Friday, June 16, 2006

Under Where?

The seventies were a decade I wouldn't care to repeat, probably because I lived through them and they seemed to last forever. Maybe it was the rapid downshift from upheaval and tumult in the sixties to medicated apathy and thrill seeking in the following decade. Maybe it was cotton blue jeans giving way to velour pull over tops. Maybe it was muscle cars pulling over for Gremlins. Whatever. The decade, as a rule, seemed to last forever and seemed to suck more and more as the years went on. When December 31st, 1979 came along, I for one was out in the garden with a shovel tamping on the grave of the seventies as hard as I could and covering that plot with as many heavy rocks as the old man hadn't formed into a half assed garden wall that we kept "bumping" the lawnmower into.

But I digress. I didn't mean to explore the socioeconomic underpinnings of decades, I really want to talk about underwear.

Tighty whiteys, or not as the case may be.

Somewhere in that awful decade, somewhere out at some Fruit of the Bloom plant in East Rubbish, Arkansas or more than likely Igottagoandbad, Ontario, some yahoo boho got the idea to dump (no pun) a load of perfectly acceptable cotton briefs into a vat of red dye number two and market the mess.

Yes, somewhere, someone came up with the idea of brand extension by offering underwear in garish colors and didn't they just have my mother's fashion sense in mind. Not for her, mind you, for her shy and late blooming little boy.

Mom thought it was wonderful to have cromatic range of shorts to stuff me in instead of the banal whites that had served me so well up till now. No idea where she got the idea but one day somewhere in late '75 she comes rushing home from the local department store with a fresh load of all the colors of the rainbow. Mom was European and her fashion sense tended to veer towards the dramatic. She was always impeccably dressed herself and eschewed frocks that other local ladies wore. Same too for the old man who played with necktie patterns that could flag jets down onto carrier decks if you sewed enough of them together. They were a stylish couple that stood out. Problem was, they had a boy who wanted to do anything but.

I was quite happy fitting in and looking like everybody else. Shirt, pants, sneakers and call me everykid. I didn't want to stand out. It attracted attention and attention meant getting beaten up, which I got a lot. I was a small kid, the kind of physique that might as well come with the word "Target" written on my forehead in indellible laundry marker. So when Mom came home with the color cornucopia of unders I damn near hid under the bed for a week.

"Just try them on, you'll look chic (pronounced sheek like some Parisian fashion plate. Thing was, Parisian fashion plates were safe from Stanley Moynan, the local bully, over in Paris eating Napoleons in a cafe. My skinny ass was over here, right in Stanley's sights).

"No way. Not going to do it!" Muffled from under the bed.

"Just put them on. Try them. Its underwear, nobody's going to see what you're wearing." She said encouragingly as she simultaneously tossed out all my plain white briefs that I had by now outgrown. Hence the new underwear infusion. Mom was stylish but she was above all practical.

"Mooooo'oooooooo'oooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!" (Pinot Noir, now, is my favorite wine. That was an earlier favorite)

"Put them on and go to school." Ah, the rule of absolutes had been invoked, supplanting reason. Ok, I was screwed and I knew it. Mom was right, up to a point. It was after all, underwear, and no one would know or see it. Certainly not girls since I was late in blooming in just about everything and when it came to relations with the opposite sex most had just about damn well given up on that flower ever showing up. But Mom had missed one key and critical element of my day: Gym class.

"What the fuck have you got on?"

"Uh. Nothing. Why?"

"What fucking color are those? Is your ass bleeding? Are you dressed as Superman?"

And on and on and on. Gym was never one of my favorites. I had the athletic abilities of a blind water buffalo and the speed and grace to go along with it. There's a whole 'nother upcoming blog on the misadventures of Gym-bunny but suffice to say, colored britches didn't get me picked to the team any sooner.

Eventually the shock and shame of colored briefs wore off as more and more boys wore them. Some of them, the ones who were blooming right on time, actually preferred them as their girlfriends liked them too. I at that point got it in my head that women had a thing for elastic. A wonder I ever got married, stupid as I was.

So the controversy died down and went away and I graduated, went to college and bought my own things after a time. Now I'm on the fashion cutting edge of nothing and happy about it. The only envelopes I push the edge of are addressed to the mortgage company and revenge being a dish served cold, Mom finally figured out what all the paint rags really were when I re-did her bathroom a few years ago.

Uh huh. Special thrill soaking those things in turpentine.

Bunny on, great white shorts warrior!


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