Man is most nearly himself
when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.
Heraclitus, Greek philosopher
I still play dress up.
I’m like a weird, closet introvert. Need a presentation or impromptu speech given? No problem, I’m your man. Need a table manned at an expo? Awesome, I could talk to strangers all day long. I love that sort of stuff.
But walk into a lunch of 50 local bloggers, like myself? I can’t find the food fast enough. At least then I look busy. Also, my mouth is full. I’ll totally find you and talk to you later.
Attend my best friend’s wedding? As frightening as being left behind on the moon.
Over the years I’ve developed a coping mechanism: I go in costume.
I’m not talking Halloween (although that’s my favorite day of the year). But I’ll dress in ways that are flamboyant, brave, freewheelin’ in ways that I am not. The more harrowing the situation, the more outrageous the outfit, until I am quite convinced that people are considering the outfit, not me. And suddenly, I am free to be the person I am. That I could be.
Does that make any sense?
To some extent, I think all women do this (I can’t speak for men). We apply a powderpuff of courage to our faces, cut our hair into styles of self-confidence. Nothing prepares me for taking on the world like a pair of smurf-kicking boots or a three-inch stiletto. I feel much better at an intimate wedding reception while channeling my inner Audrey.
As children, we pulled costumes from our toy chests and imagined who we might one day be. As adults, we wear costumes to find the best parts of ourselves.
As my third child grew older, I grew weary of all the stuff she got, for birthdays, holidays, just because. Kids, frankly, don’t need much, and having too much is overwhelming. I was done with the plastic, the six C batteries, the talking walking stuff, the sets with a billion pieces that become obsolete when one piece gets accidentally hoover’d up or eaten by the dog.
So in lieu of stuff, I asked friends and family to donate to the costume basket. We have costume jewelry, castoff shoes, aprons, stethoscopes, hats of all kinds, tons of purses, belts, glasses, ribbons, scarves. I try to keep it open-ended: a princess dress can be a lion princess or an astronaut princess with the right accessories, but Cinderella is pretty much just Cinderella.
It’s a plaything that cost nothing, really, just hand-me-downs, but it’s outfitted many a Mad Tea Party, and in recent months I’ve seen Cass emerge a doctor, a farmer, a coach, a princess.
It’s the best toy a kid can have, especially when combined with a shelf full of stories and a playroom full of The Great Outdoors.
She dresses up and she can be anything, do anything.
I hope she never outgrows that.
This post was inspired by the children’s book The Costume Trunk by Bob Fuller, a beautifully illustrated picture book that celebrates the power of young imaginations. The costume trunk is a passageway to the enchanting land of Paddywhack Lane, where you can be anything you want to be, as long as you believe. As a member of From Left to Write book club, I received a complimentary copy.
See Cassie’s review of the book here.
Read how other bloggers were inspired by this book at From Left to Write.