Tighty Whities

By Don Mitchell


Do your your underpants express the you you hope they do? What about the locker room or the doctor’s office or when they’re sitting on the chair for the body worker to see (unless you’ve hidden them under your clothes, which is fairly nuts . . . here she’s going to be handling your naked body but no way, no way can she see your underpants) or like if you’re undressing for the first time in front of a lover. Can there be situations in which your underpants make things go very very wrong? Sure. I’ll tell you about it.

Last winter I was visiting some people I know, free spirits, California. I was complaining that I didn’t have enough briefs for a long trip because I buy them so rarely the stores never have the same kind the next time I need some, and I don’t know whether the new kind’s going to work for me. I have only a little vanity but I do have some, and I like to see if what I’m buying looks stupid, like a Speedo on a fat Russian at a Black Sea beach. And they won’t let you try them on, and I buy 3 packs, to save a few bucks, so that’s a lot of money wasted if I don’t like them. It’s overwhelming, so I put off going, and then I get stuck without . . . .

So I’m complaining about my underpant holdings out there in Fallbrook, California, where probably nobody wears underpants anyway. Fallbrook, California is the Southern California headquarters of the Aryan Nation. My friend Lake told me that they picketed one of the banks, something about illegal immigrants, surprise surprise, but nobody paid any attention to them.  I figure if there’s a town full of ex-military people spilled out from Camp Pendleton and when the Aryan Nation demonstrates nobody pays any attention, well, that most likely is a place where nobody wears underpants.

But I was wrong.

Out in Fallbrook my friend Rob listened to me complain, went to his bedroom, and came back with some tighty whities. He said, “Here, take these since you’re short.”


He said, “Notice the logo,” which I had noticed and pegged as some silly hangover from those fashion days when clothing had large model and serial numbers printed on it. Dude! My shirt has a lower serial number than yours!

So these underpants are marked 2(x)ist. And?

Rob said that meant they were sized for guys with big dicks.

I said, “Oh great, I wear these into the locker room and other guys say, ‘Hey check out asshole over there, guy wants us to know he’s got a big one.’”

I took them anyway, hoping that not many people knew that secret code, except maybe for the Aryan Nation guys. Rob gave me one 3-pack, and then two more, so I ended up with three 3-packs — that’s nine white Y-fronts.

Upside is that now my underwear drawer is nicely integrated. My black Calvins and my white 2(x)ists.

But the downside is huge. Forget about the dick advertisement.

The problem is that they’re white Y-fronts. When all my black briefs are dirty and I put on the white jobs, I become my father. I become my 95 year old uncle in his baggy tighty whiteys standing there talking to a doctor about his hernia. I become every limp old dude out there, me in my white Y-fronts, just like them.

What if somebody sees them? One time I was going running and it was chilly so I didn’t wear my shorts-with-liner, which meant I had to wear underpants with my lightweight tights. I had nothing else but the 2(x)ists and I thought, Jesus Christ, what if I get hit by a car and have to go to the emergency room and I’m unconscious?

And the ER doc says to the nurse, “So how old you think this guy is?”

And she says, “I’d say 70 or 80 from those loose tighty whities.”

And there’s worse. Like I only opened one of those 3-packs, I left one in Hawai’i, and brought one home to Colden. So there’s a 3-pack of white Y-fronts in a drawer in my house in Hilo. And one of my friends is going to use the house and he’s a very cool gay guy.

He opens the drawer, “Gah! Gah! And I like Don,” he says, “This isn’t something I wanted to know about him.”

The other sealed pack’s in the garage here, in the metal cabinet with the laundry detergent, the paper towels, that kind of stuff. I tossed it in there. Let’s say that my favorite plumber Bob’s at the house and he opens it looking for teflon tape. It’s all over for me, then. He’s going to say, “Oh shit. Look what happens when you run out of something. You got to see stuff you don’t want to see.”

Or what if somebody goes into the laundry hamper?

Comes to the house when they’re hanging on the line?

If Ruth gets angry at me and tells? Emails everybody she knows, with pictures?

