Archive for June, 2012

U is for Underwear, or The ABCs of twenty-something life

When I was in college, I had the good fortune of being assigned the impossible letter “U” for our campus newspaper’s spring housing guide with the theme “The ABCs of college living.”

I sat down to write the column about Urbana.

U is for Urbana.

Urbana is one of the cities University of Illinois students live in. Urbana is home to more than half the campus buildings, about two really shady frat houses, the apartment where I shacked with a guy for the first time, and at least one Espresso Royale coffee shop.

Urbana is …

Truth be told, I already didn’t have much more to say about Urbana. I’d always been a Champaign dweller myself, so I was out of material

But just as I vetoed the idea of writing about Urbana, I had a much better one.


U is for underwear.


The resulting column was the star of the housing guide. Years later, a younger Daily Illini staffer I barely knew met me at an alumni event and said “Oh yeah, I remember you – you’re the one who wrote the U is for Underwear column!”

On one hand, I wasn’t necessarily thrilled that underwear had become my Daily Illini legacy.

I’ve always considered myself a strong writer, and even at the time U is for Underwear hit the presses, I’d written some pretty serious stuff, like an investigation into the effects of gender and race on U of I faculty salaries.

But on the other hand, who was I kidding – of course something funny I wrote about underwear would be more memorable than something complex I wrote about salaries! Duh.

U is for Underwear was such as success online, hits-wise, that to this day, when you Google “Marie Wilson Daily Illini” it’s the fourth link that pops up:

Here’s a preview: “Living on a college campus, I’ve come to embrace the fact that underwear can be anywhere. On my body at almost all times, of course, but also crumpled on the street outside KAM’s, left at the bottom of a locker at the Activities and Recreation Center, or even hung out to dry in very obvious locations around my dorm or apartment— dangling from push pins on my bulletin board, hanging from coat hooks on my door or sitting on top of body pillows on my bed. Yes, in college, I’ve had no shame. If my underwear is clean, but wet, and can’t be put away yet, it’s going to be visible. And my roommates? They’ve have had to learn to deal with it.”

It only gets funnier from there.

The success of U is for Underwear eventually became the inspiration for the occasional series “The ABCs of twenty-something life.”

In our 20s, A probably is for Apartment hunting, H might be for High school reunions, N unfortunately is for Night shifts, and U? Well, U is probably still for Underwear.

So tune in each time you see a headline starting with a letter. You’ll be guided through the alphabet in a way you never have been before – a way that’s sure to be funny as only twenty-something life can be, from A all the way to Z.


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