The Boy with Tight Underpants
By Mark Burrow
“Give me the child to the age of seven and I will give you the adult.”
You can say that again. After all these years, I still see myself as Tight Pants. Various counsellors and therapists have suggested my parents’ divorce had a big impact on how things turned out for me. We’ve discussed at length the area I grew up in too, with the drugs, the thieving and lack of expectation that happens on a council estate.
You can blame those things, for sure. They no doubt had a part to play, but when you want to get to the core of the issue, down to the nitty gritty, I blame tight underpants.
Mum wasn’t abusive. She didn’t try to punish me for looking like my dad and having the same mannerisms. She simply never regarded buying me underwear as a priority. She would ask what I wanted for Christmas and birthdays and I’d immediately reply, “New underpants.” She’d shake her head and say, “No, you want a proper present. Have a think and get back to me.”
The elastic of my pants made red indentations on the skin around my thighs and waist. I couldn’t concentrate when watching TV, reading comics or doing homework. I was constantly fidgeting, discreetly plucking at the bands of elastic in an effort to give my balls and buttocks some much needed respite.
Doctors may disagree, but I believe it definitely stunted growth in the downstairs department too, which caused issues with lovers in later life.
Let’s face it, physical pain heals. It’s the mental wounds that fester. When in the PE changing rooms, the other boys would laugh and yell insults because my underwear was so snug. “Oi, Tight Pants,” they’d cry out. It became my nickname with everyone. And I do mean everyone.
Mr Coleman thought nothing of insulting me in class. “The Nazi ideology driving their expansion plans was based on Lebensraum, or living space – it’s something Tight Pants here wouldn’t say no to, eh? Am I right?”
The ridicule extended beyond the gates of my school. On my estate, I distinctly remember the day I queued for a 99 with a flake and sprinkles. When it was my turn, the ice cream man said, “Here he is, what do you want today, Tight Pants?”
Bus drivers too. “Where’s your pass, Tight Pants?”
On a football pitch. “Tight Pants, down the line.”
It became normal to the point where I kind of forgot my own name.
I eventually took matters into my own hands, working a paper round and saving enough money to buy my first three pack of boxer shorts. It was glorious to pull on a pair and feel liberated. Finally, my scrotum could hang as natural and free as the fruit on a tree. My grin stretched from ear to ear as I bent my knees, raised my arms, performed lunges and touched my toes.
I wonder if things might have been different had my father stuck around. He could have pulled my mother aside and remarked, “I reckon he’s grown out of his pants. We should probably buy some new ones.”
It’s pure speculation. Idle fantasy. The man disappeared. He wanted nothing to do with me. He couldn’t care less that I spent my formative years walking around with a permanent wedgie.
So much time has elapsed. I’ve lived in different countries. Worked numerous jobs. I’ve known the joy of love and heartache of break ups. When I look at myself in the mirror, I see a man in his later years, wrinkled and grey, but also an individual who lived on the fringes, an outsider; someone who never quite fitted in.
For better or worse, I always have and always will be Tight Pants.