This was an essay I wrote for Berkshires Week magazine in 1995. Yes, I am that old. Anyway, it occurred to me that I should drag some of these things up and present them here.
We were laying around like railroad ties on the grass at Tanglewood a few years ago, munching on Harvest Crisps and watching the stars and listening intently to the BSO when I out of the blue asked my friend Ian what color underwear he was wearing.
Ian didn’t bat an eye. “Red.”
“Red? Red underwear?” I looked sideways at him, then I looked back up at the sky. “I don’t believe you.”
Still laying flat on his back, he pulled his shirttail out of his jeans and pulled up a corner of his briefs. Of course, it was dark, and so I couldn’t see the color, but I could tell anyway that they definitely weren’t white.
“Hmnn. Don only wears white.”
“White’s boring,” Ian said. “You’ll never get anywhere with white underwear.”
“What other colors do you have?”
“Hmnn. Well, purple. Green. Black. Oh, and paisley.” This blew me away. If you knew Ian you would snort, “Paisley underwear?”
I went home that night and climbed into bed, where Don was already sleeping, and whacked him on the arm and said, “Didja know that Ian wears colored underwear?”
I shook his arm. “Hey, I think this has import. I only have white, beige, and black; and you only have white.”
“What were you doing looking at Ian’s underwear?”
I shrugged. “I think underwear should be an adventure. We need more underwear adventures,” I said. And I began to think about the connection between underwear and real life. My serious attention to this matter was recently substantiated.
A few months ago Ian left quasi-management and became “ONE OF THEM” and now is Don’s unit manager.
“See?” I told Don. “It was the underwear. Flamboyant underwear gives you the power to control your destiny,” I said. He looked at me skeptically. “These things really consume you creatively, don’t they?” I nodded.
“I’m not going to lie to you. This frightens me,” he said.
After all this happened, we (Don, Ian, and I) were driving over to Albany one night to see a cool rock band when I said, “So anyway, Ian, I want you to know that you’ve inspired me.”
“Underwear!” I exclaimed. “I have lots now! I threw out all those cheesy whites and boring beiges and simpering yellows, and I went crazy at Victoria’s Secret!”
“She did.” Don said. “Truly insane.”
“Cranberry! Teal! Bright red! And purple, butter, gold, green, and those are just my bras!” I used frenetic arm movements to add impact to my words. “I’m also into thongs now! They’re so sexy!”
“I’m thrilled for you. Really, I am,” said Ian, management-like.
Don looked at me. “Could you please stop telling my boss about your underwear?”
And here it is: Since I have all this flamboyant, lace-encrusted underwear, I’ve actually sold some of my writing. This, for instance. (Note to Ed.: Please include this line only if piece sells. Include this line too.)
And hey! I made it into a literary mag. No fooling. I’m convinced it was my cranberry bra. (Of course, it could have also been that fiction-writing workshop I took at Umass last year, but that’s a long shot.)
So I bought Don some cool underwear. Red, black, and dark blue. I also gave him some paisley silk boxers.
“Wear these and you will be happy!” I exclaimed as he opened them at Christmas in front of his whole family, including young, impressionable nieces and nephew.
“Uncle Donnie got wild silky underwear from Aunt Susan!” then-eight-year-old niece Michelle trumpeted.
“You’ve really gotten out-of-control with this whole underwear thing,” Don said reproachfully, wrinkling his forehead and looking at me over the tops of his glasses.
“Oh, aren’t those nice!” Don’s mother said. She’s cool. “Feel these,” I said, throwing her the boxers. “Oh! Soft!”
“All right. All right! Stop it! Everyone stop touching my new underwear!” Don said, trying to maintain some shred of dignity.
Since Don began wearing the paisley boxers, he’s gotten job offers from all over the country, and he’s not even looking. Really. He’s a hot commodity in software engineering right now. “Call Bill,” I tell him. “I’m sure he’s heard of you.” People e-mail him and beg him to come and work for them, call him a real Windows Wizard, a real genius; and I guess, to me, he is, or must be. After all, I had no idea what Occam’s Razor was until Don (and The Simpsons) came into my life, and he’s explained Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to me, such as anyone other than Stephen Hawking might understand it.
“Listen, all I know is minutes and hours and days as we know them can’t be real in the universe,” I slurred recently over a pint of Sam Adams, trying to grasp the reality of time. My wristwatch suddenly seemed alarmingly bizarre. “We should roam the Earth barefoot and eat only raw potatoes,” I proclaimed, slamming my fist down on the bar.
“Yes, well, I think you’ve finally got it,” Don said. “A skewed, warped, bastardized version of it, but you seem to have gotten it nonetheless. I don’t know about the barefoot potato thing though.”
So anyway, this is the moral: Your life can be much better, richer, and certainly a more colorful sort of odyssey, if you invest in funky, fritzy, fruity underwear. That’s assuming, of course, that you wear any underwear at all; but that’s another philosophy, and I will save it for another, even looser, day.