Its this photo of the two of us in my parent's bathroom. I was in third grade and I got invited to a Halloween party at this popular girl's house. I remember it clear as day. I wanted to do something to make an impression. I, being a kid who had creative and fun family members, had a sort-of unusual understanding of what was and was not funny... or cool for that matter.
My Aunt Elena had decided to dress as a man the year before for Halloween. She made me laugh so hard I peed my pants with her man voice and mannerisms. I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread and, being a bit of a character myself, I thought this would be JUST the thing to show these other kids that I was a keeper.
Obviously, I had no idea what other kids thought was funny. I just knew my aunt was HILARIOUS and thought I could probably nail it. I even stole her man name, Leonard. ( Her name is Elena)
My Dad is an artist and has an affinity for the strange so, I asked him for help with my man costume. This is how he describes it today:
" THIS was one of the earliest times I did a double-take with one of your ideas.
Not in the way you might think, but because it connected to a core creative belief of mine: Expressing yourself creatively is the highest form of courage.
This Kid asks me to help with her 'Man Costume' idea. I knew all the little Princesses an Pirates would have a field day with it. The two of us together made sure she was so real that it would scare the PIXIE DUST out of them.....
After all, it's a Halloween Party - RIGHT?
One of the best."
I looked like a tiny man ( I mean, look at the photo above. Its uncanny!) My mom went with me to a thrift shop or something to look for a suit that would fit my 8 7 year old frame, and pinned a carnation to my lapel just to be fancy. My Dad knocked it out of the park, giving me a little 5 o'clock shadow action and some big, thick brows. If you ask me, my parents were pretty punk rock. They weren't so much afraid of my reputation getting damaged as much as they were believers in... Me.
I remember being so proud of myself. I walked into that party AS Leonard. They said " Oh! Carly's here! As a... man?". I swiftly corrected them, " No, I'm Leonard. Pleasure to meet ya", and stuck out my hand in a very Robert Goulet meets cheesy CEO type manner. I had one eyebrow raised and made sure to do these things:
Needless to say, the kids were confused at best. I think I got a few laughs with my swarthy man impressions and my diligence to character. I was the Daniel Day Lewis of that friggin party, man. I did NOT budge from being Leonard the whole time. Full submersion. *sigh
My Dad didn't give a care about the fact that those kids would think I was a class A weirdo. He supported my idea. It was odd, indeed, but I'm actually really glad he didn't freak out and try to convince me to be something else just because the other kids might like that more.
He thought my idea was funny, too. So he dove in with me. Both my parents did.
I think if I ever have children, this kind of courage and support will be hard for me to give. I think it takes a real sense of trust that, though this could end up kind of unpopular now, this kid is creative and funny and she's gonna be alright. It takes balls to be the parents that dress their daughter up as MAN for a Halloween party at such a young age.
I don't fully know what the right thing is. I'm not a parent. Over time I ended up having the ability to celebrate my weirdness but, some other kid might not celebrate that quite as much. These kids weren't mean about it but, other kids might be. Yeah, my Dad sat me down more than a few times in my life to try and explain to me that the other kids didn't get it but, the other kids were unoriginal and boring, and their opinions didn't matter so much in the long run.
Despite the risk, I know that I hope if I ever have kids... or even in my relationships now... If its a friend or my husband... I hope that I can love with a fearlessness that doesn't panic when I see people I love about to make potentially unpopular decisions, or try something different, or pitch a crazy idea. I hope I'm actually listening to their ideas instead of thinking about the other kids at the party.
I was just a kid. Kids have crazy ideas and they aren't always perfect... But those ideas are usually innocent treasures. I think its OK to help balance out things with a dose of reality sometimes if it could really hurt them or others but, its a good thing to be unafraid of their kooky ideas when they're young.
I think back to times where my parents allowed me to be the strange kid and I am amazed that I was loved like that. I wasn't shushed or told that I needed to work on fitting in. That's a temptation I'm sure they faced... and in the face of that temptation they high-fived me and let me figure it out, with full knowledge that they didn't think I was weird. They were fans. Whether it was the decision to pursue art out of high school, the decision to drop out of college to pursue music, my decision to be a Christian, or crazy ideas like dressing up as man in the 3rd grade, I'm grateful for a love that never treated my choices as ridiculous. I recognize that as rare.
So, cheers to my Dad on his birthday. I'm thankful on days like today that I was raised by people who celebrated silliness, because they're both pretty silly too.
Until Next Time,
Carly Calmes the First