I’m groggy. I’m sipping coffee at my dining room table and checking on things for work. It’s been a rough week of work reminiscent of the end of semester scramble in college. I am hoping for a cowing engagement this morning , but I’m wrestling with whether or not I should keep working. As I’m waffling and head to the cow suit closet, I feel the smile sweep across my face. My decision is made.
People always ask why do you dress up? Why the cow suit? The Bovine Beginnings entry explains how the cow suit came to be, but some subtle aspects of the cow suit joy came to me years into my routine. A conversation with a friend about Wonder Woman a while back explains it perfectly.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a column for our paper called the Power of Pioneers. July 24 is Lynda Carter’s (the actress who played Wonder Woman in the 1970’s show) birthday and it’s also Pioneer Day. That's a holiday in which Mormons in our area celebrate their forefathers' trek west to escape religious persecution.
When I began working on the column comparing Lynda and the Pioneers, I asked a former high school friend, who might like Wonder Woman and Lynda carter even more than I do, what the draw was for him. He also enjoys dressing up, but instead of cow print duds, he goes as Wonderman featured here. (Uh. Yeah. If I tried on his outfit, it would be clear why I stick with the large baggy flannel suit.)
Ryan pointed me to an article and interview with Lynda, and he had this to say:
I always thought it was just the spin, but it's what it represented. I was 5 years old, but knew I was "different", and I knew enough to be afraid to share that...to keep it secret. But I also knew I was fabulous in a way. Here's what sums it up for me: She [Lynda] believes the connection began during the original 1975-79 run of Wonder Woman, a strong character that resonated with gays because the superhero also had the secret identity of Diana Prince.
Lynda notes, 'I think the reason is the secret self. It really is about the secret self. You had to sort of hide in a way. It’s the transformation into acceptance into who you are. It’s about being strong and you’re not going to get bullied.'
So, at the time it was her strength, her costume, her beauty, the spin...but retrospect tells me it was that having the secret and getting to express myself would be the most WONDER-ful thing.
Ryan went on to say, “I took the path of junkie IV drug user and alcoholic for 13 years, so I was a liar about everything. Literally everything. So, 7 years sober, 7 years honest. Wonder Woman was a big part of my recovery after rehab. Took me back to who I was supposed to be!”
So that’s it, People. The cow suit takes me to a person I am supposed to be. Lighthearted. Carefree. Fun-loving. I don’t worry about people questioning or judging my short hair, my masculine build or my "lumberjack" gait. My mom chastised me for years about walking like a lumberjack and how I needed to walk like a lady. In the cow suit, the lumberjack stride is perfect.
In the suit, I invite you to judge me by my appearance. It’s slightly irreverent but disarming. It exudes an “I don’t care what people think.” If I represent that mantra enough, maybe I’ll actually succumb to it.
So many of us don’t feel comfortable in our own skin, and maybe not always, but at different times in our lives. Emergent wrinkles, a pudgy waist, a crooked smile, a crippling shyness, a shaky confidence… That’s the beauty of dressing up in a costume. You’re slipping into a skin completely within your control and you give yourself permission to step outside of yourself. Or right back into the self you’re supposed to be.
None of my selves will ever feel comfortable dressing up like Wonder Woman, but my calves are over the moon about these.