I met up with a friend of my late husband’s recently. We were reflecting on how we’d changed in the year since his death. One of the lighter things that came through for both of us, was the absolute loss of shame. The experience made us realise, that most stuff doesn’t really matter; except seizing the moments of joy. For both of us, joy came in less than sensible places. This was probably because of the need to face really big things. It was a survival tactic to dive into the ridiculous, enthusiastically and often.
Grief made me fail to notice the decline and desperate need to replace certain aspects of my wardrobe. Recently I met a friend for coffee. As I raced down Lambton Quay, through the hordes of well dressed people, my aged undergarments lost the will to go on. They slid centimetre at a time, threatening to low ride out the bottom of my skirt. My backside was hanging out freely inside my skirt and knicker retrieval was diving into the undignified. There was a distinct possibility I’d turn my manky old disasters into pavement sweepers. The prospect of sweeping the pavement with my underwear looped around each ankle, felt like a very bold life choice. I made an emergency plan in case of total wardrobe malfunction: pavement roadkill. I would step out of them, and keep walking like nothing had happened. Nobody wants to be walking down the street, like a penguin, due to elasticated leg restriction. There was always a risk that the person behind me would feel morally compelled to chase me down the street, attempting to return my lost property. With a wry grin, I hitched those undies furiously at the sides, as I delighted in telling my friend about the state of my underwear.
I got to the café, and my friend was waiting at a table. We staged an intervention and I vowed to replace all the old pairs. In the coming weeks, a whole new civilised fleet was purchased. I weeded out the dead ones and dutifully hiffed them out. One in, one out.
As the days went on, none of my new fleet seemed to be in my clean laundry basket. The old ones were being thrown out, but nothing was coming through the clean laundry to replace them. My anticipation at getting to stride out with confidence, increased daily. Nothing came. I was again reduced to wearing my last forgotten pair. A pair guaranteed to fall to the ground under the slightest duress. If I sneezed, it would all be over.
I diced with public humiliation as I picked up some urgent items at the supermarket. A thought entered my mind; there would be cameras. I imagined my face on a poster, accompanied by a disturbing image of some dilapidated undergarments. The poster read, ‘attention: we have a rogue underwear deserter. Please notify a staff member if you recognise this woman.’ As I catastrophised my fate in the milk aisle, the problem became clear.
Upon arrival at home, I questioned my son about the laundry and what was happening to it. My son’s job is to sort out the clean washing, and direct it to each person’s bedroom to be put away. He said, “oh yeah, there was a blue thing and a red thing and a black thing, but I didn’t know what they were, or who they belonged to, so I just put them back in the wash.” It turns out, he didn’t recognise civilised human underwear. His underwear recognition skills, only extend to dilapidated pavement sweepers.