Saturday, October 26, 2013

Thin disguise

"I'm not anyone. I'm just myself; 
whatever I am, I am something."

-- Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles

Self portrait 10-26-13

"It's a thin disguise,
Living our lives behind a thin disguise.
One of these days if I got the time,
I'll show you what I'm like on the inside."

-- Lou Reed, "Thin Disguise"

I think my favorite trick or treaters are the ones who don't go all out on an elaborate, detailed, store bought, comercially-recognizable, Disney-fied, movie tie-in costume that their parents probably did all the work on.

I have a soft spot for the kid who has a big, wonderful imagination and a weird little homemade disguise.

It might not even be a costume really. It could be just a prop, or an object -- some minute bit of outer reality to suggest what's going on inside this kid's huge, wild, creative inner world. Maybe we can't see it, but this kid is immersed -- drenched -- in other-ness. He is swimming in a magical sea the likes of which few of us will ever be lucky enough to experience, because we don't allow ourselves to travel there. We're too grown up, or too classy, or too educated, or too stable, or too mature, or too whatever, to be brave enough to dive face-first into the weird place.

That kid probably doesn't just limit his elaborate imagining and pretending to Halloween, either. I'm willing to bet there is something magical going on inside that kid 365 days a year.

That's another reason why I love that kid.

When I was in fifth grade we had a costume parade for Halloween at school. My costume was a mask that I made by molding tin foil to my face. I trimmed the edges and cut out the eyes, then colored it aqua blue with a magic marker.  It looked cool. Funky. Different. Spacey. Weird.

It was my whole costume, and nobody else had one like it.

A million kids asked the stupid question "What are you supposed to be?"

They had this need to define what I was. To label it. To put it in a category they could understand. 

"That's it? That's your costume?"

"I don't get it."

I didn't care.

I didn't bother to explain. 

They weren't worth the effort.

I just hid behind my aqua blue metallic mask and paraded around the school parking lot with the rest of the sheep.

This Halloween, if a weird little kid in a so-so, homemade costume shows up at your door, don't ask "What are you supposed to be?" Even if the disguise is thin and you know right away who it is, or you simply don't "get it," ask something like "Who are you?" or "What's your name?" Don't let on that you can't tell. And be amazed, no matter what he tells you.

And give him an extra handful of candy.

And a special note to parents:

If it's your own kid who wants to head out the door in a weird, obtuse costume, by all means, let it be. Resist the urge to "help" unless you are specifically asked to. Don't go all controlling and supervisory and try to make it into something more "normal." 

Kids have the rest of their goddamn lives to be normal.