So, yeah, you say, throw the damn things out. Stop worrying, get rid of them.

But how? What if the garbage guys see them? It’s not like your homemade porno tapes that you can put in the microwave or pass a magnet over so even if the garbos grab them there’s nothing to see. The bag might burst, and there’s the evidence, right there.

They’ll say, “We didn’t know he was that kind of guy. He seemed all right, but look at this. Next Christmas, we won’t even take his tip.”

I told my friend the Rolfer about all this and she tried to help out. I figured I could tell her because she’s worked on my old body. So she brings over a box of Rit dye. Black. But what if the Jim the UPS guy comes while I’m dyeing them?

“You need to sign for this. Uh, maybe I’ll do it for you.”

He probably won’t take his Christmas card, either.

So I’ll bury them in the yard. Gotta be the back yard. But what happens if the septic tank has to be fixed, and leach field dug up? The last time the septic guy came to pump we got started talking classic British motorcycles, AJS, Ariel, Norton.

He turns up the tighty whities with his Bobcat, he’s gonna say, “Saw a nice sixties Honda 50 step-through over in East Otto, thought you might be interested?”

Even the Japanese beetle grubs under the grass, waiting to grow up and attack my plants, one of them’s gonna go, “Shit, this milky spore grub control’s rough on me but you guys over there, looks like you’re getting it from milky tighty whities. Christ, whoever owns this place is a loser.”

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DON MITCHELL is a writer and ecological anthropologist, born and raised in Hilo, Hawai'i (where he graduated from a public high school -- in Hawai'i, that's important). He has published academic works, poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, and both published and exhibited photographs. He recently published a story collection, A Red Woman Was Crying, and is working on a novel set on Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea, where he did fieldwork. He lives happily in Hilo with his college girlfriend, a poet and yoga teacher, whom he lost for forty years but, lucky for him, finally found.

41 responses to “Tighty Whities”

  1. HA! Yep. Spot on the money, Don. I think maybe you should burn them.

    As for the transformational power of bad underwear… man, I’ve been there. I was actually just thinking about how I need to boxer shopping.

  2. Zara Potts says:

    This must be underwear week at TNB!
    Ha! this was funny, Don. Especially the imagined ER trip. “70 or 80 by the looks of his underpants..” Ha Ha!
    I took a trip to the hospital ER once and I was not wearing any underwear at all. What were the chances of that? The day I end up in the emergency room is the day I am sans knickers.
    But I think it’s true – your underwear says a lot about you. Personally I would never trust a man in beige or brown underwear. I don’t know why, it’s just a thing.

  3. D.R. Haney says:

    I recently got rid of a bunch of old clothes, including a lot of underwear, and threw them in somebody else’s dumpster. Let those people look stupid; that’s my philosophy.

    And, Z, I see that you’ve avoided the dreaded “panties” word that once landed you in hot water on TV. Strange; I just read that “panties” is a term despised women here in America. I never knew, and still don’t understand. Maybe someone can enlighten me.

    • Zara Potts says:

      Because it’s just a gross word! There’s something really creepy about it.
      Bleurgh!! Panties. Uck.

      • D.R. Haney says:

        Yes, but I used it in BFL. If I’d only known.

        • Zara Potts says:

          Yes I know. I had to shut my eyes in those bits.

        • The word “panties” carries a certain connotation for me. I say that solely for one reason: many moons ago, someone broke into my parent’s house. My sister was 16 at the time. I was 14. The guy tried to lift my sister’s underwear. Would have gotten away with it. But he got the bright idea, he was going to steal my mom’s underwear too. What he didn’t know was that my dad worked third shift and was at home in the bed, asleep.

          So, this guy rolls in my parents’ room, wakes my dad up when he’s turning the doorknob. My dad raises up from the bed, (They had a really old waterbed. Like early 70’s style. Pretty cheesy) grabs the guy by the collar, walks his ass downstairs, tells him to wait on the bar stool for a minute while my dad grabs his shotgun, and not to move or my dad says, “I’ll blow your head off.” (with expletives) My dad grabs his shotgun, comes back, calls the cops. Has the shotgun barrel in the guy’s mouth while he’s calling the cops.

