I'd also like to point out to any teenage girl reading this, that even though this happened to me, and there were witnesses, I'm still pretty cool now. So that should cheer you up.
|14 years old. Full braces smile after getting my billfold of Riverdance signed by the cast|
I remember owning one pair of pants. Back then they manufactured pants that were sensible to the point of indestructible and unfortunately, they could last for years, handed down from cousin to cousin. This pair was dark green, wide-ribbed corduroy, with hefty pockets on the side and an elastic waist. I paired these with sturdy flannel tops and Ts from catalogs with letters in the name: LL Bean, JC Pennies.
It was these pants, along with physics, that made me a victim of static cling. In case you've never done laundry, this is a phenomenon where static causes one article of clothing to cling to another. Usually you peel apart the items and go on your way. Sometimes, if the climate is particularly dry, there are sparks and it's exciting. Over the course of a normal lifetime, static cling is just a thing that happens, neither a force for good nor evil. I wasn't so lucky.
My green corduroys were roomy on my late to bloom adolescent frame. I may have been wearing long underwear at the time and, as we've all learned, an extra layer dulls sensation, no matter how thin. And so, when I got dressed that dark January morning, I was unaware that a pair of my underpants had become balled up inside of my pant leg during the drying process.
I know I'm not supposed to use the word underpants. It's a word generally dropped from our vocabulary by ten or eleven, either forever or until we become moms and start saying it again. It's not a good word. But that's what I wore at the time. Underwear is too neutral. Panties seems inaccurate and also slightly inappropriate. Nobody is more sorry than I to say this, but mine were Underpants with a capitol U. K-mart variety, dull white, no frills. They came in a pack of ten.
On this day, the air was so dry, the cling so mighty, that the underpants stayed in place until the end of school hours, when all my walking from class to class must have caused them to migrate down the leg and towards the ankle.
After lunch, I trooped as usual to Mr. Young's 7th period American History class. As luck would have it, that afternoon I was giving a presentation that required me to stand alone in front of my peers. Then, like now, I was not adverse to public speaking. I'm sure I dazzled. And then it happened.
As I was striding confidently back to my seat, the underpants tumbled from my pant leg, out from the ankle and onto the floor. By the time I realized something had gone wrong, I was a good three strides away from it. I paused, looking straight forward. I thought, "Please, please be a sock." And then I turned around.
In that moment, time stood as still as ice. The world shrank down to three entities: me, my classmates, and the underpants. Even the teacher disappeared. For a single, surreal second, all was still. And then, from the back of the class, came the voice of a boy, a voice at once genuinely curious and deranged with excitement: "Is that underwear?!"
Too late, I took action. Like a mother lifting a car off of a pinned child I sprung with the strength and speed of an Olympian. I snatched up the garment, arrived at my seat and shoved them into my backpack, never once breaking a tense and practiced poker face.
Then I made a very mature decision. In that instant, I knew that what had just occurred was so devastating, so career-ruiningly horrible, that I did not yet possess the proper brain circuits or learned coping mechanisms to deal with it. I decided to stow it away in the recesses of my mind, move on with my life, and wait until such time as I was better equipped to handle such things.
Which is not to say it's all for naught. A serious adaptation for life stemmed from that slice of eighth grade horror: I no longer wear underpants. I wear panties, chosen with such cautious deliberation that, should a pair escape from out of my pant leg right now, I would feel nothing but pride, and you would feel nothing but desire.
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