19 October 2012

The First Avenger

“Who’s strong and brave, here to save the American Way?
Who vows to fight like a man for what’s right night and day?
Who will campaign door-to-door for America,
Carry the flag shore to shore for America,
From Hoboken to Spokane,
The Star Spangled Man with a--”

Wait a second, who’s that guy?

(Or, the Doozer comes to the crushing realization that is he not the only kid planning to dress up as Captain Steve Rogers this Halloween. Oddly, the 900 versions of said costume found on the rack at Target didn’t trigger any alarm bells whatsoever.)

For weeks, months (years, it seems like) we’ve been trying to get the Doozer to commit to a Halloween costume. He seemed overwhelmed by all the options. His now yearly tradition of endlessly poring over the Halloween catalogues continued apace. Whenever we asked him what he wanted his costume to be, he’d tell us some kind of superhero (no specific one), an Angry Bird, or a character from Cars. The latter two options never remotely taken under consideration by us, we kept asking him about the superheroes. Eventually, he decided he would go as Falcon or as The Thing. Since the big comic book/superhero movies of the year were The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man, I was pretty certain he wasn’t going to find either of these.

And further, I’m not sure there’s ever even been a Falcon Halloween costume, due to the character being so incredibly obscure (the Doozer discovered him on a cartoon we mistakenly let him view online, Super Hero Squad, which features kid-friendly versions of Marvel characters; it’s like Muppet Babies, only far more violent). I had never heard of him before either. And I’m not sure kids are clamoring at the bit to dress as a big orange version of the Commish for Halloween, either.

But I digress.

Eventually, it came down to one of the Avengers. He has stopped calling them the Vendors, the word Avengers having finally been wrangled to the ground and mastered by his still-developing linguistic skills.

We had a deadline. And not October 31. We were attending an event at the Detroit Zoo, the annual Zoo Boo, on October 14. So he needed to make a decision and stick with it. And not to get off on a tangent (or reveal the stooped-shouldered, cursing-the-world old man persona that exists beneath my fresh-faced façade), but when did Halloween become a monthlong event, full of mini-Halloweens leading up to October 31? I’m pretty sure when I was a kid, there was just one day of this stuff. You wore the costume to school, you went trick-or-treating that night. That’s the end of it. Now it’s pre-events and everything else.

And when did costumes get so cheap and crummy-looking? And even though they are cheap-looking, they are not necessarily cheap. Quite the opposite. And I’m sure they’re constructed of questionable material which we will discover years later was actually quite toxic, prolonged exposure to which could have serious health (and mortality) ramifications for the wearer.

Where was I? I went blind with rage at the shoddiness of consumer culture for a second.

Oh, right. Zoo Boo. So we went to this pre-pre-pre-Halloween event. Which is basically trick-or-treating through the zoo, so more candy and more junk, yay! And the Doozer was super-excited about his Captain America get-up. He had previously been gifted a shield and a mask by his uncle, which became part of the costume. He was particularly excited about the fake muscles sewn into the chest and arms, as well as the very specific and character-appropriate Captain America gloves we’d picked out for him. That I’d picked out for him. I was always a stickler for details when it came to Halloween costumes, always dedicated to absolute authenticity. Which is why the weird, lycra-ish costumes with the painted-on “boots” bother me so much. And why I called countless pop-up Halloween shops trying to find more elaborate red boot covers that would enhance the overall image. But failed.

So we start off on the half-mile walk through the zoo (Look, camels! Pumpkins painted pink like flamingos!) and after a few stops at treat stations for the kid to fill his Avengers tote bag with goodies, a kid slightly bigger, slightly older than the Doozer, appeared at his side, dressed identically, as the Cap, grinning from ear to ear, amused by another kid in the same outfit.

“Hey, Captain America!”

The Doozer did not respond. His expression went stone-faced. Seriously, death ray eyes. It was as if in that moment the Cap transformed into Cyclops and wanted this kid erased from the planet with one quick glance and laser-beam projection.

He was so frustrated. Disappointed. Angry. But it seemed to pass. We kept on walking.

On the way home, he said, “We should have got another costume. Like Thor. Or Hulk.” We tried explaining that just because we didn’t see somebody dressed as them didn’t mean they’re not out there. He might see them at school. Or, you know, on regular Halloween.

But here we were thinking he wanted to be like everybody else by picking out an Avengers costume, and really he still wanted it to be his own thing. In his own version of the world, he's thinking he’s the only one who had this idea. Sweet, really. Naïve. But sweet.

So there’s hope yet. Yes, he chose the garb that screamed I am an automaton, a product of a homogenized corporate/consumer culture (and he’d rejected more handmade-looking outfits of a pirate and a knight and my repeated entreaties for the four of us to go as the Beatles with mop-top wigs and suits with skinny ties—would’ve been brilliant), but he thought he was being unique. He is definitely his own man. His own Doozer. He has embraced being a non-conformist. And to let his little freak flag fly.

Even if he does love what everyone else loves. He is, after all, just a 4-year-old boy. It happens. I guess.

And even though on Halloween night, he might walk around looking like countless other kids, I’ll know that behind the plastic mask and underneath the fake muscles, there will be my little man, who wants so very much to be his own man. And I will smile.

But next year, we’re totally doing that Beatles thing. I don’t care what he says about it.

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