Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Granny pants and grad school

There's an outside chance I might have had some body-image issues when I started wearing my grandmother's underthings in my 20s. My dead grandmother's underthings. The least sexy woman in the long history of non-sexy women, many of whom I imagine have been members of my family, she nevertheless had these adorable little nightie sets--the kind that Doris Day would have worn, with filmy little shrugs to go with. I loved them the way I loved Doris Day: with all my heart. It was just a slippery slope from there. When I write my memoirs I will secure professional help in discovering why my undergarment life went in this direction, and I will share. For now, the simple fact is all that's important: for several years, I went around wearing my dead grandmother's underpants. Roomy, non-judgmental, free--yeah, okay, so maybe my dead grandmother had been wearing them when she was alive, but: roomy!

Reading this over it's clear that I have spent many many years, and not just the last few, as a peculiar person in need of more than chcocolate and booze. Although those too. Nobody stop with the chocolate and booze; that's not what I'm getting at.

So (and here comes the story part):

I was working downtown, right across from City Hall and the Public Library, in a medium-sized building filled with police services and public prosecutors and the American consulate. Getting there from my low-rent apartment was a snap: about 5 stops on the C-Train. I tended to leave my departure til the last minute and thus it was, that bright July morning, that I left home in my grandmother's undergarments and a cute little cinnamon coloured skirt. And everything went just fine until, for no one particular reason but perhaps for many many small reasons over the decades, Gramma's brave undergarment finally gave up the elastic ghost. As I stepped smartly from the train, It Happened. Shoof.

Not an all-the-way-step-out-of-your-underpants shoof, but a shoof that went mid-thigh. And then, as I adjusted my stance so as to keep my drawers up, just a little lower.

What does one do in such a situation? I looked for a shrubbery behind which to ditch, but alas, no such thing. The sole mailbox was surrounded by smokers. The Olympic pillars looked promising but Japanese tourists were having their pictures taken there. Plus, I would probably have fallen into the water while standing on one foot and then I would be wearing sodden vast underpants.

 See? There's hardly any cover at all.

So I clamped one hand very very tightly to one leg and sort of pivoted around as though my legs were a compass, maintaining the ideal pressure on the saggy pants in terms of where they sat against the mercifully kind of snug fitting skirt. I just tried to recreate that walk for my kid and he told me I look like I wet 'em. So not saggy, but soggy. I appeared, to anyone who might have been watching from the 8th floor--as at least three people were--that I had recently been incontinent. (Gramma! It all comes full circle in the end, does it not?)

I waddled slowly across the street, up the stairs, across the lobby and into a mercifully waiting elevator. The moment the door closed, I relaxed, put my knees back together and experienced deep shoof relief.

Except that the door hadn't closed all the way and Larry (let's call him that) from the office burst into the otherwise empty elevator to find me standing next to a pair of vast and shapeless underpants.

Did I know I was standing on them? He asked.

Eek, no, said I.

And thus I became that girl in that story that they still tell at company Christmas parties, that story that no one quite believes but that has been handed down for decades as gospel truth: someone heard it from Steve, who heard it from Clare, who dated that girl who sat next to Omi, who got it from Larry.

Sometimes people ask me why I went back to grad school, in a foreign country, and then stayed abroad for 15 years. Now you know.


  1. Classic. I don't know what to say because I'm laughing! Wearing and "loosing" your dead grandmother's underpants? Brilliant.

  2. ART FRAHM!!!! You're a soft core Pin-Up girl, Laurie!!