Thursday, December 18, 2008

Guidelines and standards

Men lack the fine-toothed subdivision that women exercise over their underwear. For example, I have the flattering and slightly titillating first date panties. Provocative and decidedly skimpy first-time-for-the-big-reveal panties. Knickers that say, “I’m still new to this relationship and feel obligated to tantalize you but don’t want to get a wedgie while doing it.” These drawers move on to the comfortable every day wear panties that fall into categories like “looks good under jeans,” “goes great with a skirt,” or “definitely buttoned up enough for work.”

After all these panty parsings, however, we still haven’t gotten down to the two, maybe three, categories of “feminine needs” related undergarments. The first of these is “I could start my period today or tomorrow” panties. These usually have fraying elastic and gappy waistbands, and they’ve clearly been washed and worn a couple too many times. The “why, yes, I am on my period” panties are, decidedly, the sorriest of the lot. These are the gungiest, dingiest, most faded, unraveled underwear which are kept at the absolute back of the drawer. Sad. At last, period over, reboot the routine, starting over in the underwear loop wherever the lady-wearer happens to be in her relationship continuum.

Maybe because I have intimate knowledge of the inner workings of only one man--because I do admit I could be wrong--but guys seem to take a much more streamlined approach to underwear classification systems. The first tier are the “just did laundry and these are my most comfortable” undies. Second are the slightly less engaging knickers that are nonetheless fully functional. Third are the, “Woah! It’s getting’ near time to do laundry when you’re wearing the snowman boxers in July!” And last but not least are the extremely worn out, over-washed underwear that are absolutely the end of the line before the laundromat. Those are the last couple of pairs that men haven’t thrown out precisely for these laundering emergencies, when their schedules don’t quite sync up to their underwear cycle.

What has me thinking about this and overanalyzing it to death is that Matthew and I are at different underwear cycles ever since I had my ankle surgery. We haven’t yet managed to get back on the same load pattern. Yesterday, I told Matthew, “I need to do laundry before we go to your parents’ house for Christmas break.” His answer was, “I think I have enough underwear to last me until then, so I’m good.”

Simply lasting through the holidays isn’t the goal. The goal is to have the right underwear for the right outfit at the right time. For instance, I’m already looking at the last few stragglers of my absolute favorite cotton all-around dependables. I refuse to travel without them. I still have some rogue sexy panties and some uglies I’d not like to be taken to the emergency room in, but I’m certainly not packing them for everyday wear on family holiday. Matthew is just bottoms up “I’m good,” whereas I am, “but I need the right pair!” I think most women would agree with me.

I am going to reveal now that I think the women’s underwear hierarchy may be needlessly complicated, but I personally don’t see a way around it. Women’s fashions are more complicated than men’s, which does legitimize the jeans underwear versus the skirt underwear. But, as one of the characters on the British sitcom “Coupling” put it: “Women’s knickers spread the longer you’re in a relationship. You start out with skimpy things that are barely there, and the next thing you know, they’re as big as a sail.” So true.

And so now I reveal that I think the degree of a woman’s happiness is measured by her underwear drawer. I vote that the more plain cotton bikinis you find in there, the more satisfied the woman is. I once read a story in a women’s magazine about panties, and a fluff-and-fold laundress was interviewed. She said, “The woman with the most boring underwear—they were all cotton and gray—always seemed the happiest. And every time she came in to pick up her laundry, she always came in with a new hunky guy.”

I’ll stick with one hunky guy and armloads of plain gray panties, thank you.