Friday, February 23, 2007

Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Sagging Pants, Republicans, and Brad Pitt: Go On, I Dare You

These past two weeks, my students in American Lit have been studying the work of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, two nineteenth century poets whose work we have analyzed, discussed, and related to modern figures in American life. Feeling moved by the Muse one day--as well as having had my fill of a neverending vista of boxer shorts--I posted this sign on my door and in my classroom:
I'd rather see London--
I'd rather see France--
I'd rather not see your underpants!
No sagging in room 245.

Can someone please explain to me how this is attractive or fashionable or even remotely acceptable in any society? Why are these 15, 16, 17, and 18-year old young men not embarrassed that I can SEE THEIR UNDERWEAR? I routinely call out, "Red and blue plaid!" or "Yellow with blue sailboats!" or "Green with white martini glasses!" as soon as I can see a flash of cotton-polyester blend in front of me. They usually hitch up their jeans and growl goodnaturedly, "Awww, Mrs. D!" and saunter off to their desks. And, get this: most of them are wearing belts! FOR WHAT?!
At least they have learned to spare themselves the sad indignity of sparring with me as they used to. This is how it used to transpire:
Male student enters room sagging, boxers flaunted before me.
Me: Joe Boxers waistband and yellow stripes!
Male: Huh? (looks down) Why you gotta call out my underwear like that?
Me: I thought you were showing it off! It's just hanging out there. I wanted to make sure you knew I noticed it. Your plan is working!
Male: My plan? Maaaaan! Ms. D., that's my underwear. You don't gotta go and put my business all out there and junk.
Me: I don't understand. You put it out there. Your pants are halfway down to your crotch. Your business is waaaay out there. Seems to me that if--
Male: Okay, okay! I'll pull them up. Geeze!
I find this so-called fashion trend nothing short of horrific. Where are "pants," period? Just pants? Just jeans that aren't the pencil-legged spray-painted sort worn by the "emo-boys", nor the oversized trashcan-legged kind in which one can hide an SUV or get holes in the crotch from its being dragged on the ground. I miss plain old boys' pants. I'll tell you when all this sagging bullshit will stop. WHEN GIRLS START DOING IT. There, I said it. And don't give me that crapola about girls showing a peek of a thong out of hi-rise jeans. It's just not the same, and we both know it. I am certainly not advocating either of these hideous anti-fashions; all I'm saying is that if girls start adopting the sag, probably several Agencies and Hearings would be set up to Look Into It. Immediately. Ahem.
And while I'm on the subject of male fashion, here's another thing that has been bothering me. What the heck has happened to men with hair? I have no idea when the idea of men shaving their hair down to the height of toothbrush bristles started, but let me just say here and now that I am dismayed, distraught, and pretty much devastated by this continuing trend. You know me, whenever something like this occurs on a large scale, I get suspicious, and my first, immediate inclination is...Blame The Republicans, a la Hillary (The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy), but it does seem to me that in the 90s, men had longer hairstyles. I know my husband did! We hit the new millenium and men started shaving their heads (or practically!) and now the majority of men have little or no hair. It's awful. A man with luxurious hair will catch my glance ten times more quickly than a man with a pate like a shoebrush. I love to run my fingers through my husband's hair. It's not anywhere near as long as it once was, but it's at least long enough to comb and enjoy. I long for the days when it was really long, and sun-streaked like Brad Pitt's in Legends of the Fall. What's romantic and alluring and inviting about short hair? Ouch.
Here, see for yourself:

If you're being honest, you know you want the Brad With Hair. And you want him Bad. And you'd prefer him NOW. Sigh. And my husband had that hair. Honesttogod and now it is in a ziploc in my drawer!
But I digress.
My point--and I think I do/did have one--is this: men, of all ages, are perpetrating a high degree of bad fashion. And I am sick of it. And it must stop. Please help.
Oh, and it probably would be nice if you read a little Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, too. Especially Walt. He's kind of a 19th century Dr. Phil: he wants you to get excited about your life. To "celebrate yourself and sing yourself." What's wrong with that? Just don't do it in bad fashion.


  1. Anonymous9:14 PM

    Because I could not pull Them up
    I had to let them Ride-
    My Pants-and under them-I thought
    There's nothing There to Hide

    But Here-this teacher, O, she knew
    And others she did tell-
    And colors named-patterns, too!-
    And Oh! My class was Hell--

    You-My Pants-I thought you friend
    and Savior, Shield, and True-
    and Boxers-You!-I see-Sadly, now,
    The Others see You, too!


