July 4, 2003
"I'll be a little late home from work today. I have to go shopping for some new underwear." This is the little bomb my wife lobbed at me on her way out the door.
There are few words in the English language that cause more confusion between men and women than the word "underwear".
When men talk about their own underwear, they usually mean the last survivors from the package they bought in college, now paper thin and washed to a uniform gray, no matter what their original colour might have been. There may even be holes front or back, but unless the holes are bigger than what they are intended to cover, they are still considered "good" underwear. Especially if the waistband is still intact. Until the waistband goes, men will not throw out a pair of underwear.
One level down from their "good" underwear, men often keep one or two pairs of "emergency" underwear at the back of the drawer. This is a throwback to men's bachelor days when trips to the laundromat were few and far between, but you still needed to leave the house wearing something other than your bathing suit.
Emergency underwear comes in two categories: very old undies that are way too small, and underwear that was given to you as a joke by co-workers or drinking buddies at a stag. The latter usually have written on them "Home of the Whopper" or "Weapon of Mass Destruction". If you have to wear them, just hope that isn't the day you get hit by a car on the way home and let everyone get a good look at emergency.
I just threw out my last pair of emergency underwear. It was a little navy blue number that dates back to before Joe Clark was Prime Minister. The waistband was okay and there weren't any holes bigger than my fist, so I tried it on to see if I should keep it in reserve. The good news was that I could still wriggle into it. The bad news was it made me look like one of those balloon animals made by birthday party clowns. It was so tight around my waist that for a moment I thought I was wearing navy long johns, until I realized it was just my legs turning blue.
Of course, even though men have such low standards in their own underwear, we continue to nurse this fantasy that women spend the day lounging around in little frilly numbers. Blame Maxim magazine or the Internet, but in spite of the sorry state of our own underwear and all evidence to the contrary, men remain convinced that women spend the day in sexy underwear. You name it - garters, push-ups, thongs, teddies - we poor deluded males are sure these are women's undergarments of choice, and that they only need a little encouragement to release their inner lingerie model.
You can take me to the Human Rights Commission, but I'll say it again - men just aren't very bright.
So when my wife came home from work that day and announced she had replenished her underwear supply, I have to admit that visions of satin and lace danced briefly through my own head. I prayed that she had been shopping in that store in the mall with eight-foot tall posters of pouting supermodels in the window and not somewhere underwear comes in packages of four for ten dollars.
Then I saw the bag. It was a big, plain white bag. Fantasy underwear does not come in a big, plain white bag. They come home in little tiny pink or purple bags with gold lettering - tiny because of how little fabric is needed.
I suppose that's why lingerie stores rely on us men to buy our ladies what they really need.