “Hey, I just went and got all the food for dinner. Do you know whether Saturday or Sunday will work best yet?” and she responded that they were invited to a family tailgate party for the UCLA-Nebraska game, and had decided to (a) extend it into a whole-weekend-family-affair, that I was (b) excluded from on account of the fact that I don’t like either team. This is how that family usually rolls, so I wasn’t the least bit surprised.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t really like my mom, so it really wasn’t that big of a deal. It was still rude that she handled it like that, though, and if I were to let it get to me I probably would have said something nasty. But did I get upset, and scream and cry about it? No. I pulled up my big girl panties and put the extra food in the freezer for us to eat later next week; then waited to smile when Nebraska got creamed.

But what if you don’t want to put on your big girl panties?

This morning when I woke up, I was immediately smacked in the face with my very real “big girl panties” problem: our rent is being increased significantly. The problem is very complex. We’re trying to move to the Midwest – something I have been waiting to do for about 12 years now. Signing a 10 or 12 month lease (the two options we were given besides month-to-month) will lock us in here for another full year. A lot can happen in a year, and as I said I have been patiently waiting and working towards this for 12 years. It will also increase our rent even at that. Another option is that we pay the month-to-month rate and starve to death. There’s also the fact that this place isn’t even worth what we pay now – we had an attempted break-in a few months ago, my outdoor vase was stolen just last week, and a child of one of the neighbors was kidnapped on the 4th of July. But moving to another place while we buy some more time to figure out the whole Midwest move thing will cost a lot of money and lock us into another lease.

Ugh, I know.

You can see why I don’t want to pull up my big girl panties on this one. We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place and in the end the only one that will really be suffering, acting like a big girl, and sacrificing for it is me. I’ll have to stretch the budget to make it work. I’ll have to go another year waiting. It’s very frustrating, to say the least.

So while I do believe that there are a lot of instances when we need to let ourselves upgrade to big girl panties, figuratively speaking of course; I also believe that there may be a time to say “enough is enough.” Is there ever a time when we shouldn’t have to put on our big girl panties? What, exactly, are big girl panties, anyway? I always thought they meant adulthood. Sacrifice. Responsibility. Stuff you do but don’t want to.

But is always sacrificing, never taking risks, and settling for less really living?


  1. You Know it Happens at Your House Too

    Heather, this is wonderful. I dread putting on the big girl panties, but I never mind when it comes to the little people. Nicely done at the store my friend. I have a sibling that I no longer speak to and I ask myself the same question, then I realize that I DO have my BGP on by sticking to my guns and not letting him bully me and my family around anymore. You got this girl and when you get to the Midwest, I feel a girls weekend should be immediately scheduled.

    1. Heather Christena Schmidt

      Yah!! Thanks for the comment. I think we all have so many Big Girl Panty moments, but then question whether we’re really doing the right thing … I realized after reading a few other comments that questioning ourselves is a BGP moment too!!

      Midwest Girls Weekend coming down the pipeline!! 🙂

  2. Connie

    I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been pretty much forced into putting on said panties. Ugh. It’s even more frustrating when you’re dealing with people that are supposed to be the “paid professionals” and yet can’t seem to add 2+2 and get 4. Ugh. I’m ready to go back to being 6 and having Wonder Woman panties any day now……

    1. Heather Christena Schmidt

      Wonder Woman panties!! Yah!! I’ll grab my Care Bears and together we’ll go back to a better time!! 🙂

  3. mybrainonkids4

    I am recently estranged from my mother (over the last year) and I’m constantly asking myself this question. Am I putting my big girl panties on by taking a stand or by taking a stand am I avoiding by big girl panties. It’s too much work to think about now but your blog hit a nerve. The honesty and humor in your blogs is really wonderful! Thanks for sharing! And where in the Midwest?

    1. Heather Christena Schmidt

      Chicago(land). I grew up in Homer Glen near Joliet. We want to move closer to where my family lives, in Naperville 🙂 And thanks for your comment – I think (or wonder) the same thing about myself and the way I conduct myself with my own mother sometimes.

  4. jimcolv

    All of the above Heather, well at least in my experience (for the record I don’t wear panties, though I hear they are quite comfortable). The equivalent for men would be Big Boy pants or boxers. It means to conduct oneself in an appropriate manner (read: get your shit together). The older we get the less some of us want to put on those big boy pants or big girl panties, especially those of us that regularly practice appropriate behavior while the rest of the world refuses to do right. C’est la vie….

    1. Heather Christena Schmidt

      Big Boy Boxer – love it!

  5. Some Kids Are Real A-holes | B(itch) Log

    […] post What, Exactly, Are Big Girl Panties?. I read it over and shuffle to the door. I promised Panera for lunch this morning in an effort to […]

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