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Alan Cook

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Books by Alan Cook
Psychology of Panties
By Alan Cook
Last edited: Monday, December 24, 2012
Posted: Friday, March 18, 2011

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A Psychology class outdoors in the fifties with surprising results.


           A warm spring day in Ann Arbor buoyed my spirits. After having been forced to return to the University of Michigan in February 1959 from schools in balmy California (for reasons I won’t go into here) and immediately stepping into a world of single digit temperatures, this was a day I needed.
           It was about to get a lot better. I went to my advanced psychology class and the professor said, the weather’s great; let’s have the class outside on the grass. Being an outdoor person and having an aversion to being cooped up in classrooms, I wholeheartedly agreed. Our small group of upper division students trooped outdoors and sat down on the grass.
           A word about the 1950s for you who regard the middle of the twentieth century as ancient history. As I have shown in my mystery novel, The Hayloft, which is set in the fifties, it was a repressed era with little sex and not much of anything else. Skirt lengths, which had entered the fifties down around the ankles, had progressed upward a bit, but still fell belong the knees. Miniskirts weren’t even a fantasy in my world. Cheerleaders wore their skirts below the knees. In face, the U of M didn’t have female cheerleaders. The cheerleaders were boys recruited from the gymnastics team.
            Girls wore skirts or dresses to class—no jeans, no shorts, no exceptions. So when we sat on the grass, fifties modesty demanded they adjust their skirts accordingly. Except that for some reason they didn’t on this particular day. From my position, I could look up the skirts of at least four of my female classmates. A quick survey told me the dominant color of panties was white.
            The girls didn’t seem to care. Perhaps there was a group dynamic at work. People in groups will do things they wouldn’t do on an individual basis. Perhaps it was a rebellion against the repressed atmosphere of the fifties as they approached an end. What better place for a horny boy to study this, whatever it was, than a psychology class. And study it I did. I gave it my full attention.
A number of years before, I had attended a church camp for one dismal week, the highlight of which was that on the morning we were to return home, many of the girls sat with their legs dangling from the pier above the lake, and pulled their long skirts up well above their knees. They encouraged and dared each other. Not a big deal in today’s world, but eye-catching at that time. And an example of group dynamics in action.
            On the day of the psychology class incident I didn’t give a thought to what part our male professor played. Did he know what was going to happen? Did he plan for it to happen? Had he taken the class outside on purpose? Like most young people, I couldn’t picture older folks having prurient thoughts, let alone sex. When my father once told me the most fun he had was with my mother, I didn’t want to listen.
            Whatever the motives of the professor or the girls in the class, this was the best experience I have ever had in a classroom situation.


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Reviewed by Kalikiano Kalei 4/6/2011
Quite a thoughtful observation and one that parallels many of my own recurrent bemusements. The suggestion of something is often far more erotic (and/or of substantial moment) than the actual reality of the causative subject that provokes it, given the nuances of the human mind and the role that creative imagination plays in our perceptions of what holds interest for us or draws our attention in life. I recall that the typical women's one-piece swimsuit of the 50s had what was then called a 'modesty panel' directly in front of the crotch. Back then the thought of what exactly lay behind that mysteriously alluring panel gave me frequent pause for imaginative fantasising. It was the suggestion of something forbidden that posed the attraction, I think, since the sight of an unhidden female crotch is a bit of a disturbing shock at first for someone young in years (I accidentally walked into the bathroom while my mother was showering once, as a child, and it probably scared several years growth out of me! For her part, the shriek of embarrassment she let out simply added to the traumatic impact of that moment). I've always been of the opinion that 'artful concealment' is far more 'sexy' or sensual than something overtly open or openly revealed, but perhaps that is the opinion of an aesthete or someone possessed of an artist's temperament (and not shared equally by most, eh?). I'll be back to sample more of your insightful observations on life! Thanks.
Cheers, Kalikiano
Reviewed by Betty Gelean (Reader) 3/18/2011
Pretty much as I remember it. Those years were really hard on girls, we still were only allowed to take cooking and sewing when I'd much rather have taken woodwork and shop. Change was on the horizon and we were caught between what was before and what was to come, and parents, particularly fathers, had the last word... in fact pretty well all the words. Rock & Roll? Evil. Stay overnight at a friends? No way. I was 19 before I had my first date!! As Charles Dickens once said, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times". Loved the music & my personal friends (who I still have 50 years later); hated the rules and the fact that my younger brothers had more freedom than I did. Your article brought back both good memories and bad ones. Ah, yes, I remember it well!

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