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Monday, August 4, 2008


Have I ever told you that I was a University of Toronto dropout? I left after my first year, to, well, see about a girl. This girl. She has a nickname for me: "dumbass". Or "babe". Or other squishy terms that I won't load on you.

While I was at the University of Toronto not going to classes on political science, Shakespeare, European history, and music, I was also mostly not going to my philosophy class. I lived in the Innis residence, the newest one at the time, and I spent a lot of time just in the residence itself. It had great apartments, and I loved hanging out with my roommates and the roommates of my high school friend who joined me at U of T. We were a pack, and I was the baby 18 year old in a group of legal drinkers. Their nickname for me was "lightweight" and I spent a lot of time trying to get them to change that one.

And there were girls everywhere. And I was, uh, 18. And there were girls. Class wha??

I did go to class, occasionally. There was a pretty redhead in my philosophy class who also happened to live in the Innis residence. The building was small, and we were all mostly the same year (1st year, frosh, freshmen), so the readheaded girl and I ran into each other at the many social functions the college held. We had overlapping circles of friends. I went to the philosophy class more than any other. I'm not saying that this fact was related in any way to the pretty redhead. I like philosophy. That's why I went to class.

Where was I?

Oh, right. One night some of my friends were hanging out with the pretty redheaded girl. And I proved myself a total "busting-out-the-guitar-and-playing-stupid-songs" dork, and the pretty redheaded girl and her friends were listening all rapt because 19 year old girls eat that stuff up. Or, maybe they were laughing to each other. I don't remember. (I don't even remember busting out the guitar, but I'm pretty sure I did that on more than one occasion during that year at the University of Toronto, so it wouldn't surprise me at all to hear that this night was one such night.) And the girls started talking about the other Shawn. Somebody said something like "No, it was Gay Shawn, not TPS."

The other Shawn, who wasn't there that night (not that I recall), was, apparently, gay. I had never noticed, or noted, this about him. But for a second I thought that they meant me.

Did I come off as gay? The Man Spa notwithstanding I don't think I project much of a gay vibe. I have been hit on by gay men, while sitting next to my wife, who they were aware of: I mean total "here is my room key" hit on. But I don't think I come off as gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I soon realized that they didn't mean me. But they were differentiating "Shawns". If I wasn't "Gay Shawn" then I must be "TPS".

TPS. What the hell could that mean?

Totally Psycho Shawn?

Truly Phat Shawn?

Traumatized Pinky Shawn?

I pressed the giggling gaggle a little: "What the hell does "TPS" mean?"

They were so embarrassed about letting "TPS" slip out in front of TPS that it took me a little while to get the truth out of them.

"Well, uh, it's just a dumb nickname, okay? Just because there are two Shawns and we would just try to keep them separate in conversation..."

I was getting really nervous by this point. How bad was it?

"It's, well, it stands for TightPantsShawn."

Tight. Pants. Shawn.

In my defense, my pants were tight. In their defense, my pants were extraordinarily tight.

So: Reevaluate every look, glance, giggle, whatever from anyone in this group or anyone they know which is also everybody I know. Crap.

Tight Pants Shawn.

Well, you know what? It could have been worse. And they were genuinely mortified, so I don't think I gave them too much crap about it. And then I embraced the name.

My pants aren't nearly as tight anymore, but every now and then I'll slip into some snug jeans and Emily will announce that Tight Pants Shawn is on the loose. I am completely comfortable with that part of my past, and I'm actually kind of flattered that they even bothered taking the time to make up an entire acronym for me instead of just going with "Loser Dork Shawn" in full English.

The pretty redheaded girl? Well, guess what? She is still mortified by that nickname. I haven't seen her since I was 18 years old but I received a Facebook message one day a while ago asking if I was Tight Pants Shawn.

Facebook is funny like that.

Her name is Ange, she has a blog, and you should all totally go over there and give her either shit or mad props for mocking me when I was skinny and could fit into size 30 jeans. She writes a great Toronto-based blog about awesome music and movie topics (she hits the Toronto Film Festival, which I never had a chance to do so I live vicariously through her, and she wrote an entire post about how fantastic Wes Anderson is.)

She may have another nickname for me now.


Loralee Choate said...

So THAT'S why you are hankering after that skin-tight, hot pink, Hello Kitty Superhero suit.

