Dear Ashley,

Thank you for your commentary in the Nov. 2issue (Hidden Agenda 11/02/17 “Always wear the good pair”).

Even though my grandmother was raised in small-town Indiana, I think she and your Grams must’ve been soul sisters. “Make sure you have on good underwear in case you’re in an accident” was right up there with “please” and “thank you.”

For me, it was such a nostalgic piece that made me wonder how hearkening back to what we learned as children fuels our own insecurities about being judged. It also makes me wonder if they were instilling in us mechanisms to protect ourselves from harsher fates. Theoretically, if you believe people are going to assess your worthiness by judging those things right up against your skin (that nobody else should ever see), then you must understand the importance of comporting yourself in a way that complies with social norms. 

Our baby-boomer parents’ generation rebelled against all of that restriction and conforming. In fact, my dad used to go as far as to proudly announce, “I’m wearing my church underwear…They’re holey!” Because of our parents’ generation, we supposedly live in an era that more broadly accepts inclusion of diverse interpretations of the social norm but as you brilliantly point out by referencing popular television shows, we still judge those who are different by harsh standards.

This is all making me think about why the divisions in our society are becoming so distinct. Why suburbanites are protesting. Why football players are standing, and kneeling, and locking arms. Why immigrants are hiding. We had been encouraged to believe that we had embraced diversity, but when we pull back all the layers and look up close to see what’s really underneath we are still expecting to find fresh, clean, “classic briefs.”
The ghost of Grams saying,“I told you so” really is haunting and complex.

 Thank you so much for writing “Always wear the good pair.” I really enjoyed it.

Stephanie Jackson