Friday, April 2, 2010

There's a hole in my Knickers

Yesterday I had a major scare while putting my underpants on. I balanced on my right leg and happily threaded my left leg through the appropriate holes in the garment. Then I balanced on my left leg and started to thread my right leg through.

I had no problem getting my right foot in, but my big right toe missed the intended exit hole and snagged on the gusset. Wriggling my toe didn’t free it. Then I tried shaking my foot from side to side, but this simply aggravated the problem, and the gusset became firmly wedged between my toes.

For what seemed like an eternity, I continued to balance on one leg whilst frantically raising and lowering and shaking my right foot. It was all to no avail. I found it progressively more difficult to sustain this activity without wobbling. The wobbling turned into tottering, and the only way I could retain some semblance of balance was by hopping. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to hop backwards in the general direction of my bed, where I landed safely.

This gave me pause for reflection. I’d never experienced this particular problem before, and it occurred to me that the same thing could happen to other people, possibly with fatal consequences. And if it could happen with underpants, then it almost certainly could happen with knickers. Both males and females were equally at risk.

Knickers and underpants have similar design characteristics, in that they are mostly manufactured with three holes. The only exceptions are four-hole knickers (with split gussets) and four-hole underpants (which are called Y-fronts). It seems to me that the likelihood of snagging a toe increases in direct proportion to the number of holes.

For reasons that are beyond me, knickers and underpants are always referred to in the plural, even when we are referring to a single garment. The words “knicker” and “underpant” simply do not exist in the English language. To complicate matters further, we are obliged to refer to a single garment as a pair.

But I digress. It’s the three main holes that I want to talk about. These are the waist hole, the left leg hole, and the right leg hole. The question is – why are these holes not labelled accordingly? I know that the waist hole usually bears a label, but this typically identifies the manufacturer, the size of the garment, and some hieroglyphics that purport to be washing recommendations. The label never contains any reference to the two leg holes, no instructions for putting the garment on, and no health and safety guidance notes. Is this user-friendly? I think not.

I have done some calculations, and it appears to me that there are 12 different ways in which long-suffering users can don a standard pair of three-hole underpants or knickers. Only one of these ways is the right way, which is label inside, at the back of the waist. Yes, I know there are more than 12 options if you include permutations where both legs emerge from the same exit hole, but frankly, we can't be too silly about this.

Goodness knows how many different ways you can don a pair of split-gussets or Y-fronts. That’s four holes. I think the answer is 24. But you’d have to have a small waist and thin legs.

Health & Safety Addendum:
The safest way to don underwear is to begin whilst seated. Insert both legs. Draw garment up to knees. If garment is back-to-front, maintain grip on the waistband, lower the garment back to the floor and cross your legs so that your right foot exits the garment through the left-hand leg hole and your left foot exits through the right-hand leg hole, then draw the garment back up to the knees and untwist. If garment is seen to be inside-out, or both inside-out and back-to-front, go fetch your spectacles, taking care not to trip.

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