I need new underpants. Unusually gentle on my clothing, I am nevertheless down to just two pairs, and these, spotless but threadbare, are what remain from a 12-pack of Calvins that I purchased probably twenty years ago.

At that time I thought, No way am I going through this trauma again till they invent a way that allows me to just tap a magic screen and send my order whooshing through the ether …

And here we are. Scrolling through endless new designs and brands — an illusion of choice that is in fact merely a surfeit of unimportant details made possible by outsourced poverty — I find myself mystified by fancy technical jargon and unfamiliar colors.

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In addition to the old standbys — the boxer, the brief — I discover such neo-iterations as boxer brief, midway, midway pouch, pouch trunk, bikini, G-string, thong, V-cut, angle-cut, booty, booty brief … the list goes on.

And where once you got plain white, or possibly navy-blue as the wild-man color option, now they’re available in every hue under the decorator’s rainbow: amaranth, mikado, chalk, taffy, zinnober, crocus, eburnean … the list goes on.


“I’m just not sure,” I say to The Lesser Half. She pushes her reading glasses up the bridge of her nose and cranes a peek.

“Hmmm. You’re quite ripped for a, you know — for an old guy. You could probably wear any of those styles without shame. Not a lot of shame. If the lights were turned low.”

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She moves a hand across to my Mac’s trackpad — rather too enthusiastically, I’d submit — and cycles through images of incredibly attractive shirtless skivvy-wearing multicultural quantum-scientist pro-surfer gay dudes in various states of angst.

“Actually, I gotta say — my preferred set-up for men will always be commando.”

She goes back to her George Eliot. I contemplate how my ass cheeks, which have circled the sun more than sixt- … more than thirty-five times, would look in celadon or russet. This is hopeless, I think, souring rapidly. I Google “commando + underpants.” But no retailers seem to carry that style, so I give up.

“My lovely Petal, I guess I’m just going to have to go without.”

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