A lot of us African Women get into fits of laughter over our men’s choice of innerwear for us. Unlike majority of our counterparts in Asia and Europe, our behinds are amply endowed. This means that we need a full fitting cloth to urm, cover those bare basics comfortably. Naturally there are exceptions to this rule.
My great grandmother lived not very long ago. She was a newly wed girl when the first world war begun. Most African womenfolk did not know or wear inner wear back then. These were mostly introduced as bloomers for school girls when the white man came. This shows just how new to Africa this panty, bikini, boxer and bra business is. We still have a lot of women in rural arrears not accustomed to wearing anything remotely conventional. In other places, a loose covering is used to keep the privates clean and dainty, not tightly covered. Innerwear comes in various forms and names. Some cover during the day, others are convenience pieces meant strictly to be seen by a suitor, to arouse and to be removed. Others are designed to cover a deficit or create a different look from that which is natural for beauty purposes. Yet others are medically designed for a fit with a therapeutic result.
Miss D is unlike me in this matter. I elect to wear stuff that covers me lower waist to upper thigh. Any more brief and it will slip off and keep me in discomfort. These types are known as “Mother’s Union”. .Miss D on the other hand, wears her briefs as spelt- brief. Thankfully, she accepts my request to keep a few full pieces for that time of the month when we need something to hold a pad. Just a note, I discourage inserted padding for periods. They are unhealthy and a known cause for cancer. You must let the period flow out freely. Most brief briefs cannot hold pads, especially bikinis and thongs.
Sonny too, doesn’t wear the conventional men’s innerwear. (Anyone remember the famous multi-colored Double O seven men’s innerwear from the late seventies?) He delights in wearing shorts and boxers. I was so skeptical about this until my baby explained that boys/men feel nice with their mizigo (privates) hanging free and loose. Ahem. Ahem. It figures. So on hot days, the boys wear a loose cloth tied around the waist. They will don this, plus a light shirt or vest.
I fight a lot with Miss D about bra cleaning. On a sad note, I hope those Barbarians in Somalia will end their bra ban and accompanied inhumane treatment on women found wearing bras .Google the same for details- pathetic. So to continue, Miss D wears under wired bras. The wiring helps hold up our bigger and heavier busts properly and push up if we need to emphasize the cleavage. Unfortunately, under wired bras are nightmares to clean when one is doing hand washing. Thus, I remove the wiring. Then I redo the bras to enable easy removal and re-attachment of the under wire after washing.
A well fitting bra gives one freedom of choice of dress comfort and security to undertake all tasks without fear of injury. A woman without a bra is in fear of hurting herself while doing physically exerting working using the full arm. Plus, she has better option of maintaining her bust in a beautiful and upright state longer if she regularly wears a well fitting bra. During breastfeeding, the bra helps prevent milk from bursting forth or seeping into clothes. Once it coagulates, it becomes a messy, smelly affair. This can be of extreme discomfort to the mother, a health hazard for the child and of concern to others around them .A bra is not just innerwear; it is a necessity to a woman- any woman in this modern day.
As a family, we hang out our briefs to dry out in the sun alongside bathing towels. It is habit. In rainy weather, we will use a pegged contraption to drip dry the innerwear in the bathroom which is well aired. The local way for villagers and some people living in towns who still think in a village manner of mind, is to place wet underwear under the mattress. In case you are wondering why, this is meant to dry the offending garment away from prying eyes. What a laugh. It is a high time this was publicly discouraged. Any cloth or material coming within reach of, or intended to cover the private parts, must be clean and far from risk of spreading infections or vermin to that area. Innerwear must be dried out and aired.
The private parts must be kept clean too. Girls need to be taught thoroughly well how to do this. I have had the dishonor of meeting grown women who believe innerwear must be kept in a bucket or basket and piled for the week and then washed all in one day. What a crying shame, the audacity to wear a garment the whole day and dump it as laundry is disgusting. It is fact that we sometimes have discharges of one sort or another and when this dampens innerwear and to the leave it a whole week is plain distasteful. Doesn’t matter what the circumstances are. Sometimes, a woman will plain forget to carry some liners and accidents can and do happen absolutely not related to periods. My opinion. Some of these behaviors we women practice as habit, just keep the men at bay. Especially, if someone else does your laundry.
Flea markets are fast coming up as suppliers of used innerwear from all fashion brands. No longer is it impossible to find good fitting, neat looking innerwear. It is totally inexcusable for anyone to hang out or be seen in torn, worn and ill fitting innerwear. Surely, surely, not with all available options of style, price and design? Local manufacturers have also undertaken to create fashionable pieces at all rates and comforts for every pocket.
It is important that children are taught within good time, how to handle this innerwear and privates business. They should know their importance, relevance and right usage. Later, they will appreciate handling the buying, wearing, washing, storage and other uses for it. These private matters if incorrectly handled in childhood can affect one in early adulthood. Whether due to neglect or ignorance, poor knowledge and neatness in this quarters, may cause a young adult a lot of unnecessary shame and embarrassment
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Emerald Sua is a Christian single mother who prides herself as a voluntary organizational guru for lives, systems, situations and homes.