The Underpants

ourBy Katie Ravich 

I wrote this piece during a writing workshop given by Lynda Barry. The first step was to write about a memorable object. This appears in the third paragraph of this piece. The memorable object was a pair of old underpants. We then wrote paragraphs in a random order about setting, conflict etc. and read the pieces in the random order we produced the paragraphs. I shifted the paragraphs around just a little to make the piece a little more accessible to a new audience.

I am in seventh grade in middle school. I live in a far flung condo development on expansive grounds with no other child neighbors. I take the bus home from middle school which is a trial. An older boy named Jason started a game where he gets the whole bus to say “Hi Kate” though he knows I go by Katie and I hate to be called Kate. I am divided about this whole game since it gets me attention and it isn’t awful like some of the other teasing that goes on on the bus. I don’t have many friends and my best friend is more of what is now called a “frenemy.” Diamond Middle School is extremely ordinary. The worst part of the day is after lunch “recess.” We are too old to “play” so we just wander around the flag pole yard hurting each other in various ways.


I walked into the lunch room with bare legs and short skirt. I saw my usual table of “not quites” and was going to sit there but then I saw Kerry T. sitting with Jillian at another table. Could I just sit there with them? I mean I had an excuse. I could thank them for their discrete advice and help in the hallway. I decided to do it. I sat down and expected a reaction but Kerry merely said “Hi Katie what happened?” Dare I explain that I was wearing granny pants to hold my panty hose up and well etc? Would they think I was gross and weird? So I just did it. I explained the whole thing and Jillian and Kerry just laughed but not at me. Jillian said, “Katie you are original!”

Where did these underpants come from? Why did they linger in the drawer? They were two sizes too big. They were once white but now gray with sprung elastic. They have little pink rose sprigs but those have faded to almost nothing. They are unapologetic briefs, unabashed granny pants. I could have thrown them away lots of times. They even moved from one state to another with me. I kept thinking maybe they would come in handy at some point.

I get to the bathroom and go in a stall. Yes! The diapery underwear has been hanging below my skirt. I guess all day. I rip them off and start to crumple them into a ball. Will they fit in the little trash receptacle meant for used pads and tampons? But wait. I don’t have an extra pair of underwear. How will my panty hose stay up? I look at the granny pants considering what to do. I rip off the panty hose, leaving bare legs in a short skirt. I crumple the granny pants and the hose in a ball and stuff them into the little trash receptacle. Then I reconsider. What if someone sees them in there?

Jillian approaches me in the hallway and whispers “Katie, there is something wrong with your skirt.” I don’t know Jillian well and immediately suspect of treachery. What do you mean I ask in a scared voice but Jillian has moved on. I try to keep moving with dignity down the hall but consider ducking into the bathroom. Kerry T. approaches too. Kerry is suspect too because she is so cute and petite and does gymnastics at a competitive level. Why would she be nice? Kerry whispers the same thing as Jillian. She is very discrete and kind. I am feeling panicky. Are these girls picking on me? They have never noticed me before except when forced to by a group project. Then big, clomping Joanne comes up and shouts “Katie, why are you wearing diapers?”

Something is going to change. I try to make good decisions about my clothes but still I can’t go the full distance to getting noticed except unintentionally. My mom shared this tip about panty hose: if you put another pair of underwear on over your pantyhose they won’t fall down. My underwear drawer is a mess. Ancient things are in there. I pick a short skirt to wear with pantyhose and ballet flats. As per mom’s advice I put on a grey, stretched out pair of underpants on to hold up the pantyhose. I look good and leggy I think in the skirt with a matching Esprit top. I don’t see the gray, diapery underwear peeking out from under my skirt.

 Katie Middle School

Lexington Mass, Ruby Middle School. Lexington is a very academic town where intelligence and achievement are valued though there is another part of Lexington where the plumbers and contractors live. Everyone has money but some people’s fathers are professors at Harvard or MIT and some people’s fathers are plumbers. Ruby Middle School feeds from the more working class neighborhoods. I never fit in. I moved to Lexington right before the sixth grade. I have all the middle school problems except no one even notices me. I hate to go unnoticed but I am not willing or able to do what it takes to get noticed. I could try to distinguish myself academically but I am not cut out for the fierce competition.

*   *   *

Also by Katie Ravich: Surviving the Kalahari, Raising Sonia, Spirit of the CimarronFudge Girl

© 2015 Katie Ravich 

About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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1 Response to The Underpants

  1. marketing4introverts says:

    True Story and on YouTube: A middle-aged man in a swimsuit is standing on a sandy beach holding a beer. He is looking at and talking to two capuchin monkeys on the sand in front of him. Suddenly the monkeys rush him. They each scramble up a leg, grab the swim suit waistband in an obviously well-practiced movement, and pull his swimsuit down to his knees before they leap free. The man’s untanned bottom is suddenly in full view of the camera which is shaking with the videographer’s silent laughter. This must be the oldest trick in the human trick book. Why it is sooo funny is a mystery but I think pretty much anything with underpants in the title is going to attract attention. Your post attracted mine! Thanks for the story. Dhyan


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