Is there nothing new under the sun? Here we are in the 21st century. We have been through zoot suits and ducktail haircuts, not to mention those awful platform shoes and polyester leisure suits, and yet clothing styles continue to create controversy. Imagine that.
When I was a teenager, it was mini-skirts and bellbottoms that put adults in a tizzy. Now, it's the maddening practice known as busting slack. That's where you wear your pants several degrees of latitude below your waist with the stride of the pants down around your knees.
School boards and even municipalities are wringing their collective hands and trying to legislate the style into oblivion. The city of Atlanta is actually considering making it illegal to show off your underwear in public. The proposed bill is aimed, of course, at the urban style of, well, like I said, busting slack. The ACLU - they've come a long way since the Scopes Monkey Trial, haven't they? - says the bill is unconstitutional because it limits the slack buster's freedom of expression. They also warn that women could be cited for showing a thong or even a (horrified gasp here) bra strap.
Well, nobody abhors the style as much as I do, and if I wanted to see a guy's boxer-clad derriere, I'd go to - well, I can't perceive of any situation in which I'd like to see that. But all of the uproar has reminded me of the day I showed up at Porterdale school busting slack - quite inadvertently.
To quote the great Adrian Monk, this is what happened.
I had outgrown my only pair of overalls - the pair I wore to school five out of five days. My mama told me to stop by White's Department Store, which opened at 7 a.m., to accommodate folks getting off work on the third shift at the mill, and buy a new pair of overalls.
They would write it down on her ticket back in those days.
There was a problem, though. White's was out of stock on my size overalls.
Mr. Bobby Smith, who must have worked on commission, wasn't about to let a little thing like that cost him a sale - especially when the customer was a compliant third-grader. He put me in a pair of pants that were about three sizes too large. He told me my mama would be pleased because I had room to "grow into them."
He cinched up the straps of the overalls and rolled up the cuffs. There was nothing he could do about the stride though, and when I walked into Miss Elizabeth Willis's classroom, I was busting slack. The crotch of my pants was down around my knees. I would have been right in style in some 2007 circles.
There were a few giggles when I walked in, but not many, and things went pretty well until recess. You see, we had a giant sliding board on the playground, but we weren't satisfied with simply climbing the ladder and sliding down the board. We had rather wait until the teacher wasn't looking and then climb out on the support pole and slide down it - fireman style.
It was my turn on the slide and Miss Elizabeth Willis was busy grading papers or chatting with the other teachers - or maybe she had slipped off to take a dip of snuff. Who can remember after 50 years? But I can remember what happened next. I climbed out and slid down the sliding board support pole, but all that extra material in those new overalls got tangled up on a bolt and they ripped right off of me like they were Velcroed together. Talk about a wardrobe malfunction!
When I got to the ground, my pants were still at the top of the pole and there I was at the bottom in a pair of brogan shoes, a T-shirt, and my step-ins. And every child on the playground was looking right at me.
I did what any other 9-year-old child would have done in that situation. I ran. All the way home. A mile-and-a-half and across the Yellow River bridge, which I never crossed alone because Soap Sally lived under it, and every child knew that she would catch little children and make soap out of them if she caught them off by themselves.
I walked in the house and found my father - who worked on the second shift - sitting at the table reading the newspaper. He barely batted an eye as he looked up and saw me standing there in my underwear and I said, "Daddy, we have to move."
We didn't though. We stayed right where we were and I eventually lived down the playground incident. But barely (pun intended).
And who would have ever known that half a century later and I would have been right in style. I would offer some advice to the urban youth of today, however. If you insist on dressing like you do, you'd better stay off the sliding board.
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.