Unhappy Clown

I came across this photograph in a collection that my 93-year-old grandfather recently dusted off for us. In this 1968 image I have been dressed up for Halloween, and it is clear that I was unhappy about the choice of costume.

Or unhappy about something.

I was a rather difficult child for my parents to raise, as my interests were quirky. I loved collecting rocks and conducting quasi-scientific experiments, activities for which I found few fellow participants in the blue collar Detroit neighborhoods in which I grew up. I suspect that this particular Halloween I wanted to get dressed up as an astronaut or something equally geeky, and that the costume my mom lovingly designed was utterly deplorable to me.

I think I was well into my teen years before I started learning the value of interpersonal relationships, as well as the need to make at least something of an effort to fit in. Some folks go through their early years being outcasts on the basis of social rejection, but for the first 12 or 13 years of my life I had little use for other people, and I almost willingly chose isolation over engaging in activities that did not appeal to me.

This was less of a built-in rebelliousness and more of a stubborn willfulness to follow my internal agendas. I still have some of this streak, but I think I am better at going along with the group in social settings than I used to be, and my wife knows how to subtly encourage me toward social interaction whenever I gravitate toward my metaphorical island of isolation.

But I'll be damned if I will ever wear a clown costume again. Sorry, Ma.