          Long story short: my dad didn’t know what the guy was stealing. I actually found my sister’s underwear thrown in and behind the trash can near the bar stool when the cops came back to the house later. This was hours after the fact. Had my dad known at the time what he was stealing, the guy probably would have been a dead man. I mean, my sister’s underwear. A father’s rage. The blink of an eye. Anything could have happened.

          Here’s the “panty” kicker: When this goes to court, the lawyer for the guy says it was a “panty raid” and all a college prank. The guy was enrolled in community college mind you, not exactly fraternity rushing. And who cares? My sister was 16. But when the lawyer said it was a panty raid, apparently my mom had to restrain my dad from lunging after the lawyer.

          So yeah, “panties”… creepy connotations. Not to say everyone, obviously, means anything bad by it. That would be silly to think. But every time I hear that word, I remember that incident at our house…. I did just write a small book about it. Sorry about that.

        • fluffy says:

          IN OPINION, THIS GUY IS PARANOID!!!!!!!!!!

    • Don Mitchell says:

      For me, anything with -ies on the end of it is to be avoided. So “undies” is forbidden, but “unders” is not. Don’t ask me to explain, because I can’t.

      Somebody else’s dumpster works in a nice anonymous urban setting. I could have just shoved them in a culvert somewhere and let the next flood take care of them.

  4. Greg Olear says:

    Great piece, Don; funny anyway, and then there’s the irony of writing a post about hiding such a humiliating garment.

    I did not know 2(x)ist had something to do with size. But I do know that it’s a hip brand, and the hipness of the brand is such that it counteracts the fact that they are tighty-whities. They are 2(x)ist briefs; Fruit of the Loom makes tighty-whities. The young, pretty nurse who would tend to you would recognize that you were hip, in other words.

    Also: how did your friend happen to have such an enormous supply of 2(x)ist briefs? Even at Marshall’s, they are not cheap. Did they fall off a truck? This is something that needs more investigation.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      Good question. He does shop Marshall’s and thrift shops. He never did say why. I’d better send him a link to this (although he’s resolutely anti-computer, his wife is not and maybe she can tempt him to the screen).

      I’m shocked, just shocked, that I didn’t know that 2(x)ist was a cool brand. Oh well.

      I’ll rescue the 3 pack from the supplies cabinet and bring it to you at the TNB experience. Maybe for the grab bag?

  5. Richard Cox says:

    I find it unfortunate that you relate the absence of underpants to the local platoon of ex-military Aryans. During the past year I have discovered the luxury and freedom of not wearing any, but I had no idea it might suggest certain antagonistic beliefs about race.

    Now that I think about it, though, Cosmo Kramer turned out to be a racist, too, didn’t he?

    Damn it.

  6. Don Mitchell says:

    Well, Richard, here’s the truth.

    Ruth and I have an ongoing non-sequitur contest, where the only rule is that the non-sequitur must sound convincing at least in the short term.

    So rest easy. The “most likely is a place where no one wears underpants” was a recent winner. I think it’s the all-time winner of our contest, myself.

  7. Meghan says:

    Great piece! It hadn’t occurred to me to worry about people judging me for the things I’ve thrown away. That will start today!

    I went through a phase when I was twenty and living in New Jersey when I wore men’s tighty-whities. I thought they were comfortable, and I thought I was being cute and ironic.

    But really I was just giving myself very visible pantie(sorry, ladies)lines. So I stopped.

  8. You are what you underwear,

  9. Mary Richert says:

    Hahah. Oh, Don. You’re like a high school kid trying to hide empty beer cans. Or a used condom. Can I throw it in the trash? What if the dog gets into the trash and it ends up on the kitchen floor? My mom will flip. Can I put it in the dumpster? What if my dad is looking through the trash for some reason …? I have burried underwear in public restroom trash cans before just because they were uncomfortable and I couldn’t stand to keep wearing them.

  10. Don Mitchell says:

    Who said “life is like high school, except you never graduate?”

