Monday, April 17, 2006

Real Men Don't Wear Tighty Whities

I am a Born In the Covenant (BIC) Mormon. That means that both of my parents were members and had been sealed together in a Mormon temple before I was born. This blessed me and all of my younger brothers and sisters with an automatic sealing to my parents at birth with no further need of temple work. My older brother was born before they had been sealed in the temple and the three of them had to go to the temple together to be sealed for time and all eternity since he wasn't BIC.

One of the covenants that adult Mormons make in the temple is to wear special underwear as a sign of their faithfulness. The entire sequence of temple ordinances is called the endowment and you can tell faithful, endowed members by the fact that they wear temple garments. You can usually tell that they are wearing them because they usually show through their clothing. The most obvious giveaway is a panty line at or just above the knee if they are wearing long pants or underwear hanging below the hem of their knee-length shorts.

The garments come in two flavors: one- and two-piece. The one-piece garments are sort of like a poorly fitting wrestling singlet. You put them on by stepping through the very large neck opening and the legs come to the knee and the sleeves are short. They have a fly in the front and a large slit in the back to facilitate bathroom breaks. Due to their construction they are baggy and don't provide support to men or women. Women's are similar except that they don't have a fly. Women are to wear their bras and any other clothing over the top of the garments. The two piece variety is a fairly recent invention that was introduced in, I think, the 1970s. These have a separate top that is like a t-shirt and bottoms that come in either a boxer or brief variety. Both top and bottom must be worn together or else you might as well not wear either since the garment consists of both.

Mormons have to wear it both day and night. The only time they are supposed to take it off is to bathe or partcipate in sporting events. Most also take it off for conjugal relations, but they are admonished in the most serious way to put it back on immediately afterward and not sleep in the raw. Continued worthiness in the church requires that the garments be worn both day and night. If an endowed member is seen without garments and they aren't at the swimming pool or playing sports then they will become a guaranteed source of gossip at church. Members will speculate whether the guilty party was excommunicated, guilty of some serious sin, or simply apostate. Because no worthy, righteous endowed member of the church would ever go without the protection of their garments.

I grew up believing that this was all quite normal and expected. I knew that when I turned 19 I would go through the temple and trade in my little boy's underwear for grown up underwear. That's just the way it was. Grown men wore garments.

Now, I absolutely dreaded the day. I was something of a heathen and ran around all summer wearing nothing but tennis shorts. The thought of having to wear long pants and not one, but two t-shirts in the humid, hot Iowa summer was daunting. But I knew it was the right thing to do, because God had decreed it through his prophets.

And so it came to pass.

I wore two t-shirts, no matter how hot. I wore jeans when it was 98 degrees and 90 percent humidity. I avoided even knee length shorts because the legs of the garments would creep down my legs and wind up hanging below the hem of my shorts. My private parts would inevitably come out of the fly and wind up where they weren't supposed to be. They would ride up my butt and give me a wedgie. They were simply the worst designed, worst fitting underwear I could imagine and I had to wear them all of the time.

After I returned from my mission and graduated from BYU I had a mini-revelation. Some adults didn't wear garments. Of course, I already knew that, but I'd never really seen it because I'd mostly associated with Mormons my whole life. So while I'm sure I got curious glances in the lockerroom at the gym, I also thought it was funny seeing grown men wearing children's underwear. So there. I wasn't the one wearing funny underwear; they were.

Fast forward to a couple of year ago. How did my wife discover my apostasy from the church? We were in bed and she slid her hand under the t-shirt I was wearing. Her hand snapped out as if it had been burned.

"You're not wearing garments!"


"Why not?" Horrified! Up to that point she could believe that I was just an inactive member.

And then the tale of my discovery and loss of belief came tumbling out.

So, you see, it is a big deal for an endowed member of the church to stop wearing garments. A really, big, hairy, f-ing deal. As long as you continue to wear your garments members will operate under the illusion that you haven't lost the faith. Taking off the garments is the final step in leaving Mormonism. The conditioning is so deep that many former members continue to wear them for some time after they lose their belief. But, it is seen as such a big, symbolic step that it is very hard to do.

I didn't revert to tighty whities. I went to black briefs. Love them. I can't tell that I have them on. They are so comfy. While I was wearing garments I could always feel them. They were a constant reminder. They were hot and uncomfortable, especially in the Texas summers that start in April and end around October or November. I feel young again. And that is good.


Cynthia E. Bagley said...

Oh yea.. you got it right. It is a big deal to take them off. When I went into the Navy, my recruiter advised me to leave the garments home. LOL I had already lost my faith and I was still wearing the awful things.

So ... going into the Navy freed me from a lot of stuff.

Bull said...

They make special military versions. Apparently the military doesn't allow white undershirts so members of the armed services get khaki colored ones. Not that that would make them any more comfortable or normal looking.

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

The military versions must be new. I went in in 1989. ;-)

Sideon said...

I will never ever EVER understand Mormonism, just from the garment factor alone.

Dude. Boxer briefs. It's the next best thing to heaven on earth.

Joseph's Left One said...

Why the hell is underwear such a big deal, anyway? I'll never understand it.

For me, putting the garments on was a reminder that they still owned at least part of me.

No more.

Anonymous said...

Dear, dear. I remember it more like this... After no longer finding garments in the wash for some time and wondering why my dh was so interested in sex lately I put it all together...your response to "you aren't wearing any garments," was your smug and defiant "I don't want to." Not much of an explanation of your feelings for mormonism, certainly didn't explain the last 18 years of silence on all the issues that bother you.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe we are all in the same church...this has not been my experience at all. I love to go braless, and my garment top gives my some nice support without having to wear a bra! Yeah! No panty lines across my butt...another bonus!