I'm a man whose pants are not on fire

It’s 1827, and you’re a social Englishman. Among fellow English gentlemen, you sit discussing the disappointment that was Mary Shelley’s 1826 novel, The Last Man. Bored with the subject matter, you excuse yourself for the evening. But as you rise from a fine mahogany chair, a hot sensation erupts in your pants pocket. Your trousers are immediately engulfed in flames, and you have to strip them off in front of a room full of astounded guests. Horrified, you slink away, running near-nude to your home as your wife awaits your return. She inquires, “Where are the matches? I’ve been waiting to light the stove for dinner.” This is your third pair of trousers ruined this month. Your wife is not happy. You could have died, and you’re fresh out of pants. It’s 1827, and friction-lit matches were recently invented, but a vessel for transport that will prevent them from igniting… More…

"Colure," by Christopher Marley

I once spent a year living in a quaint, drafty first-floor apartment. Moving in and out was a breeze, and 2 AM dog walks were slightly more bearable without having to schlep up and down flights of stairs half-asleep in my slippers. One of the prices you pay for a first floor abode, however, is and always will be bugs, which are (usually) most unwelcome roommates. Centipedes, ants, gnats, silverfish – I’ve seen them all. Many a lazy Sunday afternoon was ruined by the discovery of translucent-black creatures poised on an armrest reading over my shoulder. As if they could even begin to grasp the depth of Haruki Murakami’s prose. 

Alyssa Shaw is an English major and graduate education student at Drexel University in Philadelphia. 

...Of much harder tongue-twisters than I remembered.

Everyone has that one book they fondly remember from their childhood that takes them back to the cozy winter nights snuggled up to mom or dad. Perhaps, like me, you’d beg them to read it through one last time before you drifted off to sleep, never satisfied hearing the words only once though you’d memorized nearly all of them. We all have that one book that was just magic for us, whether your favorite was the novel your mother tirelessly read a chapter from each night, or the picture books that your dad always created a new story for. My book was P. D. Eastman’s Are You My Mother?, the cardboard pages long since chewed, tattered, and thrown away. A five-year-old me found it hilarious that the poor little bird thought a dog or a “snort” could be its mom. 

F is for "feminist video installation."

Imagine yourself as a child, frolicking through your parents’ back yard and digging up worms. Your mother calls you in from the kitchen for dinner and you bound in through the back door, smelling the roast she’s been tending to for the past few hours. At the table your father sits reading the newspaper, your sister fidgeting with a bow in her hair. Before you is the same familiar spread: off-white plates, clear glasses, spotless silverware, uniform serving utensils, and of course, the butter dish. You think nothing of the materials off of which you shovel food into your mouth, moving as quickly as possible to resume your outdoor activities. For hours your mother slaved over the stove to prepare your meal, but that won’t cross your mind until present day when, as an adult, you prepare meals for yourself and maybe even your own children. Now is a time… More…

I see John Glenn's underwear, worn on 1962 mission, Project Mercury.

Everyone wears underwear. Your grandma wears them, your dad wears them, your mailman wears them. Heck, even some dogs wear underwear. We are a society fixated on comfort, but also on functionality. Your personal trainer dons moisture-wicking underlayer, while your mom might be sporting spanx to hold in the result of years of childbearing.

Suited for Space. The Chemical Heritage Foundation, Philadelphia. Through November 14, 2014.

But astronauts tend to think of underwear on a different level. You might say their views on underwear are – dare I say – out of this world.

Alyssa Shaw is an English major and graduate education student at Drexel University in Philadelphia.