My war with underwear began in earnest when I was twelve. I'm sure there were some small skirmishes in my early years: wedgie battles, droopy drawers, the occasional raggedy bloomer worn to church. But when I was 12, things got serious.
My junior high school assistant principal, who had spent a lot of time in Germany during the war, had a fondness for whistles and marching. As we exited the cafeteria each day, the general would blow his whistle once to indicate it was time to line up: boys on the left, girls on the right. Two toots meant march in place; he growled out the pace in true army fashion. Three toots signified a precision march down the stairs and out to the playground. On two toots, I began to pump my chubby legs in my off-rhythm version of a Sousa march. I was apparently so enthusiastic one day that the elastic in my underpants snapped.
As three toots sounded, my underpants dropped to my ankles. Hundreds of adolescent bodies were surging forward and I really had no choice if I didn't want to be crushed. Yes, dear reader, I stepped out of them and kept marching. As I reached the bottom of the stairs, I risked a sideways glance up to the assistant principal. There he was, calmly holding my underpants and reviewing his troops. A quick visit to my gym locker netted a pair of gym shorts to cover me up for the rest of the day (the concept of commando was not in my vocabulary yet).
We continued to march throughout junior high school. But I certainly detected a slower pace to the “hup, two, three, four.” I suspect the poor man did not want to retrieve any more discarded underwear from his troops.