  2. Anonymous9:40 PM

    I celbrate pants, and wear pants,
    and with them low you shall see
    every stitch belonging to me belongs to you as well.

    I loathe and despise all belts,
    I mean, I loathe all loops and buckles and tightening which might help to hide my boxers' self.

    My boxers, every atom of them,
    are beautiful and artistiic and
    a statement calling to be heard,
    made here, in these States,

    (though you know this already
    because you can see the label
    because I wore them inside out
    today), so I feel no shame,
    and my parents feel no shame,
    for they wear their's like this, too, and have for years, in fact, and will unto their deaths.

    At home, in school, I obey this
    urge, and tug them down even when
    all others cry, Pull them up!
    Pull them up! For God's Sake, please! for I am me, I am myself,
    a self of selfless sharing,
    neither good nor bad, and could go
    on like this, line by line, forever. Be glad I don't.


  3. On more than one occasion I have seen both my brother and my boyfriend pull up their boxers to purposefully STICK OUT OF THEIR PANTS. It makes my head spin.

    Also, I do not get men who wear their hair shorn. I'm lucky to have a boy with nice thick and longer-than-most blond hair. Sadly, I'm afraid his hair fate will be his father's--bald.

    And just so you know, I miss analyzing poetry and literature in room 245. I also miss the magic cupboard. And grading papers. I think my favorite parts of high school were in that room!

  4. Saggy pants. I just don't understand it either. When I see my 11 year old son with pants on that have the slightest hint of a sag I have a fit and scream for him to put a belt on. I tell him that no kid of mine is going to walk around looking like a thug!

    The hair. Although I do prefer Brad with the short hair, because with long hair he is just a bit too "pretty", I do usually like longer styles on men. In fact, my hubby has longer hair than I do. He has dread locks (well kept ones) that hang to the middle of his back. It's sexy...except when he asks me to wash and twist them. I hate that part. Nina

  5. Anonymous9:14 AM

    I don't get saggy pants, either. At least not with the tops of underwear. Just for the record, how about teaching a bunch of girls who often sit slouched in their desks with legs spread-eagle and short uniform skirts that provide a clear view of what I used to think was their underwear. One day when I complained, the student in question flipped the whole skirt up so I could see it was really gym shorts she had on. Gym shorts did not look like that when I had to wear them. Ahem. I told them it was still "too much information."

    Hair? Yes, let's have enough to comb! The poor bald guys would give their eye teeth for a few extra strands, and the ones with a head of healthy hair go and shave it off.

    The irony of some of this: my grandparents were horrified that girls would wear jeans instead of dresses, that boys would have a long mane of hair which for them was clearly effeminate. :-)

    So, did they read I sing the body electric?

    The expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face;
    … it is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist and knees—dress does not hide him;
    The strong, sweet, supple quality he has, strikes through the cotton and flannel;
    To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more;

    Perhaps you could tell the boys that if Walt were alive today he would have added “perhaps too much” to that last line. Great post. :-)

  6. Way dreamy picture of Brad with the locks. Oh, yeah... want him bad!

    Drooping pants has been around for a long time now! A trend that will not go away simply because it makes no sense. Keep calling it out on them, Nance. You're a general on the battlefield.

  7. You're right..The gov't., headed by... (ahhh!!!) you know who, does need you! I found you through Anali! Have a great Sunday...Peter

  8. Anonymous emulator of Emily and Walt--Thanks for the parodies! They were lovely. And thanks for adding to the discussions here at the Comments Cubicle of The Dept. Stick around. I'm partial to the Walt parody of Song of Myself #1, esp. the parenthetical part.

    jenomena--Oh, thank you for the warm memories of life in 245! I miss you, too. We had such a great experience together.

    Nina--I love dreds on men of color. On my NBA fantasy team--which is of goodlooking men only--Etan Thomas is my Afro-American hottie. But I wish he'd lose the goatee. I think Milli Vanilli made me discover dredlocks. Now those boys may have been fake singers, but they looked good.

    O'tizz--good point about follicularly-challenged men. Those were always the people most critical of my husband's long locks. It was so obvious that they felt jealous or threatened. Even now, with his hair only long-ish, the bald/balding guys in his office love to make not-so-veiled comments about his "hippie hair." And I love "body electric", but the conservatives at Holt chose not to include it. You know what that means--I'm putting it up on my overhead this week. I'd forgotten about it...

    j.--any droopers and saggers in the elementaries? or are they at least holding the line down there? I cannot do it alone!

    peter n.--welcome to The Dept! Hope you stick around and join the fray on a regular basis. as long as you keep your pants up, sir!

