Always Wear Clean Underwear

And other meaningless instructions

Catherine Oceano
5 min readNov 12, 2022


Photo credit: Catherine Dunn-Gilbert, author

My mother always told me to wear clean underwear. In case I was in an accident and had to go to the hospital. So mostly I do. Wear clean underwear. There are exceptions of course. Emergencies happen when you go somewhere and didn’t pack enough and don’t have a place to wash some and hang them overnight. Or time for them to dry.

And the concept of turning them inside out and wearing them a second time never really seemed the best idea to me. Although it has been suggested. Think about it. If we needed to change the underwear having the dirty side out doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

Anyway, it’s rare that I don’t have clean underwear on. I have instead most certainly gone out in my life’s journey with baby barf on my shoulder, peanut butter smeared onto a skirt and even spillage from the previous night's dinner on a shirt that I had tossed aside and assumed was clean when I picked it up. Most disconcerting if you go to a work meeting like that.

I have travelled out into the world with a purse containing a grilled cheese sandwich in case the kid gets hungry, a wet washcloth in a bag as well as a preschooler-sized pair of underwear in case the mostly toilet-trained one has a relapse. That can happen anytime, anywhere.

There is that brief window in parenting young ones where you think you can get away without hauling along a diaper bag only to discover you were probably wrong. Your purse cannot contain all that you might need.

In spite of my preparedness training and the instructions of my mother, there was that day my daughter went to church with no underwear at all. To be clear, she was five, her baby brother was three and the latest addition was just a few months old. So I had a pretty addled brain with sleep deprivation and all that accompanies herding three children under six.

My daughter had insisted on wearing her favourite frilly dress. Which was fine. Except that all of a sudden she sat cross-legged on the floor and I realized that she was missing a crucial piece of attire. I guess I forgot to check and obviously it wasn’t that important to her. To wear underwear. Not only had I forgotten to tell her to always wear clean ones, but I had also neglected to tell…



Catherine Oceano

old but not dead, mother, partner, grandmother, writer, Canadian Become a Medium member and support great writers like me.