Gather ’round, kids, because today I’m going to tell a story about underpants. My underpants, to be precise.
But first, how about that word: Underpants. I just like to say it. Say it right now, out loud. Underpants. Say it to a person – any person – sitting nearby. Be sure not to accidentally put a question mark on the end, especially if you don’t know that person.
I was in a large chain retailer in Durango a couple weeks ago looking for something else (rabbit-shaped candy, if you must know), and I thought I’d take a peek at the underpants (the ones for sale). Now, it had been all but 12 years since I’d last bought underpants, which is not as Ratty McHolerson as it may sound initially. In 2005, I’d just moved to a new town and had to wait six weeks for my lady-at-the-time – along with all of our stuff, washer and dryer included – to join me. What began as laziness and a fear of laundromats, turned into a six-week endeavor to avoid washing any clothes. At the end, I owned at least 42 sets of socks, T-shirts, and underpants. Over the next 12 years, I stowed away most of those, and as my underclothing wore out, I’d replace them with my 2005 stash. Buying underpants nearly became a thing of the past … until 2017.
So I’m at the large chain retailer in the men’s underpants section. Instead of your standard Hanes or Fruit of the Loom boxer briefs, historically my brands of choice, I decide to go for something nicer (the last 12 years have been good to me). I go for the most expensive underpants I can find and buy six pair. Once home, after they’ve gone through the wash (I trust you wash your new underpants before wearing them, too), I try some on. I pull the waistband up to, you know, my waist and something feels … off. The crotch of the underpants is not aligning with my crotch; instead, it sags between my crotch and my knees. But when I match up both crotches, pulling the waistband as shockingly high as it can go … it keeps going … up … and up … and up, stopping finally some 3 inches above my bellybutton. I stand there horrified, looking back and forth at the waistband location and the five other pairs of new underpants. I think, “Is this what underpants are these days? Is this where underpants technology has gone in the last 12 years?”
It seemed plausible. After all, underpants aren’t exactly conversation material. You don’t stand at the Keurig machine at the office and say, “Hey, Bob, how would you describe the location of the crotch on your underpants?” I think about Will Ferrell’s Frank the Tank in “Old School”: “I happen to look over at a certain point during the meal and see a waitress taking an order, and I found myself wondering what color her underpants might be – her panties. Uh, odds are they are probably basic white, cotton, underpants. But I sort of think, well maybe they’re silk panties; maybe it’s a thong. Maybe it’s something really cool that I don’t even know about.”
So I do what any normal man would do: I begin asking bartenders, Uber drivers, and my boxer-brief-wearing friends, “Say, when you pull your underpants up as high as they’ll go, do you have 5 inches of extra underpants above your waistline?”
The answer, across the board, in fact, was “Never.”
Clearly, this particular brand is the problem. Or perhaps it’s just an underpaid, overseas underpants-maker playing some kind of grampy-pants joke. Or maybe some dudes just like a little extra fabric. Nobody knows.
If this saga has taught me one thing, it’s that there are a ton of products we buy – intimate items – that simply never come up, even among the closest of friends: toilet plungers, sleeping pillows, toilet paper preferences, stay-fresh wipes, robes, underpants. We never talk about them and, thus, may or may not know if what we’ve been buying all this time is actually any good, or if there’s something out there much, much better.
I made that mistake, but let’s hope not again. At least it was only six pair, and not 42.