Bubbleboy and the U word

Beware! Things starting with U on a line, pic: writeitsideways.com

Disclaimer: I do really like my kid’s teacher. She is smart, cares about the kids, seems to like her job, and conveyed early on the crucial message that in her classroom there is only one boss, and that is her. I dig that!

All the more surprising did I find a conversation that took place recently at at parent-teacher conference. I can only assume that she was encouraged to mention this or – worse – that there we actual complaints from other parents.

The kids have been working on a letter book. For each letter of the alphabet they say, write, and draw things that start with that letter. My son had many important contributions like gun, bomb, laser, ninja fighter, explosion, chemicals, potassium permanganate, …

The most notable, however, was one starting with the letter U and, no, it was not UFO. He raised his hands and blurted out “underwear”. To the best of my knowledge he did not say “stinky, old, yucky underwear full of poop” – that does start with s anyway – he just said “underwear”.

During the conference I was informed that that was an inappropriate word in the context of a 1st grade classroom.

Now in my universe (another word with U) underwear is what you wear under your, well, upper-wear: boxers, briefs, bras, bikini-bottoms, that sort of thing. Nothing questionable about it, the absence of underwear would be worrisome .   In the universe of 1st grade, however, the concept of “underwear” somehow became objectionable.

Call me a depraved but it never even crossed my mind that any part of that word or the two parts combined could be considered “inappropriate” for public utterance.   Had my son said that he needs to bring a thing that starts with u for the next class and he wants to bring underwear I would have made sure he takes a clean set – but that would have been the full extend of my parental involvement.

I mean, what are we supposed to call these things? “Unmentionables”? Stars with U alright!  Merriam-Webster dictionary mentions that term first being used in 1823.   I had assumed that it went out of style about a 100 years later – at the latest.

That only leaves us with the option of not talking at all about such objectionable concepts as garments worn directly on your skin. By and large that is fine by me, I have no strong desire to discuss underwear, although, I must admit, the girl-friends and I sometimes venture to discuss such topics. I can’t help but think, that by telling my son that it is not appropriate to say the wicked word “underwear” it is all the more interesting to him.

I can see him in my mind’s eye whispering in his friends’ ears during lunch break stuff like “underwear, underwear, underpants, undershorts, undershirts, underthingies,…” and they all break down in hysterical laughter.


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