Generation X Lost Beyond Hope: Underoos to BlameBy Erika Rae
August 25, 2008
Of all the available super hero powers, I wish that I were telekinetic.
I’ve taken a close look at all the options out there: flying, invisibility, super strength…but these all seem so out of reach, and therefore completely unreasonable. I’m a pragmatist, and the truth is, somewhere in the depths of my being, I believe that if I really tried hard enough, I could do it. I could move stuff with my mind.
I had a kung fu teacher one time who swore that he could move things with his chi. Claimed he could blow out a candle with one focused ka-pow! I asked him to show me, but for one reason or another, we never got around to it.
I’ve tried teaching myself. If you Google telekinesis, you’ll find all sorts of advice and demonstrations. Like this one: Guy moves CD using only his mind! And then, there’s this one: Guy bends spoon using only his mind!And then there’s this Dutchman fellow who appears to be able to levitate, using only his mind!
I even found an old documentary about a woman in Russia named Nina Kulagina who had been studied by a whole battery of scientists. She, too, could move objects on the table, such as utensils and balls, using only her mind!
So, in the face of this incontrovertible evidence from the Internet, I know it can be done. I just haven’t figured out how to do it.
A couple of weeks ago, a neighbor friend of mine told me about an energy vortex in the field across from her house. She said that if you stand there with a coat hanger (bent in the shape of an L, and then with one of the arms in a cardboard cylinder to reduce friction) it will spin in circles. You better believe that within minutes I was asking her to take me to this place. Take me to the vortex.
The next day, we met in the field. It’s in the back of someone’s house on the edge of the forest, so we called ahead to get permission. We took our coat hangers, and traipsed down the hill to the spot. Sure enough, the coat hangers immediately began spinning. My husband, Scott – who is kind of a geek and totally gets off on offering scientific explanations for everything – had taken along a meter to measure electric currents. What he found surprised him. He hadn’t expected to find anything – and that was exactly what he found.
That’s not exactly true. While the coat hangers were spinning, he was actually able to measure a current.
“The air-voltage potential is going wild!” He exclaimed wide-eyed, before adding somewhat more quietly, “although it’s not repeatable or consistent enough to be conclusive.”
I eyed him darkly over my spinning coat hanger.
“What?” He asked, pulling out a magnetometer.
It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate his attempt at explaining the phenomenon in a scientific manner. I’m a gemini and the more rational of my wonder twins welcomed it with a hearty “Form of …a modern, rational thinker!” But I would be lying if I said that there wasn’t a part of me that wanted something unexplainable to be happening. My other twin sort of bit her tongue and defiantly thought in her head something to the effect of “Shape of a why-can’t-you-just-experience-the-moment, bitch.” When the twins are at odds, it’s hard to come across with any sense of uniformity in the party line.
When the magnetometer returned inconclusive results, as well, I was secretly pleased. He’s lucky he’s cute.
When we got home, I needed to think about things. I needed to go over my experience and decide what had happened. Had it been a scientific phenomenon that we had witnessed? And if so, is it true that all paranormal phenomena can be explained scientifically – but that we just don’t have the science to explain it yet?
From there, my brain went wild. What if it were actually possible for people to possess paranormal traits, such as possessing the ability to project one’s self across space and time, being psychic, being telekinetic? I mean, how would I know? For years, I had been assuming these things weren’t possible, but what if? What if it was only my rational mind getting in the way?
I stood up from my place on the edge of the bed and peeked around the door. I was alone. I closed the door. I knew I was being ridiculous, but I needed to know. I hadn’t checked in years. What if something had changed? What if my experience in the vortex had changed me?
Carefully, I pulled out a blue marble from a drawer and put it on the table in front of me, and…focused.
No matter. I closed my eyes, put my hand near the marble and tried again.
I started getting agitated. If I was going to exhibit signs of telekinesis, I needed to act now. Who knew how long the power of the vortex would remain within my mortal frame? Plus, who knew how much time I had before Scott walked into our bedroom and found me staring at a blue marble on my nightstand like Saruman the White over the Great Eye?
I tried again.
And suddenly, I felt, once again, ridiculous. I would love to say that there was alcohol involved, but there was not. Why would I even think I could do such a thing? It’s absurd! Had I watched too much TV? Too much Batman Wonder Woman Spiderman SuperMan Super Friends Great American Hero X Files X Men Star Trek Star Wars Stargate Stargate Atlantis Battlestar Gallactica Lois and Clark Smallville Heroes? Do other seemingly normal people out there perform periodic checks to see if they might be the unwitting carriers of assorted psychic powers? Where did I even get this idea? Have I always had this idea? Have I been secretly harboring the assumption that deep within I have a hidden well of psychic abilities and have not been able to manifest them thus propelling myself into a life of frustration and disillusionment?
When I was a kid, I had a pair of Supergirl Underoos. They had been given to me by my older half sister, seven years cooler than I. I loved my Underoos with a zealot’s passion. To me, they were not just “the underwear that’s fun to wear” – they were a life choice. When I wore them, they made me feel as if I could accomplish anything. They completed me.
Supergirl was telekinetic. She was also extremely powerful and was a bit of a shape-shifter, but whatev. This girl could move things with her mind.
I have fond memories of posing in front of the large bathroom mirror over the sink in the bathroom. When I wore the Supergirl Underoos, I became Supergirl. I’d flex my muscles, I’d pretend to fly. I’d move things on the counter, using only my mind! It was my secret identity, known only to me…and sometimes my younger sister, who would occasionally barge into the bathroom unannounced and catch me at it.
We really could have used a lock on that door.
Incidentally, my younger sister and I also had a pair of Wonder Woman Underoos (also a gift from big sis), which we fought over tooth and nail when the Supergirl Underoos mysteriously disappeared.
