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Orange pants

Brandon Keelean | Wednesday, September 7, 2011

As I sat waiting for my theology class to begin Monday I heard whispers coming from behind me. I got nervous. Suddenly I felt like my sixth grade self. I was again 11 years old with sweaty palms and chills running down my arm.

I wasn’t sure what the two girls behind me where talking about, but I had a feeling they were talking about me. Each inaudible sentence seemed to begin with Brandon. It’s hard to describe and makes no sense, but it seemed so logical in that moment.

Perhaps what I was feeling is something I can blame on my generation. We are known as the “me generation” after all, and that’s exactly what I was thinking — me, me, me. Why wouldn’t two perfect strangers want to talk about me?

More likely the feeling has something to do with my childhood. For an awkward year or two in middle school I wore orange pants of varying shades almost every day of the week. I refused to wear T-shirts with writing on them, and I put about three tablespoons of gel in my hair each morning to make sure every point was perfect. I wanted to be noticed and it worked, though not in the way I was hoping. Maybe I never quite got over making myself the center of attention, legitimate or not.

Whatever the source of the feeling was, it was there again. I, a 20-year-old man, was sitting in a desk that was way too small for my 6-foot-5-inch frame, worrying frantically about what these two girls could be talking about.

I then proceeded to surreptitiously check everything I could think of. I pretended to wipe my brow on my sleeve while checking to see if I had remembered to put deodorant on that morning. I faked a yawned and stretched so that I could see if my tag was hanging out of my shirt, and as I extended my arms fully, I put my fingers through my hair to check if there was any residual bed-head from the night before. I then pulled out my wallet, moving slowly to ensure no new holes had appeared in my cargo shorts. And I faked a cough to make sure my breath didn’t smell.

Thirty seconds had now passed and I decided it was worth it to see if I even knew the people behind me. Worried about what would happen if I turned around without a reason, I twisted in my seat as if I were cracking my back. As my spine twisted, two complete strangers came into view.

Forty-five seconds had passed at this point and my rational brain finally kicked in. I reasoned out the probability they were talking about me to be one-in-a-gazillion. I realized that, if they were like most Notre Dame students, they were probably talking about football. I began to ease into my chair to prepare for a lecture about love and justice in the Catholic Church.

Looking back on those brief moments I find it ridiculous that I was even worried about the opinions of two random people. I should be an adult who is not afraid of what others think of me. But it seems that I never completely grew up.

Thankfully all I have left is a little childish insecurity, because I don’t think Notre Dame is ready to see me in orange pants.

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Brandon Keelean at bkeelean@nd.edu