Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Improg word: Underwear

*For those of you wondering what the heck an improg is, it’s an improvisational blog entry. My improg partner, Hayley, came up with the idea of sending each other an envelope full of words. Once a week, we each pull out a word and write something about it.

You can be part of the fun! Leave a comment, submit a word (see Hayley’s post
here for instructions), or—if you’re really brave—you might even like to become an improgger yourself. We’d be happy to have you join us!

Thanks so much, Hayley, for including underwear in your envelope of words.

I have nothing interesting or funny to say about my own underwear. Nor do I have pictures to share. I can hear your collective sigh of relief.

The interesting thing about underwear is that what people wear under their clothes may have little to do with the image they present to the world. Maybe that mom in the grocery store is sporting silk and lace under her sweats. Maybe that tired-looking woman with the bad haircut you see on the bus every day wears leopard-print thongs. Maybe the hot young thing down the street favors granny panties. Maybe your boss wears no underwear at all under his three-piece suit. (I had such a boss many years ago. Unfortunately, his lack of support in the nether regions was all too obvious.)

What the world sees on the surface might not be a complete representation of who we are. That busy, efficient woman you admire so much, who seems so organized, so together? Maybe underneath she’s clinging on for dear life. That near-perfect family next door? Maybe behind their front door is a house full of cold silence and repressed anger. That guy who works at the convenience store? Maybe in his home country he was a brain surgeon and inside his head is the knowledge needed to save lives, if only he could use it here. And that tired looking woman on the bus? Maybe she’s so tired because she moonlights as a belly dancer.

People often dress themselves—both figuratively and literally—in what others expect them to wear. We moved across town when I was a teenager and my friends at my new school—a rather unwild bunch—would have been shocked to know the shenanigans I got up to with my friends from my old neighborhood after church. When I decided to go to university after a couple of years working for the inadequately clad boss, a lot of the people I worked with were surprised, thinking of me as a ditzy blonde waitress with a fondness for parties. During my (ridiculous number of) years at university, some people were surprised to hear of the trouble I got into during high school, thinking of me as a brainy, hippy-type academic.

The people I know now are surprised about both my colorful past and my (ridiculous number of) years at university. And, yes, they’ve even been surprised by my underwear. At Brownie camp a couple of years ago, as the other leaders and I got ready for bed, one exclaimed at what was under my jeans. Although it wasn’t particularly racy (this was Brownie camp, after all), I guess it wasn’t what she expected me to be wearing. All this surprise over the idea that I had adventures in my youth or was an academic or wore black bikinis with white polka dots makes me wonder just what image I’m currently projecting—boring, not very smart, someone who wears white briefs up to her armpits?

I told Hayley that I probably wasn’t going to do an improg entry this week because I’ve been having some hard days lately. I used to frequent a dark hole of depression, sometimes bringing along enough camping equipment and food to stay there for weeks. In the past several years, I’ve teetered on the edge at times, but for the most part I’ve kept my footing. A few days ago I fell in head first. I’ve been sitting here in the dark (illuminated yesterday by a brilliant ray of sunshine in the form of an email from Margerie’s daughter, who invited me to her birthday party), eating cookies and not feeling like doing much of anything.

But then I pulled out this ridiculous word from Hayley’s envelope, and in between my regular chauffeuring duties and work, I’ve sat here in the dark hole thinking about it. And I’ve realized that I might look okay on the outside—a little frumpy, maybe, and in desperate need of a haircut, but still okay—but on the inside my emotional underwear is tattered and torn. I’ve been trying to patch it up, with a stitch here and a stitch there and a safety pin in the elastic, but it’s not working anymore. (Oh, and just so you know, my actual, physical underwear is not in such bad shape.)

I’ve been working really hard to improve things in my life this year, but, just like with clothes, no matter how nice the stuff on the outside, I won’t feel truly comfortable or confident if I’m wearing worn-out underwear that’s threatening to fall down around my knees.


Margerie said...

Well, I am glad you came out to improg. Because now I am contemplating underwear and the wearers of underwear. I haven't done that in along time. I have a few funny stories about working in the lingerie department in a department school during college. I also have funny stories about my feminist mom who made my sisters and I wear SEE-THROUGH bras and underwear in junior high. You would think I would have been more popular with my Warner's brand "Sizzle" underwear. With glitter. It was the 70's and yes really, I won't ever forget that name.

I hope your emotional undies aren't falling down. You are such a kind, giving person. Sometimes you give everything and everyone your all and have nothing left for yourself.

I highly recommend the Dalai Lama's The Art of Happiness. I am not a Buddhist- but love most of the philosphies including: everyone has the right to happiness and how to achieve it.

I hope you find joy soon my friend. I am sending over virtual cookies and ice cream for a little spirit pick me up. Double chocolate fudge with brownie chunks and moist, delicious lemon cookies with icing. Oh and a little dark and white chocolate chip toffee with almonds. OK, I can send recipes instead- let me know ;)
Chin up and thanks for sharing. I think it is good therapy just blogging it out.

Mallu said...

Dear Susan,
thank you for sharing! And thank you for the lovely postcard I received yesterday.


Hayley Townley, Breast Cancer Survivor Extraordinaire! said...

I sent you underwear????? I am almost amazed sometimes at what I sent you, as you are at pulling them out of the envelope.

I think I will go commando today. Just for you.

Susan said...

Yes, Hayley, you sent me the word "underwear." You have also sent me actual underwear in the past. What will you do next?