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I’m fortunate to live on a street where I have many close friends. We barbeque, share recipes, go walking on early weekend mornings, and have play dates. I like to think of living on this street as my own version of Wisteria Lane without the dysfunction, destruction and death!
The flocks of children frequently flit back and forth from house to house, become engrossed in an activity, lose interest, and change activities again, sometimes forgetting to use the bathroom. Or they find themselves wrapped head-to-toe in roller skates, padded gear, and helmets and it simply takes too much time to remove said items before the inevitable potty accident happens. No big deal.
A few weeks ago, I went to my neighbor’s house to gather my daughter who was over for a play date. As per our usual routine, I stepped inside and chatted with my friends (I’ll call them Mr. and Mrs. Dee) before heading out with my daughter, when Mrs. Dee returned some clothes her daughter had worn home after a recent accident at our house, which included a pair of white panties.
So I’m in the middle of talking to the three of them, when I absent mindedly took the panties, turned the crotch inside out, and sniffed them.
Yes. In front of my friends and practically in mid-sentence.
In the five seconds of stunned silence that followed, I was acutely aware of two things: that I had just smelled the crotch of my daughter’s panties in public, and my friends were staring at me with a mix of horrific wonder.
Now I’m not usually one to be at a loss for words—in fact, I can usually make a joke out of just about anything, but this was humiliation on an entirely different level. I had performed a secret mom move in front of others; had broached the invisible line of good etiquette. There are rituals we perform all the time in private—passing gas, picking our nose, or digging for the wedgie buried between our butt cheeks, but good decorum and a healthy sense of place keeps us from acting on these functions in mixed company. What freaked me out most wasn’t that I had smelled the panty crotch, but that I didn’t realize I was doing it until it was over. Where the hell did my social filter go? Was this a sign of a busy week, too much stress, or are my crackers starting to crumble? And what would I do next? Scratch my crotch, use their bathroom with the door open, or search for black heads on my way past their entryway mirror?
“I’m sorry you had to witness that,” I sheepishly joked. After that, I was speechless.
“Are you worried they aren’t clean?” Mrs. Dee laughed.
And then there’s that. Sniffing the panty crotch implied I was concerned she was returning dirty underwear. Did I assume she didn’t wash them? What kind of friend did I think she was?
Now before you start thinking I’m some pervert who likes the smell of panties, let me explain that I do not get any type of perverse pleasure out of this; that it is, in fact, rather gross; and I am not an equal opportunity panty sniffer. I do not sniff my husband’s boxer briefs or my momderwear, because there are visual signs delineating clean or dirty. I’ll just leave it at that. I don’t smell my son’s underwear either because he’s pretty good at keeping the laundry separated from the clean pile.
No, I perform this (not so secret anymore) act on the tiny girl panties because there aren’t visual signs of dirtiness, and more importantly, I hate doing laundry and I hate washing clean clothes even more.
My two girls share a room. When my four-year-old gets dressed for bed each evening, she throws clean panties from her drawer like confetti over her shoulder, searching for the pajamas she’ll wear to bed. She also strips down each evening before her bath leaving not-so-clean panties on the floor as well. Try as I might, I have not figured out a way to curb this behavior, and since I want her to be independent and dress herself, I live with the ensuing mess.
Ten-year-old daughter enters the picture, and like most ten year olds, leaves a trail of clothes, dirty and clean, behind her and on the floor and hanging out of the laundry hamper, and on most days there are in fact, more clothes on the floor than in her closet.
At which point I get angry and tell her to clean her room. Which she does. Her preferred method of cleaning is to scoop all her clothes from the floor and jam them into the laundry hamper, and then scoop all her sister’s clothes up from the floor and jam them back into her pajama drawer, which leaves me with drawers and hampers filled with both dirty and clean clothes. Just last night I removed TWO pairs of dirty underwear from her CLEAN clothes drawer.
Please, someone tell me I’m not alone in this.
So, what’s mediocre mom to do when it’s time to wash laundry? Or when the kids complain they are out of panties, but you know they can’t be out of panties because three days ago you washed two loads of panties and where the hell are they?
And that’s when you start sniffing panty crotches. So you aren’t washing clean underwear in the hamper or putting dirty underwear on them from the drawers. I admit, it’s a step I’d rather not have to perform, but it’s now a subconscious action. Have I mentioned before how much I hate washing clothes that aren’t dirty?
In fact, I’m betting some of you are panty sniffers and don’t even realize it; it’s one of those ingrained mother habits like cleaning your child’s face with your spit, or using your shirt to wipe a boogery nose. And while smelling underwear is a good way to determine cleanliness, I wouldn’t recommend doing it at a dinner party or in mixed company if the host should happen to return a pair of underwear to you. Assume the underwear is clean and do the sniffing at home.
The jury is still out on whether or not my friends think I’ve lost it. Don’t get me wrong, I still like to think we live on Wisteria Lane, but my dysfunction has been “outed.” I’m definitely a Desperate Housewife now – and my ‘dirty’ laundry has been aired for all to see!
But what about all of you out there! How many of you have the courage to confess your membership in this club? What other embarrassing things have you done in front of family and friends that left you horrified? Come on – out with it!
Rachel Vidoni is a professional writer and blogger and former classroom teacher. She is a mediocre mother to three pretty neat kids. You can follow her humor and family blog at www.eastcoastmusings.blogspot.com. You might not be a better parent after reading her blog, but you will feel like one.