I wore underwear as a child, and I assumed everyone else did, too. Like kids who grow up speaking three languages or practicing cannibalism, it seemed normal, the thing to do.
Thanks to our maid, Marsha (née Marshalene Ducksworth), my Hanes briefs were kept as white as Sean Hannity’s teeth and as tight as Olivia Newton John’s pants in that last scene from Grease (which I never really bought, because, okay, I get that’s she’s a changed woman, but that just seems a little psycho, and if I were John Travolta, I don’t think I’d get into any car with that crazylady, much less a flying car). I assumed that was my lot in life: to squeeze my fat ass into bleached-out, too-snug tighty-whiteys for the rest of my days. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered that there were other kinds of underwear to choose from.
I was probably in third or fourth grade the first time I saw my father in boxers. We were (and are) a very modest family, so we tend to roam the house in work clothes or weekend clothes or pajamas or, when we’re on vacation, swimsuits and yards of terrycloth. But then one morning, dad needed mom to iron his pants, and I glimpsed him in plain, white boxers. I remember looking closely, trying to figure out what the hell he was wearing. They weren’t shorts, that much was certain. They weren’t PJs. They were something altogether different.
Eventually, I asked my mother about them. She told me they were for grown-ups. Dad concurred and said he’d buy me a pair when I got older — which was too bad, because he used to tell me that I shouldn’t sleep in briefs (“They’ll give you a rash”), and since I hated pajamas and the thought of sleeping nude was far too weird/foreign/erotic for our house, boxers would’ve been a perfect workaround.
Dad never got around to fulfilling his promise, so when I got to college, I bought a pair myself. I still have them, somewhere: red and white stripes, somewhat fitted. (Considerably more fitted now.) I thought they were hot. In fact, the sensation of hanging loose, paired with memories of my father — and by then, other men I’d seen on TV — sometimes made it hard for me to walk out the door right away. It was exciting.
That excitement lasted all of two months. Girls, let me tell you: boxers may look perfectly comfy — and they are, to sleep in — but under pants, forget it. It’s like wearing a slip that’s two sizes too big underneath a tailored black dress. You can never get everything adjusted just right, and you’re squirming all day long.
Boxer briefs became popular after that, and I gave them a whirl. They were better than the other two varieties, but by then, I was out of college and living on my own, which meant I was doing my own laundry, and since I HATE doing laundry (almost as much as I hate glazing windows, which is an accursed job, don’t let anybody tell you differently), I decided to cut back — not on doing laundry, but on what I wore. Underwear was one more thing to wash and keep track of, so I got rid of it altogether. Socks, too, mostly. Adieu, adieu.
At first, I ran into some of the same, um, stimulational problems caused by boxers (which in certain crowds, worked to my benefit). But as with all things, eventually I got jaded and forgot about it. I’ve never looked back.
One guy I dated thought that freeballing was gross. I failed to understand that. Cheesy, maybe. Tacky at times.* But gross and unsanitary? I mean something’s going to get dirty either way, right? Between pants and underwear, I’d rather have pants take the abuse. They seem sturdier.
My commando conversion happened long ago, so I don’t think much about underwear anymore. But then I stumbled across Gawker’s expose on Jon Hamm’s box, and I thought, “I still have issues with Mad Men, but damn, I feel vindicated. I AM NOT ALONE.”
*I should point out that I DO wear underwear with linen and with sweatpants, because hey, I’m not completely tasteless. Most days.