Please welcome today’s guest writer, Andy Briggs (’14). Andy works as both a seventh grade English teacher and as a paraprofessional in Central Minnesota. He enjoys many hobbies such as collecting retro video games, enjoying craft beer, and more. He frequently finds himself laughing at his own jokes. You will often hear him before you see him.
My name is Andy, but my friends call me Sticky. Like any good Dutch family, my family members are either blonde or tall or both. By my ripe teenage years, I was already taller than all of my teachers. I got used to the swath of rote conversations:
“So, do you like to play basketball?”
“Look how much you’ve grown!”
“You look so skinny! You need some meat on those bones!”
“Back when you played basketball, was it super fun?”
After a while, conversations consisted of going over to the ol’ mental filing cabinet and whipping out a response to one of those oh-so-predictable statements. Even though I wasn’t comfortable in my stretched-out thirteen-year-old body, I could find some solace in the consistency of conversation.
As I got older, I started to figure out how to exist in a body that looked like a washed-out Gumby. My friends nicknamed me “Sticky” because of my stick-thin frame, and I grew into it, either reluctantly or otherwise. I learned that I needed to buy size thirteen shoes (yes, size thirteen shoes at age thirteen). I absolutely needed to special order my pants. If I wanted to fit in a bed, I had to sleep diagonally. Just like all things, I just needed a bit of practice, a bit of exposure to the elements. I even started to unironically like basketball.
I assumed my societal role as a tall person. I stood in the back during class photos. I helped people reach the top shelf at grocery stores. I learned that I barely fit in an airplane. But I learned how to live. I eventually became comfortable in my own skin. Of course, everyone has those horror stories that involve adolescence or puberty, but when I got acne, my face was high above the others, on display for all to see. So once adulthood arrived, I was confident and impervious to public shame.
Or so I thought.
Today, I was grocery shopping—like every other normal-sized twenty-seven-year-old person. I was picking up the essentials: eggs, milk, extra-large socks. I rounded the corner to the chip aisle, and a man and woman were standing there, silently deciding which flavor of Doritos to buy. I quietly walked near them to grab a box of Cheez-Its (only the essentials), and the man slowly turned toward me. His gaze slowly rose to meet my eyes, and he said, a bit too loudy, “Holy s***.” But he didn’t just say it. He spaced out the words. “S***” apparently has three syllables. And for the first time in a long time, I felt uncomfortable in my skin. I felt how extra-long my arms were, how humongous my feet were. And his words lingered in the air between us.
After a few moments, he added, “Hey, could you grab that bag of Cool Ranch off the top there?” All while avoiding his stare, I acquiesced, grabbed the bag of Doritos, and handed them off. I turned on my size thirteen heel, and I started to walk away. Just as I was leaving the aisle, I heard the man say, “That guy was a giant!”
I know the man in the chip aisle probably didn’t mean to hurt my feelings, but his words suddenly transported me back into my teenage self who was struggling to find pants that would fit. Growing up isn’t being impervious to pain; it’s learning to live with it.
At least I can reach the top shelf.