Kazakhstan Panties Are Really in a Bunch

From Eurasia to Paris Hilton to Dear Abby, yesterday found people in deep reflection on… ladies' undies.

This photo taken on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, shows women during a protest against the ban of lace underwear  in Almaty, Kazakhstan. A trade ban on synthetic underwear has Russia and her economic allies with their knickers in a twist. Post-Soviet consumers reacted with dismay to news that synthetic underwear will be banned within the Eurasian Economic Commission, which regulates a customs union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, from July 1. Consumer outcry against the restrictions reached a fever pitch after a Sunday protest in the capital of Kazakhstan, where thirty women wore lace underwear on their heads and shouted “Freedom to panties!” as they were shoved into police vehicles. (AP Photo/Vladimir Tretyakov)

On Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, women protest the ban of lace underwear in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

You know how sometimes there’s just something in the ether, so that everywhere you turn, a subject comes up over and over again? Yesterday, on Presidents Day, that subject was underwear. In one of those news stories that make you scratch your head and go “Huh,” the Moscow Times reported that women in the streets of Kazakhstan were marching with underwear on their heads to protest a new law that’s set to go into effect on July 1st. (You should check out the link, if only for the photo of the demure young Kazakh male averting his gaze from the lascivious lace display.)

I know what you’re thinking: those killjoy Muslims! But no; this has nothing to do with religion. Instead, Kazakhstan — along with Russia and Belarus, where the ban will also go into effect — is trying to protect the health of its women. The underwear law (which has actually been around for a few years but is now going to be enforced, dagnabbit) dictates a six percent moisture absorption rate for all underwear produced, imported and sold in the three nations, according to Valery Koreshkov, the minister for technical regulations in the Eurasian Economic Union. And lace, since it’s mostly made from synthetic fibers like polyester, averages a scant three to 3.6 percent absorption rate. Ergo, no fancy undies. This state of affairs prompted bank manager Iryna Davydenko to snipe, “As if all the other issues in the country are solved and the only outstanding issue is ladies’ panties.” Ooh, burn!

This news coverage, naturally, got me thinking about my millennial daughter’s panties, which aren’t really panties at all but rather the skimpy little decorative bottom-hammocks known as “thongs.” Thongs have no purpose in life unless you are wearing one and are struck by a SEPTA bus and taken to the hospital, in which case technically the medical staffers can’t snicker about the fact that you were going commando. Thongs are underwear reduced to utter uselessness. I mean, I sort of see the Kazakh government’s point. I’m not here to lecture about underwear’s purpose — I’ve already tried that with my daughter — but if you’re going to wear it, much less pay $58 for it, it should be more substantial than hummingbird wings.

Meanwhile, in New York City, Paris Hilton wasn’t wearing any underwear, or she was wasn’t wearing enough of it to satisfy Valery Koreshkov, as you can see in these photos she posted on Instagram of her wearing a gown inspired by women’s private parts that, in a weirdly meta turn of events, shows off her private parts. Which made me grateful that my kid is at least wearing those thongs.

But the big undie news was in Monday’s Dear Abby. What do you mean, you don’t read Dear Abby? I’ve learned more about humankind from Dear Abby than from anything else in my years on Earth. Where else would you find a letter like this one?

DEAR ABBY: I have been married to my wife for 33 years. I recently found a pair of her panties with “Booty Call” printed across the back. I can’t help but wonder. She has never had underwear like that in 33 years. What gives? —SURPRISED TEXAN

Think about this for a moment. You’re a creature of habit. I’m a creature of habit. And if I’m not in the habit of buying embarrassingly suggestive lingerie and it suddenly appears after 33 years of marriage, wouldn’t you wonder, too?

If that woman has any sense, she’ll tell her perplexed hubby the undies are simply a show of solidarity for the women of the Eurasian Economic Union. Whatever excuse she gives him, I’m going to find out, because Abby begged him to follow up: “[N]ot only am I interested in her answer, but I’m sure millions of readers are curious, too.”

And so I am. But not as curious as I am about who would pay $11.99 for this white cotton thong emblazoned with a classical portrait of George Washington — or this one, with a Warhol-esque set of four photos of Abraham Lincoln. Hey, look! Ronald Reagan, too! Perfect for donning next Presidents Day — or wearing on your head if you happen to be in Kazakhstan when July 1st rolls around.

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