Don’t Get Your Pants in a Wad

Essays, Featured — By on May 1, 2011 at 7:59 pm

(Editor’s note:  This article was written for Rachel Held Evans’ Rally to Restore Unitya week-long celebration of Christian unity and fundraising effort for Charity:Water)

From where I sit – comfortably, I might add – a lot of people are walking around with massive wedgies these days.  And all that fabric stuffed between their cheeks really affects their gait.  They sort of waddle from side to side, looking a little saddle sore whilst grimacing in discomfort.  On the one hand, it’s slightly comical.  On the other it’s sad, because everyone looks just so downright miserable, and they don’t even seem to know it. 

There’s absolutely nothing I hate more than having a huge wedgie.  Having suffered my fair share in past days, I now choose my undergarments with great precaution.  I prefer panties with better coverage.  Perhaps counterintuitive – because you’d think more fabric means bigger wedgies- cloth spanning the entire circumference of the backside, then sealed to the thigh with snappy elastic, is actually less likely to ride up and wedge between your gluteal hemispheres.

Yes, having learned the hard way, I’ve determined that the smaller the panties, the better your chances of them getting twisted in your backside.  Bikinis?  They only reach about halfway around each cheek, riding up gradually throughout the day before they work themselves into a giant knot.  Thongs?  Now you’re just asking for a giant wedgie.  With nothing to really latch on to, they are made to lodge in your rump’s equator.  Tangas?  Perhaps considered the thong’s more elegant, tasteful cousin, that little extra bit of fabric reaching to the merely tropics is just that much more to get wadded up in your derriere and chafe.

No, the more fabric, the better.

Believe it or not, I learned all this while participating on the high school debate team.  And here’s where the underwear reference comes in:  Narrow minded and stubborn, I wore the ideological version of the thong.  Having joined the team an argumentative, self-righteous, future politician wanna-be, I knew in black and white terms exactly what I thought, why I thought it, and that everyone else should think it, too.  Why else does one join the debate team?  Or strive for a political career?  This was going to launch me into my future, for sure.  Oh, I had a giant wad of cotton-poly blend stuck right up my butt.

But in order to participate there was just one catch:  I had to debate both pro and con on every issue.

Forced to don ideological briefs – my heinie covered from absolutely every single angle –  my opinions started to mesh with facts, which started to blend with thoughts, which were then impressed by, well, impressions that were finally compounded by feelings that all mixed together to spur an internal paradigm shift.

In a speech given a few years back at Butler University, I heard former President Bill Clinton say that “you can’t hate someone you know.”  Actually, I think he said his father-in-law or a grandfather, or somebody in his family, said it.  Regardless of who actually said it, it’s true.  Once you get to know someone’s heart, you can’t blame them anymore for their outward differences because, deep down, they are just like you.

While I may have still leaned toward one philosophical side or the other, I found points on either side with which I could identify, sympathize, and empathize.  Abortion may be terrible, but what about girls who have been raped?  Illegal immigrants may deserve the basic human rights of earning a living, no matter the country, but who’s to pay the emergency room bills they incur?  Universal health care may be desirable but what about the people who abuse it?  In the end, I realized that the people affected by each side desire the exact same thing:  to protect and provide for their families and loved ones.  How could I argue against that?

The world was no longer black and white to me, but instead a dull shade of grey.  And my desire to be right, my drive to prove others wrong, my need to identify with one group or idea or cause became just as muted.  I just didn’t care anymore about having the stronger argument or being in a better position than my opponent, because I had become more interested in knowing people’s hearts than their ideologies and beliefs. Possessing a new, broader knowledge of the world around me, I just couldn’t get my new briefs in a wad.

Twenty years later, the issues still very much the same, I still can’t.  Because I’m wearing both ideological and literal boy briefs.  (Except when I’ve forgotten to do the laundry and a pair of purple bikinis is all I’ve got.  Hey-everyone has an off day.)  

Unfortunately, choosing to wear briefs in a perpetually divided, thong-happy society of Democrat vs. Republican, Good vs. Evil, Blue vs. Red, Citizen vs. Illegal Immigrant, Public vs. Private, Rich vs. Poor, Colts vs. Bears is not attractive.  It’s just not very sexy.

Oddly enough, in Christian culture, wearing briefs isn’t very sexy, either.

You’d think Christians, particularly, would be wearing super conservative underwear.  What with the whole “love your neighbor as yourself” thing and all, you’d think Christians would be donning briefs with tummy control panels to suck in all that worldly unwantedness. 

But surprisingly, it seems a lot of Christians are concerned with their theological sex appeal.  So, sporting thongs, or perhaps the slightly more demure tanga, Christ followers choose their sides:  Joel Osteen or Jim Wallis, Rob Bell or John Piper, Brian McLaren or Mark Driscoll, post-trib or pre, Calvinist or Emergent, Fundamentalist or Universalist, works or faith, pews or movie seating, guitars or organs. 

As a Christian writer, it would be enticing to appear edgy, sexy even, and start wearing a theological thong.  Considered attractive in the blogosphere, racy undergarments are all the rage.  Polarizing opinions attract readers, whether they take your side or are outright enraged.  Then the hot trend is to blog about it, attract a ton of Twitter followers, and get book deal, thus perpetuating the thong industry.  And wedgies.

But I just can’t do it. 

There are days when I mistakenly feel like less of a Christian for it, like I should take a stance and suffer the perpetual wedgie for the love of my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I should pick a side and decide I’m right and everyone else is wrong. 

However, it would alienate too many of my friends.  I know Fundamentalists, Catholics, and Methodists.  I know people who lean towards Buddhism and New Age philosophies.  I know Muslims and Jews.  Rather than focus on our differences, I would rather build relationships with them, getting to know their hearts, what moves them.  And I want to share my heart with them. 

I may have my beliefs and opinions, but I also want us all to unite as humans.  So I don’t want to wear something that divides and dissects.  Thongs may have an alluring, immediate sexiness about them. But the inevitable, resulting wedgie renders this type of undergarment far less attractive once we all start waddling around with a knotted mass of cloth stuffed up our fannies.  Uncomfortable, unbecoming, unnecessary, it’s like my ten year old daughter, Lenna, said, “Wedgies aren’t cool, they hurt.”

Besides, there’s so much we won’t know about what’s right or wrong until it’s all said and done anyway, and I don’t want to waste time arguing over stuff we can’t know for sure. I would much rather gain a broader knowledge of my fellow humans and enjoy harmonious relationships.  And so I choose to unite both sides of my gluteus maximus with theological briefs and live wedgie free.  At least my husband thinks I’m attractive.

Bottom line, when I observe our motives as humans and Christians, I think that a) we all really want God to exist, b) we really want there to be a heaven, and c) we all really want to get there. But before we ever arrive, despite all our theological divisions and disagreements, disharmony and dissonance, we will all be wearing underwear. 

So let’s not get our pants in a wad.

Kim Gottschild is Burnside’s Associate Social Justice Editor and author of the current column, Cupcake Countenance, which explores living in Grace.  Find her on Twitter or at Starbucks.

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