I consider myself a pretty conservative dresser. My shorts are always mid-thigh or longer, my T-shirts cover my naughty parts in their entirety, and my swimsuit comes in only one piece. All in all, I tend to keep myself pretty well covered.
Unless it’s a Wednesday night in Burling. Because every Wednesday night after dinner, I participate in a magical event known as No Pants Wednesday.
It’s a pretty simple concept, actually. On Wednesday nights, a group of students opt not to wear pants in the library. We wear pants to the library, but upon finding a study table, the pants come off, the books come open, and the stares from some of the library patrons who aren’t used to this fast-growing tradition come often.
Legend has it that No Pants Wednesday began when a young man, whilst taking a study break on a Wednesday evening, accidentally saturated his pants with a cold beverage. As the liquid soaked into the fabric, he grew uncomfortable, and a friend suggested he simply remove the source of his discomfort. Wet Pants Man was hesitant. Pants are part of our culture, he argued. With the exception of swimming, bathing, and various personal activities, some sort of complete covering of the bottom is required. Many restaurants declare “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service,” but it’s likely that if a person came in without pants, he or she would be denied service as well.
“Look,” the friend says to Wet Pants. “If you take off your pants, I’ll take off mine.”
An agreement was reached. Pants were removed. A legend was born.
Now most people unsurprisingly want to know, seriously, what’s with the lack of pants? One time, a librarian sent a student worker over to the No Pants table looking for that very answer.
“Excuse me,” she said timidly. “Why aren’t you guys wearing any pants?”
“Because it’s No Pants Wednesday!” we replied.
The student did not seem very thrilled with our vague response, but it was the only one to give. Phrased another way, while some people ask why not wear pants?, we ask why not NOT wear pants?
Guys usually wear boxers, and one evening I cited the fact that this didn’t seem very fair, as boys in boxers are not nearly as attention-grabbing as girls in panties. Several days later in response to my complaint, two male participants stood up in the middle of studying and ceremoniously lowered their boxers, only to reveal matching tighty-whities.
Our table got more sideways glances than usual that evening.
We are No Pants Wednesday. We risk discomfort, exposure, and the cold for the sake of upholding the tradition week after week after week. We risk bemused gazes, lots of questioning, a lack of productivity, and rashes on our bums due to our raw skin rubbing directly on the fabric of our chairs, all because otherwise, the only thing to do in the library would be to study.
One night at the end of last semester, I found myself the last of the No-Pantsers still in the library. Just before 1 a.m., a student library employee approached me to suggest I start packing up my stuff because the library was closing. Then she asked the usual question: “Um … why aren’t you wearing pants?”
Before I could answer her, a librarian poked his head out from around the corner of a bookshelf and explained to her, quite seriously, “Because it’s No Pants Wednesday!”
Erin Sindewald '08 is an English major from Orland Park, Illinois.