Maybe we all want to be someone else. Or maybe it's just that we should. Halloween brings out a pale shadow of this longing. Boys take on the garb of someone heroic if they yearn to be heroes, or something frightening if they are afraid. Girls put on something lovely, even if they are going to be cowgirls or kittens. In sad cases, the older ones attempt to dress seductively, either egged on or ignored by their fools for parents. Halloween is a physical acting out of what most of us do every day, which is to put on what we long to be.
Once in a literature class, my professor asked us to rewrite the beginning of a fairy tale, telling it from the perspective of its monster. We had been reading Lolita, which is likewise the story of a monster, told from the monster's point of view. What struck me was that five of the six women in the class chose Cinderella, while none of the men did. The sixth woman chose Sleeping Beauty.
It made me wonder if this dream is deeply engrained in a girl, that someone will see beauty inside her and forsake all others for her and rescue her from a darkened world. I wondered, too, if we males, each of us having chosen stories in which a hero uses an ax to slay the monster, didn't in some hidden place desire to be rescuers.
What happens, do you think, to leave the world littered with boys who never became anyone's hero, and girls who never got rescued? When we grow older we put away our costumes, and so maybe with them we box up the dreams of becoming what our hearts once whispered we should be. Growing up means snickering at fairy tales, after all. Who needs heroes? Selfish self-sufficiency is the realist's calling. And besides, no modern woman wants to be rescued, Pal.
Tonight my sons will be an Army man, Batman, and Robin Hood. They still believe that boys ought to grow up brave, and that they ought to protect girls. Sometimes I wonder if they'll leave us too old-fashioned to be suitable for the modern woman.
Then I think about that literature class, and the rightful outrage of those modern women at Lolita's stolen childhood, and how their minds went to Cinderella. Maybe there's still room for boys to be heroes after all.