  11. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    A thought…give them to (yet another?) thrift store or a homeless shelter. That would qualify as a good deed, right? Free yourself, Don–let go of the baggage! Loved the photos, by the way.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      I was going to do that (give the 3 pack to a shelter) but now I think I’ll take them to NY for the grab bag. We have a big pile of clothes to give, so if I short the shelter some underpants it’ll be all right.

      Glad you liked the photos. Assuming my jpgs and raws last into the future, I can see a grandchild (I don’t have any, but surely will someday) looking at the tighty whitey images and wondering, What the hell was Gramps doing? This is a weird series.

  12. Imagine if an entire community came together and had a great big underwear bonfire. Could be quite liberating. Great piece!

    • Don Mitchell says:

      We could have it at my place. In Colden, outdoor burning is allowed, and I have a concrete slab out towards the woods. Dancing, singing, tossing underwear on the fire . . . it might attract the interest of the Sheriffs Dep’t, but we could buy them off with that 3-pack.

  13. kristen says:

    Ha, grab bag–do it!

    Funny piece. Love the opening sentence.

    Also–you’ve been rolfed? Often? My bf’s gone to a rolfer for a year-plus now and has really seen benefit. I wanna try it myself one of these months soon here. Would be curious to hear more about your own experience, D…

  14. Don Mitchell says:

    You’re coming to the TNB Experience, right? We can talk then.

  15. jmblaine says:

    I don’t man, I switched to boxers
    years ago.

    Today, with reindeer.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      I switched to boxers when I was living in the rainforest. More ventilation = less fungus.

      But when boxers got all popular among the young, I had to switch back in protest. Or something like that.

  16. Matt says:

    This is why, years ago, I made the switch to boxer briefs. The support of one and the stylish fit of the other. And they come in a huge selection of colors!

  17. Don Mitchell says:

    All true! So as my regulars wear out, I’ll switch.

    I can’t believe we’re all talking about our underwear in a public place. I know the grade school kids asked Bill Clinton about it once, though.

  18. Marni Grossman says:

    In high school- all those communal changing rooms- I was teased mercilessly about my “granny panties.” And I refused to be embarrassed. I like a little room. Some comfort. I say wear those underpants proudly, Don.

    (And sorry for this little dose of TMI.)

  19. Don Mitchell says:

    TMI? Three Mile Island? I didn’t know that comfortable underwear offered radiation protection. Good to know.

  20. […] Go Now: Don Mitchell on Tighty Whities […]

  21. Don, your fear of the emergency room hits home. I remember when I was a kid I used to hate taking a bath. To resolve this situation my mom says, “You always want to have clean underwear on just in case.”

    “Just in case what?” I asked my mom.

    “Well, in case you need to ride in the ambulance,” she responded. “You want to be wearing clean underwear.”

    My aunt’s at the house, standing idly by. Then she chimes in and says to my mom, “Did you hear about Tom Jones? Tom Jones was having a heart scare and had to be rushed to the emergency room.”

    “Oh no, I didn’t hear about that,” my mom responded, sounding a bit surprised.

    “When they ripped his clothes off to examine him, they found a pickle in his pants.”

    Until I read your story, Don, I had forgotten all about this moment in my life. Therefore, I plan to call my mom and/or aunt this evening to ask something I didn’t catch all those years ago: if Tom Jones was having a heart scare, why would they rip his pants off?

    Moral of the story: Tom Jones is the reason I bathe daily and wear clean underwear. He’s also the reason I’m weary of buying pickles from the vegetable aisle in the grocery store.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      Hi Jeffrey — I’ve been offline for longer than I wish. Welcome to TNB.

      I enjoyed your two comments. Pickle? Urban legend alert! I used to hear that those guys used something like tube socks filled with, well, filled with something.

  22. Mikey Hall says:

    If they fit correctly, they will look great. You have some 2(x)ist that are no longer available and fit real comfortable. Wear them and know that you have a secret.

  23. Don Mitchell says:

    A resurrected comment thread! Thanks, Mikey. Next time I’m in the garage I’ll grab that last 3 pack.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  24. […] once was a model for 2(x)ist.  (Sort […]

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