Look At My Underwear, Pleeeeeeease!
Courtesy of the 8 May edition of The New Yorker
I swear that some of my male students, sartorially challenged as they are to begin with (there's something about that XY chromosome combo that doesn't bode well for the average male fashion sense), expect that when they're fitted for that first business suit, that someone is really going to ask them the question in the cartoon. I mean why shouldn't they show their BVDs or Jockeys in the business world the way they do in the classroom?
If you teach in a fairly standard public high school you've at some point been inadvertently (well, not entirely inadvertently as the "intent" is there, though it may not have been directed specifically at you when it happened) you've been assaulted by this at some point. It happened to me, but again, yesterday. I had broken my kids up into groups and they had gathered around the classroom lab benches. I turned around at one point to see one of my students bending forward to get a pencil sharpened and there were his Jockeys in all their ... I can't say glory, I mean really ... whatever, and I just shuddered. I immediately yelled out across the room, "John, kindly hike up your pants." The underwear display was not due to the kid being without a belt. No, there was the belt and it was set such that his pants were accommodated to allow him to flash the world his un-metionables when his shirt hiked up just enough, and "enough" wasn't all that much.
I'm sure there are all sorts of interesting sociological reasons for why this became a fad in the black community, and frankly I'm not interested in them. But the community I teach in, though you would hardly tell it by the condition of the high school, is definitely upscale, high income, and the kids are as white bread as you'll find in any such community. Yet they're there emulating rappas and the like, doing their best to make themselves into the best imitation boyz-from-the-hood hoodlings you can find. So underwear is an "In-your-face" sort of thing, and maybe it's better than a safety pin piercing going through a kid's left eyebrow, but ... God forbid these kids ever have to run while they're dressed like this, I mean no way are they getting anywhere very fast with their pants around their kneecaps.
What I'm finding especially bothersome of late are the girls who seem to be moving in the same direction as the boys. They tend to be a bit more subtle, they're fledgling women after all (but try to convince some of them of the "fledgling" part, yeah, right ...), but they'll come in with just a hint of pink undergarment waistband showing. Now here male teachers have to tread carefully - call a guy on his underwear and you're ok, but you're not to do this with a girl, no, no, no. With a girl if you as a man call her on her inappropriate attire there starts a discussion as to why in the world you should have noticed that to begin with - one day some kid's going to come in naked and we'll see how far that travels and I'd bet a paycheck she'll get through at least the first two periods if no female teachers have encountered her. So you go and find a female colleague to take note and let her dish out the fashion correction.
I guess every generation has to have its "something" to put it in contrast with the generation before them, and in some cases the "generations" before them who are the gatekeepers of their learning and responsible for their education; I just wish they chose something besides their underwear to do it with.