Monday, November 7, 2011

A Misunderstanding Regarding Underpants

I was ten years old before I knew that boys wore underpants. I am being serious.

I was raised by hippies and I remember this one summer when I was maybe 5 years old, we were living in the mountains of California helping my dad's friend build an underground house. My mom and dad worked on the house all day and my sister and I played in the woods while they worked. There were usually 5-10 other people there on any given day, and a quarter of them pounded nails and sawed two-by-fours completely naked (except they wore work boots). Also, according to my dad, most of them were on LSD. It was bizarre and also probably not very safe.

Mom and Dad were pretty square by the standards of that construction site, but on the other hand, I don't think Dad has ever owned a pair of underwear in his life. When I was little, I thought underwear were worn exclusively by girls and women. And I lived 10 long years on this earth thinking that until one day in 5th grade I was standing in the lunch line behind Jim Minshew, and I noticed his pants were too big for him. Over the saggy waistband of his jeans I could see a whole swath of material printed with red and blue Transformers.

As soon as I could, I ran over to my friend Rebecca and gave her the scoop: Jim Minshew wore panties.

Rebecca just looked at me.

"What do you mean panties?" she inquired. "Like girls' panties?"

"Well, yeah," I said. "And they had Transformers on them."

"Jim is wearing underwear with Transformers on them?" Rebecca was confused and I was beginning to be confused and also uncomfortable. Rebecca smelled blood in the water.

"Do you like Jim Minshew?" she asked me in her best 10-year-old-confidante stage whisper.

"No! Gross!" I spat, maybe a little too emphatically, as I was still reeling a bit from the boys-wearing-underpants shocker.

Well, it just so happens that Jim Minshew was single and looking. And additionally, Rebecca had a big fat mouth.

So a couple days later while walking across the playground, I was ambushed by Jim Minshew between the climbing tires and the batting cage.

Jim was a chubby kid with pink cheeks and a crew cut. He could also be kind of a dick sometimes.

"Jessie, do you want to go with me?" he asked, without preamble. "Going with" was basically the same thing as "going steady," which is what they had called it at my old school.

I shook my head frantically without making eye contact. "No," I whispered.

"Ha ha--PSYCH!" he yelled and pushed me by the shoulders into the wall of tires. "Nobody wants to go with you because you're TOO POOR!" And with that he trudged away into the gym.

For the life of me, I'll never know why Jim Minshew chose to put me down in that particular way. I guess I probably was poorer than him: I was on scholarship at a private school, so I was poorer than pretty much everybody. Afterwards, I remember thinking of snappy comebacks I could have used to make him feel bad about himself. The one I remember practicing at night in bed before I went to sleep was, "At least I don't wear Transformers panties!"

That one might actually have worked.

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