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Photo most likely taken by my mother.  I'm smiling but it's fake.

The above is a marriage of a few of my most hated things: that typeface, novelty hair bobbles, dumb photos taken on the laps of costumed characters, and that spaced-out rainbow jumpsuit.

Way back in grade school, my position in the social heirarchy was single-handedly doomed to failure due to the control my mother had over my wardrobe and style. While at age nine I was allowed to chose my clothing every morning, she still bought the clothes and styled my hair. Each morning's challenge consisted of carefully selecting the best of an extensive collection of style-less crap followed by a tortuous turn in Fern's personal living room pull-my-hair-so-damn-tight-it-lifted-my-eyes-a-good-half-inch-hair-salon. Some days this worked. Some days a good hour of easing the skin of my forehead down with my palms was all it took to pass for a minor social outcast. I had a revolving door of aquaintances and besides the odd "Gay-La. Get it? Gay. Gaylord.", I was mostly just the quiet kid (and reluctant leader of weirdos) with sort-of bad clothes.

But some days, and here's where it get's tricky, my mother would decide it was time I wore the really bad crap I had deliberately stuffed at the bottom of my bottom drawer. She had some kind of equal opportunity plan for my clothing. I begged and cried and screamed about the cruelty of children and the slow, growing tear in my already thin position in the social fabric of school life, but she was unrelenting.

The absolute worst of that really bad crap was the spaced-out rainbow jumpsuit. Dear god I hated that thing with all my might. It is possible that I hated it more than every single morning hair-ripping style session combined. It was truly hideous. It was a blue, one piece, synthetic mess with puffed-out cap sleeves, a high, mock neck, a long zipper down the front and angled rainbow trim. What's worse is that my mother consistently insisted on pairing it with a light pink large collared shirt, hideously printed with dark pink polka-dots and a man reading the newspaper design.

The mornings I left to school in this outfit were terror-filled. I was so horrified and ashamed. I was certain that any number of horrible stories of suffering and torture were better against the brutality I would surely endure as a result of the rainbow jumpsuit. I hoped there would be a reason to keep my jacket on in class that day. I hoped to be rendered invisible somewhere between the front door and the schoolyard.

One day in particular (around the same time the above photo was taken) stands out in my mind. I was in grade 4 but I was in a mixed class of grade 4 and 5 students. My school was a failed experiment in open concept layout and new-style class structure. On this occassion we were all sitting on the carpeted floor of the classroom engaged in some sort of group learning activity. At some point I lost track of the teacher and became aware of a conspiracy of whispering students surrounding me, all of whom were discussing, at length, the hideousness of my outfit. Now I was no idiot. I did not wake up that morning thinking "I know, today I'll be a superhero and wear that badass blue rainbow jumpsuit!" I knew I looked like shit. I knew that next to their era appropriate, suburban middle class attire I was a freak.

The whispers turned to pointing and jeering on the part of one particular girl, a fifth grader named Tracy Hindman (who later became a total stoner in high school) who just couldn't let it go. Eventually she decided that my outfit was such a horror to her eyes that she needed to teach me a lesson and threatened to beat me up after school. Now, at the time I was a fairly meek kid. The problems in my own home and the violence heard through the thinnish walls and open windows of my townhouse complex had rendered me shy, introverted and fearful of confrontation. This girl was bigger than me and she had that look in her eye that some kids get when they need to prove their position in the group. I was pretty nervous but my sense of injustice was far greater. I mean, if you've got a problem with my jumpsuit, take it up with my mother.

In short, after an entire afternoon sweating it out and agonizing over my fate, her mother unexpectedly showed up to drive her home and the fight was cancelled. I went home and she, nor any other student ever threatened me with violence again. Two years later I did get in the first and only physical fight of my life with Janet McCurry, a long time nemesis, but it wasn't over the jumpsuit that I had thankfully, long-since grown out of. That evening , following an hour of posturing, name calling, plenty of "What's your problems", and one punch, I went home to a victory meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken.


This entry is a part of A PhotoJunkie Christmas

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