Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - April 7, 2006

Inquiring minds don't want to know

In a recent "Zits" comic strip, the mother was on the phone with a friend while her teenage son and his friend were on the couch.

"For me, it's all about comfort," she confided to her friend. "I'll go the whole summer wearing nothing but thongs."

Suddenly she realized that the two boys heard the conversation because they first looked at each other with eyebrows raised and then collapsed in laughter.

"I'm talking about shoes! Flip-flops!" she said. "Get that other image out of your minds!"

"Too late. That disk is burned," her husband commented.

The comic strip made me think about when 13-year-old Katie helps me fold the clothes. For some reason, she cannot resist making comments about my unmentionables. If the pair she pulls from the basket are the no-frills every-day variety briefs, she'll announce in a slightly sing-song voice, "Senior panties!" But if she comes across a pair with a little lace or that are some color besides white, she'll sing out using the same tune, "Party panties!".

A "Baby Blues" comic strip I once read addressed this same issue. While her two children were in the other room, the mother heard them talking.

"Just look at the size of these things!" one of them exclaimed.

"You could use them for a tent, or a tablecloth, or a parachute, or a . . ." she continued.

Finally the mother chimed in with, "You know what? I don't need any help with the laundry after all. Go play . . . and give me back my underpants!"

It isn't just women's underwear that comes in for this strange reaction. In 1998 when our friend Matthias was staying with us, his clothes went into the laundry with all the rest. After they had been washed and folded, I asked Katie to take them to his room. One day when the stack included his underwear, she did so, but she held them in front of her all the way down the stairs as if she had just been asked to dispose of toxic waste.

Art had a similar experience recently. He works out of the old house we have in town and sometimes, if we are going somewhere right after work or if he's had a day during which he got unusually grubby, he'll take a bath and change his clothing. One day last week after he stopped to pick up some groceries on the way home, Katie met him on the porch to help carry the things into the house. Partway through the process, Art flipped her his underwear, saying, "Throw these in the dirty clothes."

Katie, not having time to think, caught them reflexively and then made a face as she realized what she was holding. Art said it was the same face he would have imagined she would have made if someone had just tossed her a dead cat.

The episode involving underwear that provoked the biggest smile from me was the time when Katie and I had gone shopping. I was browsing the lingerie aisle and came across a pair of panties that were bright red and had an abundance of lace. I looked at them a minute, conscious that Katie was watching me.

After about a minute, she spoke. "Mom, sometimes you scare me!"

I guess there are some things we just don't really want to know.

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