Of spring, bluebirds and ‘briefs vs. boxers’ issue

April 26, 2014 

Kelly Duncan wants to send me some free underwear.

I don’t know Kelly Duncan, certainly not well enough to accept such a personal gift, even for Father’s Day.

Kelly is a public relations person who works for a company that makes underwear. She wants me to try some new models of skivvies.

Kelly may not know that the only freebies most newspaper employees are allowed to accept are criticisms or compliments. It’s a given that the former usually outnumber the latter. Journalists, we are taught, like Caesar’s wife, must be above suspicion.

If only political candidates abided by the same rule, what a great democracy ours would be.

I find the source of the well-known proverb about Caesar’s wife interesting.

When in 63 B.C., Caesar was elected chief priest of Rome’s state religion, Caesar’s wife, Pompeia celebrated the event by hosting a women-only festival.

However, hoping to seduce Pompeia, a young patrician at court gained admittance by disguising himself as a woman. He was tried and acquitted. Caesar divorced Pompeia anyway, stating that “my wife ought not even to be under suspicion.” Hence the proverb.

Back to underwear. Ms. Duncan reminded me that it was more than 20 years ago when Bill Clinton was asked on MTV whether he wore boxers or briefs.

Clinton startled the free world by responding, “Usually briefs,” breaking a barrier as to what is and what isn’t too personal to talk about. We were to learn plenty more about Clinton’s personal persona during the ensuing months of his presidency.

I’ve never understood the public’s insatiable curiosity about the personal lives of celebrities. With all the mayhem occurring around the world every day, why should anyone care what kind of underwear someone wears?

President Barack Obama reacted quite differently when in a 2008 interview with Us Magazine , he was asked the “briefs or boxers” question.

“I don’t answer those humiliating questions,” he replied, adding, “but whichever one it is, I look good in ’em.”

A longtime friend has a classic answer for questions that should never be asked. When faced with one, she replies, in her deep South accent, “If you’ll forgive me for not answering your question, I’ll forgive you for asking it.”

So men, if someone asks you whether you wear briefs or boxers, or ladies, whether you prefer bloomers or bikinis, you have a perfect response.

A Raleigh springtime

“O world, I cannot hold thee close enough.”

I wish those were my words, but alas, they belong to poet Edna St. Vincent Millay.

She must have been writing about the sort of spring we’ve had this year after a wicked winter that hung on like a bulldog’s bite.

With dogwood, redbud, pear and cherry bursting on the world simultaneously beside flower beds aglow with tulips, pansies and daffodils, how could such beauty not stir the souls of even the most insensitive? As Millay continued, “ Lord, I do fear Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year.”

Eggs in the nest

The swallows have come back to Capistrano and, according to many of you readers, the bluebirds have come back to Raleigh.

Our pair has built a nest and deposited five handsome blue eggs. I don’t know, as I write, if the eggs will hatch.

They were laid during those cold days and nights of early April. Furthermore, the female is flighty, seemingly spending more time at the suet feeder than on the nest. I’ll keep you posted.

One local bird-watcher has a personal investment in her bluebirds’ nest.

Shirl Garvey writes that when she combed her hair, she saved the loose strands and put them outside and watched as the grateful bluebirds lined their nest with them.

When I was a wee lad, my mother did the opposite. In keeping with a foothills superstition, she sent me out to bury the loose hair under a rock. It was believed that if birds used the hair in a nest, bad luck would descend upon the household.

Snow: 919-836-5636 or

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