Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Kilts and personal boundaries

Do you ever feel like there aren't enough people in your life asking about your undergarments? Would you like more perfect strangers to approach you with questions about your nether-regions? Have I got a solution for you! Some of you have seen me in my Utilikilt, a birthday present from some of my friends (thanks, friends!). For those of you who have not seen it, witness at right a picture of me in my kilt, beating the everliving crap out of a piƱata.

I love my kilt. It's extraordinarily comfortable and has large pockets (the two most important features in a garment, in my studied opinion). There is a somewhat famous style with which kilts are worn -- you may perhaps have heard of this -- frequently referred to as "going regimental". It's somewhat surprising to me the number of people (complete strangers, for the most part) who think nothing of coming up to me and asking, out of the blue, "Are you wearing underwear?" In most cases, I can envision myself asking my interlocutor the exact same question and receiving, at the least, quizzical looks, if not annoyance and social ostracization. Instead, what would otherwise be a crude sexual come-on is now just a casual question from an interested bystander.

Not that I mind, you understand. It's a reasonably effective icebreaker, if nothing else. It also seems to be a much more common question from women then men (the last woman who mentioned it also told me that I had nice legs for it, which was an odd, if flattering, comment). Not sure if this is because women care more, for some reason, or if men are just concerned about the implications to their sexuality if they run about asking questions about other men's underdrawers. What do you think?


  1. I think that question is just the cross the kilt-wearer has to bear. Like how really tall guys always get asked if they play(-ed) basketball. Or how guys named "James Brown" get asked by drunk chicks at parties if they really are sex machines, or if they feel good. It's like a framing/neural network kind of thing. When you think "tall," what other associations naturally come to mind? For me, there are three ideas (that can be phrased as questions) that automatically make up my "tall" frame. 1) Basketball; 2) Doorways & hanging lamps must be a pain; and 3) It must be hard to find pants that fit. And with kilts, my automatic frame includes "Scotland," "are boxers comfortable with those things?" and "attention seeker." I admit, that last one is totally unfair and dates back to high school. (There was a dude who sometimes wore a kilt, sometimes leather pants, sometimes one of those pirate/romance novel men's blouses that laces at the neck...) It seems like for most people, or maybe mostly just for women, that the association is "Scotland," "undergarments" and "open to personal inquiries." Maybe by wearing a totally non-standard article of clothing (for the US anyway) you're sending an implicit message that you like to stand out, that you want to be noticed and therefore if people notice you, you'd like to hear about it. That is my theory. Tah dah!

  2. Is the kilt really comfy down under? I've always felt constricted by boxers and loose-fit jeans.

  3. Nice, the Kilt place you got it from is a block down from where I work in Pioneer Square!

  4. Eric: It's almost as comfortable as wearing no pants at all, and somewhat more socially acceptable.

    Sydney: I think your theory has merit. And you're right (although you didn't explicitly say this): people do also frequently ask if I'm Scottish (which, for the record, I'm not -- I've never even been there).

    Karen!!: Hooray for the Internet for strengthening the bonds between us! I hope the Utilikilts people are nice neighbors...

  5. You know, I think that for many guys they may not be so much concerned about their sexuality as much as they are thinking "Oh my god! His man-junk cannot be contained by mere pants! Such is virility! Run away!"
    Or they assume that you're just trying to get away with a somewhat more socially acceptable form of cross-dressing.

    But, I think Syd's right- wearing a kilt is basically saying to the world "Hello! I'm quirky!" And, of course, the most obvious "quirky" questions are inquiries into nether-region haberdashery.
    Also, I think that responding to the question "are you wearing underwear?" by saying "Are you?" is a great answer. Here are some more answers you can use:

    -I forget. Could you please check?
    -Define "underwear."
    -Yes, but not by choice.
    -Not for too much longer, I hope.
    -Is it saturday? Saturday is underwear day. It's wednesday? Ok, then no.

  6. I've tried the "Are you?" response before, to good success. I shall experiment with the others and let you know as to their results. Thanks for the suggestions!

  7. I like "Define underwear." Because, seriously: it's hard. I mean, if you don't do so tautologically (bra, panties, boxers, briefs...). It's like trying to describe to someone how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when they take all instructions very literally. "Take two pieces of bread from the bag" can result in plastic-rending. Scary!

  8. so, I suppose if that many people are asking, far far more are just trying to sneak a peak when you aren't looking. You could totally do the whole Basic Instinct thing, all you would need would be a swivelly chair.

    the possibilities of mass social experimentation are endless... instead of answering do you ever just fix a quirky smile on them and wait for them to guess?

  9. Sadly, I have not seen Basic Instinct. I can guess, but I have no idea what I should do. Care to educate?

    I do like the idea of asking them to guess. Although given that they have a 50% chance, I'm not sure how interesting that would be. :-)

  10. For Your Cultural Education, The Basic Instinct Chair Thing: At some point in that movie, Sharon Stone is being interviewed by the police. Rather than sitting at a table like every other police interview ever committed to film (and not involving Hannibal Lecter), she is in her own chair on one side of the room. She is wearing a very short, some might say "sexy," white dress and very high white heels. Sharon Stone is sitting in the chair with her legs crossed and she is giving the interviewing detectives a seductive look. She is maybe avoiding answering their questions, or maybe she is answering them but she isn't giving the answers they want. I don't remember. And then, at the most memorable (and some might say "gross") moment in the film, she uncrosses and recrosses her legs. As she does so, you can see her pubis. Maybe ever her vagina. It is maybe very scandalous. Or maybe just kind of gross and icky. I believe that at the time, the media went with the former interpretation, whereas I went with the latter. Not that I saw it when it came out; I was 11. But when I did see it around a decade later, "gross and icky" is where I came down on the matter. But that's kind of how I feel about Sharon Stone in general, so I might be biased. This has been For Your Cultural Education, The Basic Instinct Chair Thing Edition.

  11. Yes, Sydney- vaginas certainly are gross and icky. The last time I saw one, I retched harder than Pete filled with shellfish.
    Damn girl cooties...