I am a child of the late 70’s, which means many things. It means a lot of pictures of me in brown and mustard yellow as a child. It means bowl cuts and mullets, and, eventually, the tallest bangs possible (and I could still do them in my sleep, if asked). It means I was singing the soundtrack to “Annie” and Madonna songs at the same time, and forcing my mother to answer my very innocent question of what it meant to be a virgin (her brilliant answer? “Someone who does something for the first time”). And it meant Wonder Woman on TV, and even better, Wonder Woman underoos.
If you don’t know what underoos are, well, you are missing out. Basically, they were underwear (tops and bottoms) for boys and girls that were printed to look like you were wearing a superhero’s costume. For boys, they had batman and superman and probably a few other choices. For girls, it meant one thing: Wonder Woman.
To be perfectly honest with you, I only have very foggy memories of the Wonder Woman TV show. I remember Lynda Carter spinning in a circle to “become” Wonder Woman, and I remember her awesome bracelets that deflected bullets. Her lasso of truth and invisible plane I honestly don’t remember from my childhood, but of course know of them now that I’m a nerdy adult. But it is clear from my memories of how I felt in my Wonder Woman underoos that she had an impact on me. Because in those underoos, I was in INVINCIBLE! I remember getting dressed in the morning, knowing this day was going to be a good one, because underneath my clothes I held a secret, the secret power of Wonder Woman. I could defeat anyone! In fact, there is a story told in my family of how a playground bully tried to stop me from going down “his” slide, and when he turned his back, I went down the slide, only to meet him at the bottom with a swift punch in his nose! An underoo day, without question.
But, eventually, they stopped making underoos, or I just got too big for them, or both probably. And I had to go on with life, with no superhero power under my clothes. And I’ll admit, life took some toll on me. I have had some pretty bad patches, some tough confrontations, and definitely some times I could’ve used an invisible plane to get me anywhere but where I was. I started working with kids who had tougher lives than me, and it made me think back to my childhood, and I remembered those underoos and how empowering they were. I wished I could give those kids the same feeling, but I was pretty sure underoos were a thing of the past. So, I did the next best thing. I had each child color in an outline of their body as a superhero, and let them take it home, so every day they could see they had some superhero in them. I explained to them about my underoos and how maybe, if they could pretend they had their superhero outfits on underneath their clothes, they wouldn’t be so afraid next time something bad happened to them.
Years later, I was knocked down pretty far. I was working in a job that wasn’t right for me; I had someone in a mentor position who abused their authority to bully me. I was stuck, I was scared, and I could barely manage getting out of bed every day. There was more than one day I called in sick, because I just wasn’t brave enough to handle what faced me at work. At that time, I wished I had anything to make me feel stronger, to make me feel like Wonder Woman for even just a day.
I ended up leaving that job, after it tore me down and left me in a bad place. I had to build myself back up again, but I had no idea how. I started thinking about my childhood and Wonder Woman underoos. There was no point in Googling it, I knew I’d never be able to find underoos for adults! But I did have this one pair of underwear, that if you squinted in the right light, could double for Wonder Woman’s starry bottoms. So I made those my new, adult underoos, and those gave me the motivation to get up and face the uncertainty of my days. Not every day from then on was good, or easy, or forward-moving, but eventually the good days started to outweigh the bad. Eventually, I didn’t have to rely on my sort-of-Wonder-Woman underoos anymore. Finally, I was able to get up and have the strength to face the day and to make plans for my future.
The other day, I was online shopping and I saw a Wonder Woman t-shirt, and at first, I scrolled right past it. But the little niggle of those underoos came from the back of my mind, and I went back and bought that t-shirt. Because no matter how well I’m doing now, we all have our rough days, and we can all use a little Wonder Woman under our clothes.
Taylor Mitchell currently lives in Dayton, Ohio. She can be found expanding her horizons at www.pickygal.com.