The High Price of Unmentionables

Just about the time I thought I had learned to pay two-fifty for a twelve-ounce draft beer or a buck-twenty for a pound of apples without flinching, we went underwear shopping. Nothing special, mind you -- just looking for some cheap cotton boxer shorts.

The first pair I looked at were DM 9.95, or about $6.00. This struck me as a bit steep for something that was probably made with cheap Asian labor for 50 cents, so I put them back on the shelf. Besides, they were made out of some funny stretch material and had a weird cod-piece apparatus in the front that looked likely to make me bulge a bit more than I really wanted to.

The next pair was made of the same funny stretch material and I wondered if the expression "Hang loose" meant anything to the Germans. I checked the price. DM 24.95. $15.00. Now that was really pushing the bounds of credibility. You can't even buy designer underwear in the states for fifteen bucks and it wasn't like this pair said Calvin Klein or Yves St. Laurent or something else to impress the ladies.

It was time to leave the shelves and try the racks, nicely arrayed across the back wall and displaying the Jockey label, so you knew they were designed and made in the good ol' US of A, not like those suspect stretchy cod-piece doohickies which probably came from failed Ukranian wheat farmers trying to make a ruble off the chaff of last year's harvest.

At last, a pair of normal boxer shorts. Thin cotton material like the summer pajamas you had as a kid, but with a tasteful, adult pattern instead of little airplanes and polar bears.

I looked at the price. DM 59.95. I looked again. DM 59.95! Thirty six dollars for a pair of underwear? THIRTY SIX DOLLARS! In some parts of the States you can buy a used CAR for thirty six dollars.

The 9.95 pair with the funny stretch material and the codpiece was starting to look good and I wandered back to the shelves. As I approached, my eye caught the prices on some of the other boxes. 59.95. What was this, some kind of hippie-inspired conspiracy to force everyone but rich men in up-tight navy blue suits to hang totally free?

I edged back toward the 9.95 pair, in spite of the (now rather attractive) stretch material and funny bulging bits, hoping nobody had cadged them during my brief (pun intended) excursion to the high-rent districts of Underwearland.

There they were. The Box. The Underwear. My salvation. But what's this? On the label? In front of the first nine in the ever-hopeful 9.95? Is it? Could it be? A five? Barely visible and just overlapping the bar code? Noooooooooooo.

We retreated, careful not to bump anything (you break it, you buy it), and looked into the sea of dour German faces as we exited the store with new understanding. Heck, I'd look that way too if my only choices were spending thirty-six bucks for a pair of underwear or constantly catching myself in my zipper.