Here’s a shocker: not everyone loves underpants.
I knew this when I wrote Underpants Dance. And I admit, I had a little bit of fun knowing that my ode to undies and self expression would irk those of a more somber nature. As a writer, particularly as a writer for children, I feel it’s my job to shake things up a bit, to expose truths and validate–even celebrate!–experiences of childhood that many adults ignore.
I knew that there were people who would love the book, love its humor, love how Lily is bound and determined to express her authentic self no matter what.
I also knew that there were those who would disapprove. So I waited to see what would pop up on ye ol’ Internet, and was not disappointed. Luckily, the vast majority of people like the book, but of the few who don’t, the main reason is that I don’t “teach a lesson” about underpants. (Read my Q&A page for my response to that.) Though one reader was simply aggrieved that I wasted pages and time on something so frivolous and childish as undies–I wonder why he is reading children’s books.
Here’s something I’m not supposed to say as a children’s writer. The reason underpants are funny or embarrassing to us, and thus to kids, is that they are sexualized in our culture, and it is the nature of our culture to lay shame around all things sexualized. Kids are smart and perceptive. They pick up on adults’ discomfort, even if they don’t know the why of it. Thus, undies become taboo and silly; they can be used to provoke the reaction of grownups. Think about it — you’re a kid, you’re too young to have much power in this world, but simply uttering the word “underpants” can set all the grownups into a tizzy. That’s power. Kids know it. Like I said, kids are smart.
Sometimes grownups are not as smart as kids. Grownups do silly things like give their kids superhero or princess underwear and say “Don’t show these off!” as the TV in the background flashes Victoria’s Secret ads and a bus drives by plastered with larger-than-life Calvin Klein models clad in only their skivvies. Grownups say, “Don’t do that!” and then don’t give a good age-appropriate explanation as to why because they’re too embarrassed themselves to speak about why underpants are really taboo. So, kids are confused. And rightly so.
I decided to have a little fun with this problem, and Underpants Dance was the result.
You can read people’s reviews of Underpants Dance on Goodreads. I would love it if you would post your own and let me know what you think!