- The Washington Times - Monday, February 14, 2005

Remember Stockard Channing as Rizzo in the ‘50’s-movies spoof “Grease” singing, “Keep your filthy paws off my silky drawers”?

Virginia’s young folks are rapping an updated rhyme today that tells crotchety coots — such as sixtysomething Delegate Algie T. Howell Jr. — “to keep their laws off my droopy drawers.”

Midway through the languid legislative session, the Old Dominion’s General Assembly garnered the dubious distinction of becoming the laughingstock of the nation as the asinine “droopy drawers” legislation washed its way through the House.

Sponsored by Mr. Howell, Norfolk Democrat, and similar to the failed “baggy pants bill” in Louisiana, the saner Senate killed the bill by a simple voice vote on Friday. Now low riders don’t need to be on the lookout for the panty patrol.

The doomed measure sought to impose a $50 fine on anyone wearing below-the-waist undergarments in a “lewd and or indecent manner.”

While Mr. Howell and his House mates were undone, I wondered just who would determine what constituted a “lewd or indecent manner,” given today’s daredevil duds donned even by the plump plumber?

Did the buttoned-down bureaucrats in the former capital of the Confederacy suddenly become sophisticated GQ gentlemen? Were the Fruit of the Loom loonies attempting to be the foul fashion police, in suggesting that this superficial proposal was somehow supposed to teach “character” to Virginia’s youths? Please.

No wonder the media had a field day — from headlines that declared “Overexposed” and “Debriefed” to late-night punch lines that made Virginia the butt of underwear jokes. Newspapers from Houston to Fort Wayne, Ind., had fun with this foolishness.

The online Colorado Conservative wrote, “Keep ‘em Baggy”: “I’ve never agreed with laws trying to make people hike their pants up. I feel strongly about this after watching police chases. People are much easier to catch when they have one hand on their pants trying to keep from tripping on their pants.”

My favorite was online education writer Joanne Jacobs’ link to Christina Bellantoni’s report in The Washington Times. Ms. Jacobs writes about the “$50 fine on fashionistas who flash their underwear instead of keeping them … under” and refers to the Education Wonks Web site that dubs Virginia’s “droopy drawers” debacle as the “Just Say No to Crack Act.”

Several years ago, I participated in an international women’s conference in Tokyo. During a shopping break, I was greeted by a Japanese teenager who ran clear across the Gap store to shake my hand.

“Very please to meet you, African-American,” he said, wearing baggy jeans with the rim of his underwear showing.

I surmised that he was a member of the MTV generation. Even at my age, I was the closest thing he had come to his black, “jailin” role models. “Jailin” is out-of-style slang for the copycat jailhouse costumes of gangsta rappers.

That this Japanese teen’s perception of an “African-American” was formed by the stereotypical images portrayed by American media is another prickly issue. Still, the notion that Mr. Howell’s droopy drawers bill disproportionately targeted young, black males, as some summarily suggested, needs to be debunked.

Living in the “burbs,” you witness as many white youths as others donning droopy drawers and blasting bass-thumping music, much to their parents’ and neighbors’ dismay. You know you’re ready for the AARP when you can no longer tolerate teen trends. As with all fashion fads, the peekaboo bloomers are fading, just like psychedelic bell bottoms.

My daughter discovered an old photograph of moi sporting a huge Angela Davis-style halo (known then as an “Afro”), psychedelic, multicolored bell-bottomed hip huggers, beaded necklaces, thong sandals and sunglasses the size of saucers. I wouldn’t be caught dead in that “flower child” get-up today, even if it is considered “retro.”

How easily we forget our youthful follies and our parents’ protestations about them. My son’s horrified father (who once had a penchant for neon ensembles with matching two-tone shoes) objected when my son, as a college freshman, came home wearing a tiny, diamond-studded earring. My cousin, who works with delinquent juveniles, suggested we ignore the fad.

“It’s just a young blood thing, and he’ll outgrow it,” he said.

Indeed, my son, who today can’t be persuaded to wear a colored dress shirt, did.

Where were Virginia’s fashion police during the Madonna-inspired blazer and bustier look?

The recycled hip huggers worn with a tummy-baring T-shirt that is today’s uniform of teens and media mavens (whether they have the waistline to match) is trashy to me. When the low-riding stylists in the Pentagon Row hair salon bend over to grab shampoo from a low cabinet and obliviously bare all, even I’m ready to sign up for the panty patrol.

Then I remind myself of the youthful indiscretions of each generation.

Really, didn’t the Virginia legislature have something more taxing to do during this 60-day session besides shamelessly jockeying for re-election by trying to enact laws on people’s drawers? You bet your briefs.


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