“Whose are THESE?” my slim sister-in-law says with a laugh, holding up a large pair of underwear from a basket of warm laundry from the dryer. Voices ring out from around our vacation beach cottage. “Whoa! Not mine!” comes from the couch. “Me neither!” broadcasts from the staircase. “Mine aren’t THAT big!” emanates from the hallway.
“Uh, yea,” I admit sheepishly, “those would be mine, thank you very much.” I claim my stack of folded clothes and slink off to my room. One might think that this annual joke would get old, but I suffer this humiliation every summer while vacationing with my extended family.
Someone typically announces they’re throwing in a load of hot whites, and a couple hours later, whoever decides to fold the dry clothes becomes privy to the size of everyone else’s underwear, setting up perfect opportunities to crack jokes. Admittedly, my Jockey’s for Her are ample enough to fold over several times, while my thinner relatives’ teensy-weensy skivvies are constructed with so little material, I once mistook a pair of my niece’s underwear for a hair scrunchie. So I am an easy target for any laundry-related ridicule.
One year, I tried to combat the unavoidable ribbing by secretly planting a humongous quadruple hook E-cup bra and a massive pair of flowered briefs in the laundry, thinking that my tomfoolery might make me the joker rather than the butt of the joke. But when I found the planted garments neatly folded on my dresser, the realization that my relatives honestly believed that I wore underwear that big only served to further assault my battered ego.
In actuality, my relatives and I would prefer to not know intimate details about each other, much less the size of our undergarments. However, when you are packed into a summer beach cottage with your extended family for two weeks, embarrassing personal secrets are inevitably revealed.
For the first few days, we try to maintain a facade of virtuousness, cleanliness, and self-control. But eventually, we give in to our natural tendencies, forcing us to acknowledge that we are not, by any means, perfect.
In our summer beach cottage, the crude realities of life are exposed. We place our toiletry bags in the shared bathrooms, where our relatives can see that we need embarrassing pharmaceuticals such as stool softeners and anti-fungal ointment. We share meals, so that everyone sees that we eat too much mayonnaise on our sandwiches, we dip into the chips every couple of hours, and we get caught taking another brownie from the pan. We doze off on the couch in front of everyone, showing the unflattering way that our mouths fall open and our chins multiply when we are asleep. And yes, we commingle our laundry, allowing everyone to bear witness to the sometimes alarming size of our undergarments.
Exposing imperfections to relatives wouldn’t be a problem if everyone is compassionate enough to mutually ignore each other’s foibles while vacationing together. However, families like mine consider taking pot shots at each other to be a kind of vacation-time sporting event, like corn-holing or ladder ball.
So, in order to withstand the inevitable barrage of insults that will be hurled like bocce balls, you must develop a thick skin. When vacationing with relatives, harassment, brow-beating, rude sarcasm, relentless needling, and verbal abuse should be taken as nothing more than “playful banter.” And when your brother says he thinks your mole is growing an eye, or when your cousin offers to put Metamucil in your daiquiri to help out with your constipation, or when your sister imitates your dance moves to make the kids laugh, you must try to appreciate their witticism.
Oh… and always fold your own laundry.