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Undercover Relations

by Stephen Lautens

March 19, 1999

I had an experience earlier this week - the kind that every man finds very traumatic.

I had to throw out some of my underwear.

The worst part was that they were only seven or eight years old. They were hardly broken in.

I'm thinking about writing a letter to the manufacturer.

Women don't understand that men have a very close relationship to their underwear. It's the result of having them around year after year.

Women never have that problem. Unless it's the sexy stuff that men buy them for Valentines' and never again see the light of day, they never have their underwear around long enough to get attached to them.

For example, my wife's morning routine is exactly the same every day: Get up. Open a new package of four dollar panty hose. Immediately put your thumb through them. Throw them out. Start again.

Her evening routine is: Come home from work. Take off the panty hose she caught on the corner of her desk at 9:05 am. Throw them out on top of the ones she ruined that morning.

If men wore panty hose (I mean, most men) you could be sure that within weeks they'd be built to last. Like our underwear, men would expect to get a half dozen years out of a single pair before you even thought about tossing them out

Which brings me back to my own recent undergarment trauma.

When a man stops dating and no longer lives in fear of being rushed to the hospital in substandard underwear, he tries to get as much life out of his undies as he can.

Usually a man's last bulk underwear purchase was during bachelor days - and that was just to make sure he didn't run out between monthly trips to the laundromat.

For those of us who settle down, it's pretty much downhill from there, underwear-wise. Having your wife buy them is a little too much like being a kid and your mother getting you ready for camp. And men just won't buy them for themselves.

I love clothes shopping. I don't even blink (OK, maybe I blink a little) at an $50 tie, but will I pick up a four dollar pair of underwear? No.

My last underwear purchase was made out of sheer desperation. The holes in my seat were making me feel like an extra on CBC's The Wind at My Back. I even found some on sale, but do you think I'd buy a second package? No - somehow it seemed extravagant.

Maybe - I thought rationalizing my inaction - I'd buy some the next time I'm in the United States. Everyone knows cotton is cheaper there. I could probably save a dollar a pair.

The problem with men's underwear is that they make the waistband too well. The rest of the underwear eventually dissolves into a few strands of gray cotton, but as long as the waistband still has some snap in it, they'll keep going into the laundry and not the garbage.

But now I have three new pairs of underwear. I can boldly face the millennium or unexpected trips to the hospital.

And later, when I feel up to it, there are some socks in my dresser drawer with scalped heels that I've only had since the 80s.

I'm beginning to worry they may only have a few years left.


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