Posted by Jenn Thorson at 7:30 AM Labels: being a superhero, dress up, embarrasing mom, playing pretend, wonder woman
When I was a kid, I pretty much wanted to be anyone but me. I still do some days, only now it's somewhat less socially-acceptable for me to tell people my name is, say, Daisy Duke.
It was my poor mother who had to deal with the aftermath of my enthusiastic imagination. And looking back, I can see now why I might have owed mom an apology... or five.
Ladies in the local mall would see ol' mom and I out for the afternoon, lean down to knee-level and query: "And what's your name, little girl?"
"Mary Ellen," I'd reply promptly. Or "Erin," or "Elizabeth," or even-- on one occasion, I'm told-- "John Boy" would escape my lips.
I wasn't particular. As long as you lived on Walton's Mountain, you were in the rotation.
"Oh, Mary Ellen! Such a pretty name!" the nice lady, aka, total dupe would coo.
"Her name's not Mary Ellen," my mother would clarify, looking like she wished the mall's tile floor would just swallow her up now...
Anywhere far away from the humiliation of small people who had more creativity than front teeth.
"We need to watch fewer Waltons."
Of course, the Waltons were just one group in my vast repertoire. I also spent a lot of time being Nancy Drew, the aforementioned Miss Duke, and my perennial favorite-- Wonder Woman.
And Wonder Woman was especially great because that involved two key wardrobe sets-- the second of which became a big reason for apology.
One was my official Wonder Woman swimsuit, printed in stars, a strategically-placed eagle and the words "Wonder Woman" at the waist-- the latter of which I was sure the Amazon princess herself would consider total overkill, as I did.
This dazzler in man-made fibers was complemented by my Wonder Woman accessory kit, complete with plastic tiara, utility belt, bracelets and Magic Lasso (read: a length of yellow string). I'd saved my fifty cents a week allowance from chores to get this for myself, at a piggy-bank-breaking $6.
It was worth every penny.
Sure, the bulletproof bracelets cracked about a month into it-- proving that even on Paradise Island, the manufacturing can be shoddy. These were replaced by two gold-plated slave bracelets I bought from an elderly lady at a garage sale at a quarter a piece.
At six, sometimes you had to improvise.
And improvise I did. The second Wonder Woman ensemble-- and the day of its official unveiling-- became one my mother was not soon to forget.
Let me start by saying, for any of you who didn't watch the Wonder Woman TV series in the late 70s, sometimes the character would go home to her Amazonian birthplace-- Paradise Island-- and visit her folks.
The fashions there leaned toward early Greek couture, filmy toga-esque creations in whites and pastels.
But to my six-year-old mind, they were not entirely unlike... say... a one-piece slip with a push-up bra built into it.
As luck would have it, I had one of these! It had been my mother's and its function as a garment, I learned later, was to go under the dress-up dresses I'd been allowed to play with.
Yet it was inconceivable to me that something so silky, so lacy, so... automatically built-in with boobs... would have to be hidden under a lot of stupid clothes.
And darn, if it didn't look so right with my utility belt, bracelets, tiara and two small ends of Leggs egg-shaped pantyhose containers put into the boob holders!
Now, I'd worn my Paradise Island outfit in my room many a day, when I'd needed some motherly advice from the Queen of the Amazons... Or, y'know, just to get a little vacation from my secret-identity in the military.
I had not, apparently, showcased it to the world.
So when my mother had a couple of friends over with children my age-- why, as soon as we began playing superheroes, I knew the Paradise Island costume's day had finally come!
I recall rushing upstairs to put it on... To secure that utility belt... To get that tiara tilted just right. I cracked open the Leggs Pantyhose egg containers and tucked those in, too-- instant boob job!
A quick glance in the mirror showed the regalest princess-superhero North Central Jersey had seen in a while.
I ran back down the stairs into the basement rec room, where everyone was congregated, and I expected all the super-heroic action to be met with cheers...
Wonder Woman had arrived!
Instead, a shriek emanated from my mother, echoing off the wood paneled walls like the final cry of a dying Canada goose.
"GAAAAH! What are you doing?!"
"I-I'm-I'm Wonder Woman!" I stammered, thinking this was abundantly obvious. I indicated the tiara. I pointed out the utility belt as evidence.
"You go back upstairs right now and put your clothes on!" Mom's face was a deep brown-red tomato color, like a sauce that had been simmering on a too-high burner.
The faces of mom's friends were pale and blank.
It was some time before I came to realize what I had done wrong...
To me, yes, I had shared the greatest, most perfect costume improv in the history of superhero dress up.
To mom, I had just showcased her skivvies to half the neighborhood.
Of course, saving the world from super-villians has its price. But a savvy six-year-old superhero realizes that that bit of philosophy is probably one best kept to herself.
Did you have a favorite character you wanted to be when you were a kid? And did you... accesorize?