Monday, March 23, 2009

Get over your underwear

Swiss cheese looks right at home on a ham and rye sandwich. It does not, however, belong in your husband’s underwear drawer.

“What in God’s name happened with these?” I mockingly asked my husband one afternoon as he lay sprawled on the couch watching a football game.

I, the hard-working wife, was busy with laundry. But that’s a story for another day.

He turned around to see me holding a pair of clean, white boxer briefs in front of my face. No fewer than nine of my fingers were sticking through various holes, waving at him from the other side.

“Did you wear a wood chipper to work this week?” I asked.

“Nope,” he said without missing a beat, “those are air holes.”

Uh, OK.

“Air holes?” I asked with a little fear and quickly snatched my hand back. The briefs flew up in the air and landed with a plop on the floor next to our golden retriever. She didn’t seem too interested since she no longer eats underwear. That, too, is a story for another day.

“Yep, air holes,” he said. “Keeps things fresh, you know.”

No, I didn’t know. And I didn’t want to know. I looked down into the laundry basket and discovered that just about every single pair of his white, boxer briefs were in the same pathetic state of disrepair.

I gathered them into a pile and said, “I’ll just throw these out and go buy you a new supply.”

I’d never seen my husband move so fast. Even after the time I forgot to run the garbage disposal, which managed to back up the dishwasher and create a small flood in the kitchen before we got things back under control.

He leapt off the couch and made a desperate lunge for the pile in my arms.

“No!” he shouted. “I just got those broken in! Please don’t take them away!” He fell into a sobbing heap at my feet, wrapping his arms around my knees. “You just don’t understand!”

Of course I didn’t. I am a woman. While we might spend a small fortune at Victoria’s Secret, women do not have the same kind of relationship with our underwear that men have. Our underwear is supposed to be pretty. Lacy. Silky.

With absolutely no holes – unless they were manufactured that way and sold at the store down the street that wraps everything in plain brown paper.

Men, however, treat their undies like cars at a demolition derby.

The nastier, the better. Gaping holes and rust-colored stains are a badge of honor, proof that a man has persevered through the ugliest hour, taken a beating and survived to tell the tale.

However, at the end of the day most of them still end up in the neighborhood junkyard.

“Honey,” I said in my soft talk-a-jumper-down-off-the-ledge voice, “it’s time to let these go. They’ve had a good life. They’re going to a better place.”

I looked down at the well-worn and discolored cotton, wrinkled up my nose and added, “Believe me. They’ve earned it.”

But it wasn’t until I promised to build a funeral pyre in the backyard and send his old undies off in style that he finally agreed to let them go.

As the flames licked the sky and the smoked spiraled up toward the heavens, he breathed a loud sigh of acceptance. Then he pumped a fist and said, “OK. I’m taking Gabe to the store now. Gonna show him how to buy underwear.”

So much for the five stages of grief. He’d already barreled through the first four and was quite chummy with the final stage of acceptance.

I looked over at our 20-month-old son, who had somehow saved a pair of briefs from honorary cremation and was trying to put them on the dog.

“Uh, he still wears diapers,” I said, grabbing him before our friendly golden retriever turned into a pit bull out of sheer frustration.

“I know that,” my husband answered. “But someday he will wear underwear. Manly underwear. The kind of underwear that warns people not to mess with you.”

I snickered. “I suspect his first undies will have pictures of SpongeBob SquarePants or Superman on them.”

“It doesn’t matter,” my husband said, walking off with our son perched on his shoulders. “As long as they let in a little air.”
(originally published January 30, 2007)

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