  9. I almost forgot my favorite Hollywood hair--Colin Firth!

  10. Of course, Blogger ate my first freakin comment, which was about the fabulous haircuts Robert Redford and Richard Gere have had over the years.

    It also ate my witty comment on Peter keeping his pants up. Now I'm too depressed to re-create it. God, I have to pass word verification AGAIN. It's exhausting.

    Blogger is a BITCH.

  11. I agree with everything you just said. Times two.

  12. A saggy jean about the hills;
    A Tyrian light the moonage fills;
    A wider sunlight in the crotch;
    A deeper twilight sports plaid, Scotch;
    A print of a vermilion foot . . .

    Do wear some good red shoes with pointy toes.

  13. Pants are postioned correctly down in the pits, I'm happy to report. Little girls still do not how to sit in a dress and highwaters are abundant, but the mommies do have control over the waistband.

  14. v-grrrl--Blogger is a bitch; I usually watch while I type in my name and password and I still have to do it twice! I would love to change that, but I get bot-strafed without the verification. So sorry, truly. That said, let me vociferously agree on Colin Firth's voluptuous locks. I don't need long, long hair all the time. A nice, full head will do nicely, and his is gorgeous. Richard Gere is tough for me, though, because I find it hard to separate how flaky he is from his physical being. And Robert Redford is one of those much older men who is still a hottie. And I absolutely love the fact that he has done nothing plastic to himself over the years. I think I need to do a post on hot older men.

    brookelina--Your support is duly noted and much appreciated. But please tell me that things are different A) in FL and B)in first grade! Give me some hope!

    sputnik--LOL. I wore them today and threaten to plant them often! Goodnaturedly, of course.

    j.--read O'tizz's comment: things do NOT appear to be much better with the ladies in the upper echelons, either!

  15. Anonymous9:42 PM

    Boys with shaved heads look like A)Marines, B)Kids after Chemotherapy C)Neo-Nazis or D)The product of cousins marrying in Appalachia. I'm sorry...but it's true.I'm married to a long-haired man and all of my sons have varying lengths of hair...but it's long enough that one can use the word "length". Boys with shaved noggins will have to use the term "shordth".

    And the sagging? I hear you. Some of the kids at our school belt their pants RIGHT UNDER THEIR ASS CHEEKS! What the Hell? Why bother with a belt?

    I blame the Republicans, too.

  16. Anonymous9:45 PM

    Oh...and the best book on Walt Whitman was written by one of my English profs at A&M. Yeah...I Aggie Democrat. Horrors!'s called "Walt Whitman:A Song of Himself" by Jerome Loving.

  17. wordgirl--I will look at that book! one of my students today said, "Mrs. D, Walt was raw!" LOL. The height of guy-slang compliments. Yes, the non-belt belt is such an anomaly. I just don't get it and refuse to explode my head over it. And I also am totally amused by the dress-length teeshirt on boys. That trend is killing me.

  18. I recognized that I was seeing a generation gap, no pun intended, when I realized that I didn't get the whole low baggy pants thing. I just don't get it...

    But I have to disagree about the hair. Some guys look great with long hair, but very few. Far fewer than actually have long hair. I love the bald look, especially with a moustache and a goatee. Very sexy! Brad looks way better with short hair!

  19. Anonymous6:43 AM

    brad pitt doesn't do it for me, never has. i'm more of an owen wilson type of stalker. i much prefer his shaved head over those long locks.

  20. anali--this "no-hair vs. long-hair" issue is just as divisive as the "Miracle Whip vs. Mayonnaise" issue! LOL.

    BSTS--Welcome to The Dept. Now, see...I think Owen looks better with long hair!

  21. Anonymous10:12 AM

    you know i'd take brad with braids. i think you wrote this one just to get my old blood moving. it worked...underneath this all, i'm sure this has some underlying (or is it laying?)ddl significance. get over it. ddl's not going back nance. nevermore shall we see him running through the forests, hair flowing, with that 'long carbine' in hand...its over.over.over. sob.....i know... walt whitman would agree.

  22. Boy, don't I know it. DD-L has permanently joined the ranks of the indie film crowd now and has eschewed the idea of ever being a matinee idol or at least a romantic figure. As you know, I blame his marriage to Rebecca Miller. He'll never get his nose fixed, either. What a waste.


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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