It all makes perfect sense.

Chivalry was just a red herring.

Mama Ginger Tree said...

I love how nicknames take on a life of their own. That was a great post. Ah, the power of the internet.

When you first mentioned the pretty red-headed girl I thought you were going with a Charlie Brown theme. But I think Charlie wore loose fitting shorts.

motherbumper said...

Dude, you know I will have the hardest time forgetting this fact, right? It's going to take all of my strength not to be that a*sh*le that brings it up all the time, you know this right? Sorry dude.

Tracey said...

Ohhh!!! I am shaking over that one. It's either really funny or I am completely wired from waiting for our thunderstorms to die down...

Either way, thanks! I used to be Tight Pants Tracey, for what it's worth...

Kile said...

It could have been worse and is much better than most of the nicknames people had for me in college. At least it gave you cannon fodder (and apparently still does). What the hell ever happened to tight jeans anyway? On an unrelated note your blog seems to know who I am and that freaks me out.

stephanie (bad mom) said...

I would say that definitely qualifies as one of the more flattering nicknames a person could inspire.

I live in fear of ever overhearing what my students have come up with for me...

heather... said...

Tight pants. Heh. I am not surprised.

Anonymous said...

OMG I am STILL MORTIFIED about it!! But you came up with the great idea of having a bonfire in the courtyard and burning all your tight pants...and granted when we finally told you about us calling you tps you had moved out of the super tight pants faze...oh my god, I can't believe you wrote about your nickname, I've been so good at referring to you as TPS!

For the record 2 fav memories of you are 1. you busting out the guitar and singing the Boxer, which is now one of my all time fav songs, true story, and 2. you frantically having Tut knock on my door the morning of our philosophy exam because you thought I was going to sleep through it, even though I purposely set my alarm until the last possible moment and would have made it on time on my new nickname yet, but I'm working on it.

Mortified redheaded girl

Nancy said...

Good story and no matter when ... those girls will always bring up TPS when recalling college stories.

SciFi Dad said...

From here on out, any time I refer to you, it shall be Tight Pants Dad Who Goes To The Spa And Occasionally Wears A Backpack.

Either that, or Eva Longoria.

Your choice.

(Although seriously, I think Tight Pants Dad might get you more traffic.)

Christy said...

You could do a whole blog renaming event: "Tight Pants Shawn...formerly known as Backpacking Dad" Just think of all the hits you'll get from google!

Ali said...

tight pants shawn.

i will now no longer we able to think of anything else...thanks ;)

Middle Aged woman said...

I went to Michigan State for a while. And when I say 'went' I mean I lived there, I didn't much go to classes there, so you know.

Could be worse, dude. They could have called you Camel Toe Shawn.

Miss Britt said...

You must change the name of this blog. Backpacking Dad doesn't hold a candle to the awesomeness that is Tight Pants Shawn. LOL

Assertagirl said...

Or you could have been called "Assface" like this one dude on my floor at UWO my last year there.

I had time this morning to read one more blog post and I'm so glad I chose this one!

TPS hahahhaha

Aunt Becky said...

Could have been worse, right? Could have been Tight ASS Pants Shawn. Or add something about balls in there.

Overflowing Brain said...

I'm pretty sure you just found your next blog name. I mean, once your kid(s) get too big to carry around on your back.

Love. it.

for a different kind of girl said...

I pray to God I never open up my email and find a friend request from some college ne'er do well asking if it is I, Blow Up Doll. Gah. I shudder just typing that, and absolutely stand by the fact that I got that nickname NOT becaues I was that kinda girl, but because I apparently walked around with a perpetually confused look on my face. And maybe my arms stuck straight out at my sides. I don't know. I'm an innocent.

anymommy said...

The power of the internet to bring people back together. I agree with Overflowing - I think tightpantsdad has a catchy ring.

Don Mills Diva said...

It's the weirdist thing.

I have been calling you Tight Pants Shawn in my head for months now.


kittenpie said...

Another nickname... perhaps BPS?

greg said...

gay men are always hitting on me.

i asked one gay man why all the others queers were always hitting on me and he pointed to my assless chaps and said, "could be the pants yer wearing."

crazymumma said...

oh. so. I am sort of slow obviously, but you are a Toronto boy?

Amazing the amount of potential dating in those school days. astounding I say.

(^oo^) bad girl (^oo^) said...

