[This essay was written by my wife, Twila, and is reprinted here without permission or fore-notice. She said it is “only” her 2nd revision and I’m sure she would like to do 8 more before popping up in … lol … public, but I think it’s wonderful.]
(From the “I am not my Grandmother” collection of essays)
My grandmother routinely went commando. I made this discovery one summer day while following her up the stairs of her tiny tidy house. I don’t think I knew why she was going upstairs, but in those days, I was all about giving her no space whatsoever. For the two weeks of summer that she allowed me to stay with her, I believed I owned her. She was my grandmother and she loved me no matter what. She welcomed the total lack of privacy. I felt it in my bones. So on this particular day, I followed her up the stairs and into the bathroom. I was apparently untroubled by the prospect of watching her sit on the toilet and evacuate, even though in my own home, bathroom trips were solitary experiences, and the bathroom door was invariably locked and barricaded.
When my grandmother didn’t shoo me out, I sat on the edge of the tub, waiting for her to do whatever she was going to do. Without hesitation, she lifted her housedress and sat down.
“OH NO!” I shouted in my head. “You forgot to pull down your underpants!”
I waited with gleeful dread for my grandmother to jump off the seat and yank down her undies just in time. But instead, I heard the tinkle of the first drops of urine, followed by the flood of pent-up tea. It didn’t sound at all as though the urine was passing through those gigantic cotton butt covers I had seen in her dresser drawer.
“Grandma, aren’t you wearing underpants?” I finally asked.
“I don’t like anything grabbing at me,” she said.
Then she tore off some toilet paper and reached down into the toilet from behind her butt to wipe herself. I frowned. It looked complicated, and wrong. My MO was to stick my hand into the toilet bowl from the front and dab at my damp vagina. I didn’t have to reach all the way to the back unless I did number 2. Why would anyone go in from behind, I wondered. You’d have to twist your back and reach way forward. What if your arm brushed your butt on the way to the front and got some poop on it? Those thoughts eventually led to the panicky thought that my grandmother might be depositing poop stains on the furniture when she sat down.
“Grandma doesn’t wear underwear!” I announced to my mother when I went home. After a pause, my mother said, “Maybe it’s more comfortable for her.” I suspect my mother was in deep blush during that exchange, but to her credit, she remained calm, making me think that going commando was kind of normal.
Nonetheless, I, myself, have never gone commando except out of necessity, or to avoid embarrassment. Avoiding embarrassment is always more compelling. For example, I learned one must never ever wear panties under bike shorts, no matter how expensive or high-tech the underwear might be. But if you violate this rule, never ever admit it to your bike-riding friends or you will be branded a dweeb and will never be taken seriously as a bike rider. On the other hand, if you hang out with dweebs who don’t bike, and they somehow discover you eschew panties when biking, the chorus of “EWWWWWWW”s will rock your world. It was easy for me to choose between those two groups of friends, though. Commando it was and will be – while biking.
And I admit, over the years, the occasional emergency necessitated a commando performance. Like when I left my panties in some unknown place or got them wet or dirty or
full of sand. Whatever. But going commando was never something I could do with breezy nonchalance. That’s because I had a bad first experience. Catching my pubic hair in the zipper of my jeans, both while zipping up and zipping down, was unexpected and painful. And somehow, rearranging my pubic hair to avoid excruciating hair extractions was a skill I never mastered. I won’t even go into the problem of leakage caused by tight jeans. Ewwwwww.
My grandma was a commando natural, but I never even made it to the little leagues.