I had to ask myself: Do I really need to wear underwear any more?

Be serious now. I’m here in the laundry room, staring at my dirty clothes, and this is an existential crisis.

I don’t wear shorts under pajama pants; nobody wears underwear under pajama pants. And since the Coronavirus lockdown that’s kept me housebound for 14 days, I’ve been wearing pajama pants all day.

These are, you understand, not your baggy everyday pajama pants. They’re all from Ralph Lauren Polo. Three of the pair are emblazoned with the iconic horse and rider, with others in Black Watch, MacGregor plaid and gray windowpane.

I don’t wear pajama pants to bed, of course. They’re too warm. I sleep under an electric blanket all winter.

What I wear to sleep in is one of my six “sleepy shirts.” That’s what my daughters always called them, “sleepy shirts.” I used to get them at L.L. Bean in the long and tall department. They never shrink, and they fall down to my knees. They’re so comfortable.

So I’m looking in the basket and seeing seven pairs of boxer shorts, a week’s worth, and that’s only a small selection of my favorites, you understand. I have about 30 pairs of boxers.

Let me take a minute to give you a review of boxer short makers. In my collection I have Tommy Hilfiger, (too stiff, never softens); Polo (front opening portal, too small to excavate in an emergency); Stafford (OK); and Eddie Bauer.

Eddie is my favorite. I have six of these, and they soften with age, but I don’t think they make them anymore. And even so, I can’t leave the house to go shopping in Augusta, so I’m stuck with the ones I’ve got.

But as I paw through this bunch, I notice the blue ones are fading, and I think the tartan plaids from Polo are as well.

Now, thanks to Coronavirus, we’ve locked ourselves down. so I’m stuck with this group, so I’m thinking I should be careful with them.

My daughters in Los Angeles can’t get out to shop either, so it’s getting serious.

They say, “What’s the problem? Go online and order them.”

You know, buying underwear online just doesn’t work for me. It’s like ordering shoes. You can’t do that. You have to try shoes on, walk around the shop carpets with them to get a feel. Same for underwear.

No, you can’t try boxers on, and then tell the clerk, “They just don’t feel right.” You can’t hand them back. They’ll give you that look like you’re from Arkansas or someplace. But in the store, you can feel them, rub the material in your hands, hold them against your cheek (when no one is watching) the way you test a cashmere sweater, that’s the way to buy underwear.

A young friend of mine here in Waterville said she bought three pair of guys’ boxers online, and her partner who works at Home Depot hated them, so she offered them to me. She’s a larger size.

When I was a young actor at the Cleveland Playhouse Conservatory, I had a part-time job selling underwear at the old May Co. I think it’s gone now. I wanted to sell ties, but they needed a salesman in the underwear department.

Now remember, this was in the ’50s, and underwear then was all white. There was Jockey, which was all white and even the designer labels were just white. So there wasn’t much of a sales pitch required. Customers came in and said, “I need six pairs of shorts and undershirts.” That was it.

I remember I was the only guy in the department except for Mr. Glazier, and three women all much older and very straight. I recall one who befriended me, Loretta Langone. Loretta always wore a hairnet.

So there I was, dark and handsome, charming and witty. Naturally, when women came in, they made a beeline for me.

There was one, and this is a true story. She was, Mr. Glazier told me, the wife of the governor. I won’t mention any names, but I just looked it up, and sure enough, that was she.

She came often that summer, and bought bags of underwear, presumably for the governor. She was sweet and friendly, and I made her laugh with my impression of Clark Gable.

So here I am with this laundry room conundrum. To wear or not to wear, that is the question. I know what She’ll say if I broach the question to her.

“I’m glad my father isn’t here to hear you ask that.”

What would he have known? He was a Republican judge and wore all white.


J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 

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