Underwear on the Outside
An excerpt from what I will obnoxiously call my forthcoming book, "It Must Be Me":
Underoos were a popular fad when I was around eight or nine years old, which meant that I owned them. I loved fads. My proclivity for superhero-related products made me a prime candidate for Underoos, as they were essentially colored underwear with a big insignia on the chest, and maybe a printed version of the hero's belt at the top of the briefs. That's it. You didn't get gloves, boots, or a mask, as those items would be tough to conceal under one's outerwear.
Of course, Batman was always my favorite superhero, so I chose to honor the Dark Knight by clothing my my stick-like body in a watered-down version of his costume. Like many other kids at that time, wearing Underoos gave me the slightest taste of what it might be like to have a real secret identity as I sat in the comfort of my elementary school classroom - and all while enjoying the secure barrier that underwear provides between skin and clothing. Good stuff.
And it all remained good until my mother started suggesting that I wear my Batman Underoo top to school on the outside - as my actual shirt. She thought it would be "so cute". Now, there's no logical reason this should have been seen as a sensational act - it was a light gray cotton shirt with an iron-on of the yellow-and-black Batman symbol. As far as shirts go, that's not crazy. People wear clothes with superhero logos on them all the time these days. It's accepted, as it should have been back in 1979. However, that was not the case.
These were children we're talking about, and they're doubly dangerous while in packs. So despite my protests, my mother won out and on a gentle Spring morning, cool enough that I didn't need to wear an undershirt, my love for Batman took over and, with some trepidation, I wore the top portion of my Underoos to school.
It took about three minutes before my schoolmates attacked. We were standing in the auditorium, lining up before the school day officially began, when one little girl noticed my shirt. She immediately sniffed it out for what it was, pointed to me and shouted "He's wearing underwear!" I don't think she even knew my name. The other kids smelled blood in the water and rushed over to feed on my carcass.
In no way did I want to disrespect Batman, but the fear I'd denied was quickly becoming reality. I should have heeded my instincts. The kids were pulling at my shirt, stretching it out and crackling the logo at its edges. Their cackles filled the auditorium (much like the Golden Age Joker - ed.). I was defeated.
I had no choice but to finish out the day in the decimated Underoo, though a smock in Art Class did provide brief reprieve. When I got home my mother was excited - clearly she thought she'd helped me live out my dream as a would-be hero. "How did the other kids like your Batman shirt?!" she prodded.
I couldn't tell her that the only joy I had that day was when I finally jumped off the bus and managed to sprint home before a final pummeling occurred. "They liked it," I offered, with a modicum of forced smile on my lips. It was obvious that she was looking for more of a reaction, but that's all the fake delight I could summon. I hope Bruce Wayne would empathize with me, but from that point forward, the Underoos never saw the light of day again.