In September of 2011,
I participated in Salt Lake City’s first ever Undie Run. The concept is simple: run with thousands of other people . . . in nothing but your underwear.
Why? Some people tried to make the Undie Run, this display of flagrant deviance, of wanton exhibitionism, demonstrate some deeper meaning. They tried to assign it as a protest by uncapping Sharpies and scrawling half-hearted grievances on their nearly-naked bodies. But it was clear by the gayety and silliness of everyone involved that this was really about simply letting your hair down in a city known for its tight-laced morals and demur etiquette.
I had agreed to meet a friend of mine at the starting line of the Undie Run, at a place called The Gallivan Center. The Gallivan Center is a large public space, in downtown Salt Lake City, perfect for concerts, festivals, and as fate would have it, thousands of people dressed in nothing but their bras ‘n panties or tighty whities ready to run to the State Capitol and back.
I’m not normally prone to public nakedness but thought the Undie Run might put me a little out of my comfort zone and be a lot of fun. I know that getting out of my comfort zone is often the key ingredient to personal growth. Little did I know, however, just how much out of my comfort zone this would put me and how much personal growth I’d experience.
I drove to the Gallivan Center and parked in the parking garage. Nervous, I got out of my truck, and with a brave and bold resolve, stripped down to nothing but my favorite pair of unds, running shoes, and just to play it safe, my hands-free device—you know, in case I got an important call while on my run.
Feeling very exposed, nervous, and alone, I walked by myself through the parking structure toward the entrance point of the Undie Run. Once at the Galiivan Center, I’d luckily be met by the thousands of other people also in their underwear and I’d feel a little less conspicuous.
But to my horror, there was a police officer blocking the gate between the parking garage and the Gallivan Center who instructed me that I couldn’t enter the event from this gate and would have to walk two and a half city blocks, long blocks mind you, around the Gallivan Center to enter the event at a different gate. I saw no reason for this detour but when pressed and the cop didn’t budge nor so much as even grace me with an explanation.
So out into the crowded city streets I went. Alone and wearing only my underwear (and hands-free device).
I knew I would soon enough join several others in a similar state of undress, but for now it was just me.
Of my life.
Fortunately, after only a few steps down that lonely sidewalk, I remembered one of my deepest values. No, not the value of modesty, but a value I believe to be much more important which is:
It doesn’t matter what your wearing, what you look like, or what your circumstances as long as you OWN IT.
So, own it I did.
With no other choice, I strutted down Salt Lake City’s prim and proper streets with my head held high, looking people in the face and saying hello like it was any other day. I fucking owned those streets in my Calvin Kleins and hands-free device!
After several long minutes of walking solo, I eventually met the thousands of other Undie Runners and felt relieved not to be so singularly exposed.
Isn’t it funny how what seems so scandalous, like walking down the streets alone in your underwear, changes to something completely ordinary when you’re surrounded by the social proof of thousands of other people doing likewise?
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The lesson I learned by walking alone down the street in my underwear was this: There will be moments in your life when you will be all alone, subject to scrutiny, doubt, ridicule, and judgement, when you’re completely exposed, vulnerable, and with nowhere to hide. And at times like these, you have to simply “own it,” hold your head up high, and keep walking.
So, whether you’re embarking upon an unknown chapter of your life, or busting out a yoga pose that seems to defy you, or strutting down the street in your underwear, hold your head up high, do your best and keep going. Whatever you’ve got, wherever you’re at, just own it.
Most of the time you won’t be met with throngs of people who are in a similar situation or even understand your situation. That doesn’t matter. Simply keep your head high and your feet beneath you, grounded in a sure knowing of Self.
And in such moments, if you don’t have pockets, consider a hands-free device.