Bulk Bin Bunhuggers


I was at the superstore Target today, buying jeans today for my younger son. This morning at 5:30, he threw on his pants in splendid fashion, and just as he was about to walk out the door we noticed the rip in the rear end of his pants.  It frankly didn’t look ripped — it seemed as if demon lizards crawled out his butt and used claws and teeth to escape his foul odors, or that a Mad Ass Barber (hyphenate that however you like) went after the seat of his jeans with a pair of scissors.

A big giant bin of 99 cent underpants. Get 'em before everyone in the store digs through em...
A big giant bin of 99 cent underpants. Get ’em before everyone in the store digs through em…

They were his last pair of pants and so, him being roughly my size, I tossed him a pair of my trusty khaki dockers and told him to wear those instead.  We drove him to the bus stop, and we went about our day, knowing that this evening, we’d have to suffer through the inevitably painful process of pants buying with a teenager.

So this evening, armed with only our wits and two Target gift cards, we went pants shopping.  As I wandered the store in boredom, he went to the fitting rooms with several pairs of jeans folded over his arm. I noticed something interesting. They sell womens’ underpants in bulk bins. Colorful underpants in all the myriad butterfly colors, each pair endowed (not an intentional pun) with the power of showing whatever amount of buttcheek God intended for the buyer. I’d never noticed before. It struck me as odd so I posted a comment on Facebook. A friend responded “They’ve been doing this for over 40 years.”

Does this make me unobservant? Quite possibly this might be the case, but the bulk bins themselves aren’t what struck me as odd. What occurred to me is all the other stuff we sell in bulk. Stuff we don’t care about.  Icky granola, trail mix that should be used to  pave trails, stale gummy bears, and jelly beans, dog biscuits, dried peas, $3.00 DVDs of remakes and overdubbed in a sweatshop in Ukraine. The Saw VI.  Basically, the shopping industry knows what satisfies tbe heart of a person is finding a bargain in a good rummage, even if it’s two and a half pounds of weevil-ridden flax seed. And amid all this–women’s underwear–the most intimate article of clothing that can be bought and (ostensibly) cover your skin.

Men’s underwear isn’t treated that way by the clothing industry: at least until we get it home, at which point, it’s never, ever folded again. We buy our underpants in 3- or 6-packs, kinda like our cold, carbonated alcoholic beverages, all wrapped in plastic and hanging from a hook, kinda clinically, like a bag of saline in a hospital. But we treat women’s underwear like doggy treats, all in an enormous bin for anyone and their kids to dig through with their grubby, Wienerschnitzel-covered fingers. I know a few women who wouldn’t let their husbands fold their intimates, let alone allow some stranger go through them. Why, then, would we allow hundreds of strangers to plow through the discount panty bin, rather than truss them up neatly?

The fact it’s been done for 40+ years is no excuse.  We’ve done lots and lots of horrible things for 40+ years, many of which needs changing. Until the late 1930s, African-Americans and whites couldn’t play music together on the same stage. The reasoning? It was never done that way before.

My thinking is something I heard a therapist say years ago. A woman can tell a lot about herself from her underwear. A person who wears sprung-out, saggy underwear with holes may consider her intimate self less important than many other things in life. She will place her family, her work, her finances, her friends all above herself in her priorities. “I can buy cheap underwear,” she thinks. “Nobody but I will see them anyhow. What’s on the inside doesn’t matter.” Maybe that’s the root of bin psychology? We convince ourselves that we’re not worth the price of panties. I on the other hand, am better than all that. I wear holey underwear because I’m a slovenly pig. I joke, but I think there’s truth in it, despite the sweeping generalization.

So, has society allowed a kind of bin mentality for women, because it’s acceptable, because it’s cheaper? or am I just thinking too hard about this. As another friend of mine pointed out, “It’s when the underwear and the granola are in the same bin that it’s a problem…”

Until then, I probably have more important things to worry about. I just beg you to realize: you’re worth much more than a pair of bulk bin underpants.

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