I believe my mother can be blamed for the heist. Unlike Wonder Woman, which was comprised of an undershirt styled top and panty, Supergirl had a top that looked suspiciously like a bra.
At the age of 9 in a conservative Evangelical household, this did not exactly fly. I had already been shamed by my ungodly desire to want to shave my legs after I had been caught in the bathroom by my mother with her pink Lady Remington. (What? I was a hairy 9-year-old.)
Faced with only one top and panty set – Underoos is clear on the use of “panty” in the singular – competition between us was fierce. If there was only one set between us, and mom only washed clothes once per week, then it stood to reason that each of us could only wear the set once in a two-week time period. This led to all manner of deals and threats between us, including some interesting outfit choices in order to try and extend the life of the Underoos beyond a bi-weekly event. Sure, a panty can only be worn once before it needs washing, but the cool top with the gold eagle-emblazoned red bustier could be worn at least a few times before it needed cleansing treatment. I’d pair the undershirt with a pair of light blue panties (plural, and therefore not as amazing or powerful), pull on a pair of red knee highs,et voila! I was Wonder Woman on laundry day.
I miss my Underoos. They had a brief, but brilliant life. At some point near the beginning of the fourth grade, I decided to make a secret appearance as Wonder Woman. Little did I know that it would be my last time. I dug out the Wonderwoman Underoos from my drawer and got ready for school. I knew in my gut that I was too old for that, and yet…and yet.
My teachers and classmates had no idea how protected they were that day – that a Superhero walked amongst them. Nobody had to know. It was my little secret. Somewhere around lunchtime, however, I realized the flaw in my plan.
I panicked. What if my shirt crept up in the process of clearing the projectile of a dodge ball? Seeing the potential horror of my decision I began to grow self-conscious that I might be discovered – that my identity would be exposed to the jeering taunts of my fourth grade class. I tried not participate. Used my superhero strength for good and turned Dodge Ball into Wall Ball. I went home at the end of school and retired my secret identity forever.
I believe that my first feelings of disillusionment followed shortly on the heels of this event.
To this day, I find myself feeling that I’m missing something in life – like I should be capable of something more. I should be able to accomplish bigger things, get places faster, fight for the greater good, be telekinetic.
I decided to poll my friends to see if anybody else felt this connection – this strange sense of loss and lack of purpose in life after a childhood devoted to pretending to be a superhero. 21 of my friends actually responded to my poll. Of course, it is a rather small sampling of a huge cross section of our society, but I think we can learn from it all the same.
In my poll, I asked several questions, which for our purposes, I shall narrow down to three:
1.If you were a superhero, what would your special power be?
2.Did you have Underoos (and what were they)?
3.Do you have a clear sense of purpose in life, or is it hazy?
Here are the responses:
1 – Super strength / Superman / Hazy
2 – Know what people are thinking / Rainbow Brite / hazy
3 – Ability to beam places / Wonderwoman / hazy
4 – freeze time / no / clear
5 – Flying / Minerva / hazy
6 – get pregnant / Josie and the Pussycats / hazy
7 – flying / wonderwoman / hazy
8 – bendy / bat woman / hazy
9 – healing / wonderwoman, cat woman, spiderman / clear
10 – flying / superman / hazy
11 – the ability to dance and teleportation / no / clear
12 – flight / wonderwoman and Josie and the Pussycats / hazy
13 – telekinesis / batman, superman, he-man/hazy
14 – ability to survive on little sleep / no, but desperately wanted Superwoman / hazy
15 – treetop running, blasting off ground / no, but wanted He-man / hazy
16 – invisibility / Superman/clear
17 – telekinesis / Wonderwoman / hazy
18 – flight / wonderwoman / hazy
19 – flight / no / clear
20 – invisibility and omniscience / Incredible Hulk / hazy
21 – the ability to see through clothes / no / clear
Here is the final tally:
Of those who had Underoos:
hazy sense of purpose in life: 13 (87%)
clear sense of purpose in life: 2 (13%)
Of those who did NOT have Underoos:
hazy sense of purpose in life: 2 (33%)
clear sense of purpose in life: 4 (66%)
So, of those who wore Underoos, 13% feel as if they have a clear purpose in life. Of those who did not wear Underoos, 66% feel as if they have a clear purpose in life.
It may be interesting to note, that of the two respondents who did NOT have Underoos and who claimed that their sense of purpose was hazy, they both made a point of stating that they intensely pined over a pair of Underoos, but that their parents would not let them. So, it could be argued that these 2 people really belong amongst their Underoos wearing peers as they may have exhibited the same behavior – perhaps by making their own costumes out of felt and bedsheets. So, this final tally may be skewed with a deeper analysis of the situation.
Generation X has been referred to as “the lost generation.” For some reason, we who were born between 1965 and 1981 are said to exhibit a “hazy sense of identity.” Numerous reasons have been cited as possible contributors, including the collapse of the Soviet Union, a rise in the divorce rate, drugs and economic strain. No doubt, these all played their role.
We are also the generation whose parents told us that we could accomplish anything that we set our minds to. We were assured that we were amazing and that we could change the world. We were the world. We werethe children. We were the ones to make a brighter day, so we had better start living.
And to prove it, we were bought Underoos.
Is there a connection? I don’t know. Was it that Underoos were a symptom of the times…or were they a contributing factor? That is the question. What do you think?
* I would like to note for the record that none of my friends had the Monchichi Underoos.
[…] Pogo balls were dangerous weapons and Chinese jump ropes never failed to trip someone. In your Underoos you were Wonder Woman, Spider Man or R2D2. In your treehouse you were […]