I always thought those ads about the Heartbreak of Static Cling were overblown. Maybe it's because in our household division of labor, I do the things I like to docook and drive my pickup to the dumpand my wife does the rest, including the laundry. So maybe I'm not sufficiently sensitive about static cling.
At least not until about a month ago.
I know it was about a month ago because it always takes me about a month before I can talk about things like this.
The story begins when I have a nightmare in early January. I dream that I haven't made the 1997 Stud-Muffins of the English Department calendar. There are only seven males in our English Department, and in my dream the other six get two months each and I don't get any. The dream ends when a student asks me why my picture isn't there and I lose all professorial dignity. I say "I don't even know what a stud-muffin is," then I laugh wildlylike an Edgar Allen Poe characterand hot tea comes out my nose.
It's just a dream.
But still it pushes me to two January resolutions: I resolve to maintain professorial dignity throughout 1997, and I further resolve to transform my body. I'll get Really Muscular and then we'll see whose picture gets in the 1998 Stud-Muffins of the English Department calendar.
If there should happen to be one.
So here I am in the men's locker room of the field house. I've just worked up a sweat trotting a few times around the indoor track, and I've made a few little grunty noises on the weight machines. A couple of coeds had noticed me and have whispered to each other while smiling at me.
So I can feel myself on the verge of becoming Really Muscular and calendar-worthy as I come out of the shower dripping wet and buck naked. I'm not sure how buck naked is different than plain naked, but I like the macho sound of it.
And I feel a macho kinship with a couple of burly students who are getting dressed while they talk about abs and pecs and lats. I'm not sure what abs and pecs and lats are, but I look forward to getting some and joining the discussion in a couple of weeks.
Tightening my stomach so it won't sag, I grab my freshly laundered and folded towel, authoritatively snap it out of its fold, and watch something that has been statically clinging to it go flying across the locker room.
It's a pair of my wife's lace-trimmed unmentionables.
My first impulse is to pretend I didn't see them fly across the locker room. I consider just walking by them on the way out and with great professorial dignity saying something like "I believe there's a pair of lace-trimmed unmentionables lying here on the floor of the men's locker room. Wherever might they have come from?"
The Truth, Mainly
But then I remember that my wife said she paid $2.49 for them in the Unmentionables Department at Target, so I walk across the room and pick them up. I'd like to jam them in my pocket, but I'm still buck naked so I walk back to my locker and stuff them inside my bag.
When I look up, the two burly guys look down. They've stopped talking about abs and pecs and lats. They've stopped talking about everything. Their ears are red. One of them makes a little snorting noise, like a startled horse.
I think they've seen my wife's lace-trimmed unmentionables. But I don't think they know they're hers.
I want to say something like "That's right, Bucko. I wear lace-trimmed unmentionables." Or "Do you prefer the full cut or the French cut? Double layered crotch or single?" Or "So's your old man."
You know, something wonderfully suave and debonair.
But it's hard to be wonderfully suave and debonair when you're buck naked and 63 years old. So I don't say anything.
I dry off and quickly attire myself in professorial dignity: boxers, tee shirt, pants, socks, shoes, shirt, tweed sports jacket with leather elbow patches. Only then do I look again at the two weight lifters. They're still looking at the floor and they're still not saying anything. They're catatonic.
As I leave, one of them is finally able to look me in the eye. I see the flicker of a smile. It doesn't look the way I imagine a smile of macho kinship might look.
"M'love," I say to my wife when I get home that evening, "could you maybe use some of that static cling stuff on your lace-trimmed unmentionables?"
She gives me a look and pours us both some tea.
"Let me guess," she says after a minute or two. "This has something to do with the Stud-Muffins of the English Department calendar you're always mumbling about at 2 a.m."
"Don't be silly," I say. "I don't even know what a stud-muffin is."
Lincoln English Professor Satterfield writes
to salvage clarity from his confusion.
His column appears on alternate Mondays.