Very fine......

trademarkmama said...

I like to think of you as Tight Pants MINE

Loralee Choate said...


You don't, by chance, have an African American sidekick named "Ovaltine Jenkins" do you?

(Name that show.)

sassymonkey said...

Don't you know that when you are going to be 18 entering uni you're supposed to go to Quebec where you can go to bars at 18 and buy beer at deps? tsk tsk ;-)

Tight Pants Shawn...not a bad college nickname. Way better that Creepy Guy which is what we called one of the guys that tried to hang out with us.

Kristen said...

That's funny...I thought it was going to have something to do with toilet paper, because we refer to it as "tp" and we seem to have some "TPS"s in the house (toilet paper stealers)

Tight pants Shawn. Tee-hee!

so are you running again yet, or what???

Badass Geek said...

Did you remember to put the cover letter on your TPS report? Or did you not get that memo?

AEA said...

In high school I was called Putzy for a while. I thought that was a pretty cool nickname until I learned that it is the Yiddish word for "dick", as in "penis".

VDog said...

From TPS to BPD. Makes sense.

Makes my nickname of VDog look much better than I had thought back then. lol

Julie Pippert said...

I was all "lightweight?" I clicke dover for "lightweight" oh bah. I can think of nicknames for boys from 3rd grade better than that!

But Tight Pants Shawn! BWAHAHAHA

Oh and I see someone else caught the Charlie Brown theme.

Oh you are so totally TPS or CBS to me now.

And if you want to know my youthful nicknames---there were two---you will have to archive dive my blog. I will not make it easy for you but I'll give a hint: one was from an ex in a song, and one was from high school. I think you can assume the tenor of the names from that.

My current-from-youth nickname is easy to find since my sister who also blogs and I call each other the names publicly.

Jerri Ann said...

gotta love thinking about the "good ol' days" eh....I don't know but some of the ones I have from college are better left behind, ewww1

Redneck Mommy said...

That's why you wore those tight pants at BlogHer.

You were in your comfort zone.

It's all becoming clear to me now....

Country Mouse City Mouse Indy said...

"That crazy hippie that passes out in bathtubs at parties" got a little long, so they just called me Erin.
Thank you. You make me (and my husband) laugh. A Lot!

La Petite Belle said...

hey! I just cyber-ran-across your blog. Love it!

Backpacking Dad said...

loralee: just like communism.

mama ginger tree: I almost took it that way a couple of times, but I didn't have the juice.

motherbumper: you are forgiven in advance.

tracey: I get that wired sometimes.

kile: I think I burned them.

stephanie: I guess it's flattering :}

heather: :p

ange: ha! I remember rushing down to wake you up! I think I actually passed that exam despite all my efforts. Funny to think I could ace it in my sleep now, so many years later.

nancy: apparently they still do :}

scifi dad: I may have to start a new blog.

christy: I kind of like the readers I have now. I'd hate to see who would crawl out of the woodwork for that one :}

ali: yer welcome.

middle age mom: thank god for small favours.

miss britt: it would be too much pressure. I'd have to go out and actually buy more tight pants again.

assertagirl: assface? that's just cruel :}

aunt becky: definitely.

overflowing brain: she'll never be too big.

FADKOG: Blow Up Doll? We totally need to team up and fight crime.

anymommy: yeah, the internet is a scary place :}

Don Mills Diva: my reputation preceded me :}

kittenpie: maybe I can live with that.

greg: gets em every time

crazymumma: Ontario boy, only in Toronto for that year.

trademarkmama: but TPM doesn't have the same ring to it.

loralee: I don't watch Psych

sassymonkey: yes, I'll take TPS over "creepyguy" any day :}

kristen: nope. I'm lazy.

badass geek: yeah, and now imagine seeing that movie over and over and over again recalling the nickname every single time :}

aea: makes sense

vdog: I think VDOG is an awesome nickname.

julie pippert: I have an assignment for the weekend, apparently.

jeri ann: I'm sure there are others I'm just glad to be ignorant of

redneck mommy: bah, you didn't see anything at blogher. the pants I used to wear.....

country mouse city mouse indy: thank you.

la petite belle: that's awesome, thank you.

My_Dog_Is_Better said...

I can't stop laughing about Blow Up Doll. I just laughed for ten minutes and my dog woke up.