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Coming Undone: An Essay About Growing Pains

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I was a short child, both in flower and stem. In fact, I was so short that I used to look up at people’s knees. As a result, I was a dream to buy clothes for. This didn’t change until I entered that fated stage of my teenage years where I started to (physically) grow up. Before that, I would wish to be tall on what felt like a near-nightly basis. I used to go to sleep visualizing my height increasing as I stopped standing on my tiptoes and just looked out over the tops of people’s heads.

It felt like an overnight change, but it couldn’t have been. Time moves fast when you’re in your formative years. Before I’d really considered the changes I was going through, my feet had shot out the end of my bed and I was banging my head on door frames at home, at school, and at...everywhere, really.

Suddenly standing a bit over 6’1”, I had gone from one of the shortest kids in class to one of the tallest, and I thus entered adult life with more confidence...in most areas.

My legs were long, but my trunk seemed to have stretched out way more. As a result, a lot of clothes that had fit me quite well suddenly didn’t fit at all. T-shirts, button-ups, pullovers, jackets, and workout tops all suddenly needed pulling down and it was really quite frustrating. I had a look that I wanted to cultivate, but no brand really catered to those with a long body who wanted to feel comfortable around the stomach while not walking with a hunch.

As I continued to buy clothes, with my look inherently evolving over the years, I could feel myself adjusting to this apparel annoyance. I’d buy shirts that only worked under a blazer, so they could be tucked in. I’d wear oversized sweaters because I knew they’d look purposely out of shape and ill-fitting around my body.

Over time, I put on a little weight and bulked up, but it didn’t change my length by any means, and it felt like no one really accommodated my height without presuming that my weight matched it. There were dozens of clothing brands and collections that suited “the bigger man,” but what if my thighs weren’t as thick as tree trunks and my body simply wasn’t as broad as it was long?

The most frustrating piece of clothing in my wardrobe was the most commonly worn — my t-shirts. I’ve always loved t-shirts, and they’re by far the most adaptable item of clothing anyone can really buy. They layer well and can often make a statement as the only thing men wear on the upper half of their body. More than that, t-shirts are a cultural thing. In some cultures, it may be button-ups or smocks, but t-shirts are king where I’m from.

I’ve loved t-shirts since I was a little kid, as my obsession initially stems from supporting my favorite soccer team. I wanted their new kit each and every year, and although we could only afford it once every three years or so, those t-shirts meant the world to me. I mean, hey, when I climb into the attic and find the box they live in, they still do.

As I grew up, my taste in t-shirts changed, but I kept buying them. Sometimes, I’d deliberately buy them three sizes too big, so that I could tuck them in...though my growth spurt had left me a willowy late teen and it often looked as if I was traveling around in my own portable tent. If I bought my actual size, my t-shirt would always come untucked — and it wasn’t just my t-shirts, which actually look better untucked (unless they’re beneath some layers).

So you can imagine my recent relief when I was in the market for new t-shirts and discovered that I could now buy tall tees. I quietly recited the fine print like an auctioneer on duty and wondered about the fit. Were they actually tall (i.e. would they fit me better if I was wider)? The good news — no, the great news — was that each tall tee, from what I read and observed, would fit me lengthwise without proving to be as wide as it was tall. No longer would I need to keep retucking my shirt or waiting for the breeze to hit me as I strolled with it over the top of a pair of jeans.

When the tall tees arrived, I couldn’t wait to try them on. In fact, I tore off my old standard t-shirt and prepared for maximum comfort (for the taller gentleman).

It’s hard to describe such a long-awaited sigh of relief, but I swear my other half thought I’d suffered some sort of mishap. The tall tee fit great and came down long enough for comfort without looking like it was so bespoke as to be unfashionable.

It’s been a few weeks since my clothing issue that lasted the better part of three decades was finally solved. I wear tall tees now and I’m so much more myself. It’s not just comfort that they’ve brought to my daily life; I feel more like the person I wanted to grow into when I made my wish as a youth.

I always wanted to be tall, but what I really should’ve wished for when I was a youngster was to be tall with clothes that would fit me. After the longest time, my wish came true.

— Paul Seaton

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