Thursday, January 20, 2005

Desperately Seeking Y-Fronts

Young Michael over at Lizjournal, he set me a challenge to ramble on a bit about Y-Fronts...only one thing truly came to mind...and this was it...

Desperately seeking Y-Fronts

Anyone who grew up in Australia in the 1980s would almost certainly have been in a house. No, not the comfy one your parents may or may not have given you, but a house for school sports day. This was the first form of strict social segregation you were exposed to, the day you were handed/told to bring in a single in one of four colours, and told "that was your house". And depending on whether you got a red, yellow, blue or green singlet, you'd either sit with your friends and have a lovely day, or plot to change behind the teachers back because you were bored and lonely and surrounded by bennys. I was in Yellow house in primary school, and we were feared and always won (even yours truly put in a couple of 1st place ribbon winning efforts). We were a bit like the East German sports program though, ruthlessly ensuring that everyone ran to their full potential. "You can't let the HOUSE down!" we'd say to slackers. Claire was in the far more laissez-faire Red house, the Aussies if you will, who sometimes would just stop running if they couldn't be bothered, or who would sometimes just not show up for their races. How we mocked them from our elite place on the hill.

Incidentally, sometimes the houses were named after other things like explorers (Cook house, Bass house etc) or whatever, but any school that broke the colour code and had a pink house or a purple house, they were rogue elements, and were not to be trusted with your childs education.

I digress. By the time we got to Grade 5 (house carnivals mean a lot until Grade 5, at which point, they become an excuse for a day off), I was captain of yellow house (and school vice captain dontch'a know) and my first task was to motivate yellow house at the swimming carnival. I had a lot of pressure on me - but I wasn't worried? Why? Because we had Brendan Malcyzk. Brendan was a Polish born swimming machine, literally not good at anything else, including speaking, walking or colouring in, but a man fish born to reign over the pool, the Rachel Lee Peacock of the Richmond swimming scene. Interestingly, like Rachel, puberty wasn't kind to him, he moved to another school, got over a terrible case of acne, and then blossomed into a honey, lost interest in swimming, and shacked up with a 36 year old cleaner named Patricia, causing quite the commotion. At this point though, this was all before him. At this point in his life, we had him in 9 races, and with 9 wins in the Grade 5 section, and a guaranteed win in the non swimmers kickboard section thanks to fancy paperwork putting people who could swim in the races (like the East Germans, we had spies and ways to cheat too), my reign at Yellow house was about to begin in glory.

When I got to the swimming pool, I was armed with my clipboard, pen and all the self importance a Grade 5 can muster. I had the little kids primed to paint their faces in yellow sunblock, I got us the prime "middle of the hill" spot, I even arranged our house to get free ice creams for our race winners from Tony's Milk Bar. I had things going my way. I only had to marshall our crack diving crew (and convince Kevin McKay not to do a bellywhacker, even if it was "for a Freddo cos it was a bet"). It was then I looked over onto a small brick wall, and saw Brendan, if not crying, then certainly visibly distressed. He was looking around anxiously, and had a towel around his shoulders. It didn't look good at all. I certainly didn't want to be the first captain of Yellow house since the 100 years war to lose a major event. It was with great tact and diplomacy I took it on myself to deliver a motivational speech of great class.

"What's up?" I said. Allan Jeans would have been proud.

Brendan said nothing. He put his head in his hands, taking his trembling left hand off his face long enough to gesture behind him. Through the wire fence, was a man in beige/brown Y fronts that redefined the words "budgie smugglers". He was clearly a child of the 1980s, and he was leaning against a brown and battered Torana, taking giant gulps of Solo from a can. He had a fantastic mullet, the kind that looks in the middle like the mullet might stop, but then carries on and on, and he had nothing else on except for his Y fronts, save for a fair of bright blue thongs, and a handlebar moustache homaging cricket great Merv Hughes. It was quite the sight, but then it dawned on me. I looked at Brendan, I looked at Solo man, cracking a thirst, then back at Brendan.

"THAT'S your Dad?" I said, in perhaps a tone or two away from soothing.

"It's embarrassing isn't it," he said, dejected. "Don't tell anyone, I hope he's not wearing those to watch me - I can't swim - what if someone finds out..."

It was at this point that our school cheerleader, the most popular girl in school, Amber Bennett, joined the group. Her eyes were bulging out of her head. She looked hard at the porn star in our midst who if he had not come to clean ze pool, had come to embarrass Brendan, and steal our hopes of victory. Amber was in Red House, and in the blink of an eye had clocked Torana man, and was keen to gossip and gain a vital psychological edge for her team.

"Who's the DUDE!" she said, pointing behind us.

I had at this point, a powerful choice to make. I could have betrayed Brendan, I could have sided with Amber, I could have upped my popularity a little bit had I spread the gossip that I saw Mr Malcyzk in his beige Y fronts, and that it was SO embarrassing - instead, I looked her with a cool, captains gaze...

"Dunno, some guy," I said, defiantly unaware of my social standing.

"YOU," she said, "don't know nuffink."

"YOU don't know nuffink" I said, in an exchange that would be repeated many times over on the Jerry Springer show in future years.

"Whatever," said Amber, walking off to join her posse, unaware that in the future, her cool points would drop after a Grade 6 "did she eat out of the bin!" incident clouded in mystery to this day.

Brendan looked at me appreciatively, as his Dad finished his last drop of solo, and went into the change rooms to dress more appropriately. We basked in a bonding moment, and then we had to re-focus. And re-focus we did. Brendan won 8 of his 9 races (we would have won the relay for a clean sweep except Kevin McKay fell in the pool and did a bellywhacker on the changeover) and thanks to a great effort from the Prep kids, we caned it in. Me, Brendan, and two of our kickboard champs posed for a photo in the local paper. I had (well, we had) kept our yellow winning streak.

Parents mean well generally. Certainly, it must have been hard for Brendan, but he came through. I can't think of many more embarrasing things your Dad could do than parade around in brown Y fronts. I was so proud of Brendan, and for weeks afterwards, whenever it was time to take the trophy out for polishing, we'd share a knowing glance, the kind of wink people do at the end of a bad heist movie.

But this was one occassion, for sure, when the power of Y was not a good thing, but a very wrong and bad thing...


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