By Jonathan.Janz On Oct 24 2012, 10:12 pm
We all do stupid things when we’re younger. Okay, we do them when we’re older too, but they happen with greater frequency when we’re younger. And for me, these events happened with alarming regularity.
When I changed towns and school districts in the summer before seventh grade, it was
agony challenging. In fact, it wasn’t until early October that I made a friend at my new school. Uncoincidentally, he too was a new kid, which meant we were both outcasts who were generally shunned with the superstitious dread ordinarily reserved for typhoid carriers. But Kris and I had each other, which was better than nothing, and when I got invited by a friend from my old school to attend a Halloween party, Kris agreed to go along.
Typhoid Mary, whose social calendar was fuller than mine
Now is when I share one of the most embarrassing revelations of my life:
I used to watch WWF wrestling.
Yep, Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior and Macho Man Randy Savage. And if you guessed that I actually pretended to be these gibbering lunatics, regularly putting my friends in full nelsons and leaping off their couches as though vaulting off the top rope, you’d be right. I knew it was fake, I knew it was stupid, and I knew it was even dorkier than slathering Brylcreem in my hair and pretending I was Pony Boy Curtis from The Outsiders (a behavior I’d outgrown a few months earlier), but I loved it all anyway. And no wrestler was cooler to my twelve-year-old brain than Jake the Snake Roberts.
So when I got the invitation to the Halloween party, I immediately knew I had to dress up like Jake the Snake. My old friends would be deeply impressed, I reasoned, with my costume and my new friend Kris. I’d be a celebrity! My old friends would beg me to return to their school. More importantly, the girls who weren’t aware of my existence prior to the move would flutter at my manly physique, my brand-new bad boy image, and the sleek ferocity of the snake on my tights (Get your minds out of the gutter!).
The problem was, I had no snake, and I had no tights. You can see the tights in question below, by the way—red satin with a black snake slithering around Jake’s leg.
The Infamous Red Tights
That was the outfit I wanted to wear. Had to wear. But since I didn’t have tights, and my poor, patient mother couldn’t find them despite scouring the neighboring towns, I realized I had to compromise. So when my mom gamely volunteered to make me the costume, I breathed a sigh of relief. We didn’t have red sweat pants, she explained, so she would use my black ones. The snake, she informed me, would be made of some red fabric she had lying around, but she assured me it would look very sinister.
But when she entered my room a week later with the costume, I had a tough time concealing my disappointment. She had worked hard—she was a wonderful single mom, and she always did the work of two parents—and though I smiled and hugged her and assured her it was perfect, there was no escaping the truth: it looked like what it was—a ragged strip of faded red fabric affixed to an old pair of sweat pants with safety pins.
But I wasn’t yet defeated. I shared my dilemma with Kris, who immediately brainstormed ways to compensate for the lameness of my costume. Painting my face pitch black, he argued, and likewise blackening my blond hair would add just the touch of coolness I needed. Further, he would wear his Jason Voorhees mask and his dad’s coat. Of course, he looked less like a masked murderer and more like a shrunken scarecrow playing goalie for a youth hockey team, but at the time I thought he looked awesome.
Kris and his hockey mask
The most important element of the night, however, would be making the proper entrance. Since the house where the party was to take place was on the edge of the forest, we decided to lurk in the woods and menace the partygoers from afar. However, when we stationed ourselves there we soon realized that the kids at the party couldn’t see us since the party was on the other side of a garage. We crept closer and closer, hoping one of them would glimpse our fearsome forms, but alas, the garage remained an impenetrable barrier between us and the terror that surely awaited the party guests. After an hour or so of shivering in the woods—yes, like the real Jake the Snake I had gone shirtless, despite my emaciated frame—we figured we might as well go get some cake. At least, we reasoned, we’d be able to savor the stunned looks on the gathered faces when we appeared; there might even be a smattering of startled shrieks.
We trudged through the yard, giggling with excitement. We paused at the corner of the garage and whispered to each other in order to perfectly synchronize our grand reveal.
We lunged forward into the light.
And discovered it wasn’t a costume party.
So there stood Kris and I in our ridiculous outfits, two twelve-year-olds who’d dreamed of glory and ended up being the comic relief. Actually, comic relief isn’t quite the right phrase. No one was laughing because no one, least of all us, had any idea how to muddle through the awkward silence that descended on the gawking crowd. The friends I’d longed to impress kept casting sidelong glances at me, not quite sure whether to make conversation or make fun of me. The girls I was so sure would fall swooning at my feet looked at me like I had something dangling from my nose, and for all I knew I did—how could I tell with so much black paint caked on my face? It would take over a week to wash off entirely, incidentally, which meant I spent those days looking like a prepubescent Groucho Marx with dirty hair.
My seventh grade school picture
I’d like to say I learned something from that mortifying October night, but the truth is, I only learned that you have to be a professional wrestler to get access to cool tights. Oh, and I learned that Kris was a really good friend. For some reason, he still hung out with me after the Halloween debacle.
He just never let me put him in a full nelson again.