The Great Costume Caper

Saturday, 7 March 2009

It’s a superhero thing

When we left home for Beijing, my kids’ dress-up box consisted of a stash of second-hand op-shop finds from the bowels of some nanna’s knicker drawer. Polyester slips, armpit-length gloves and scratchy lawn bowling hats were just about it, along with a very tragic shop keeper’s outfit from the Two-Dollar Shop – an apron made from thin plastic that split the moment you cast eyes upon it.

Since coming to Beijing, this dress-up box looks a little bit different. There’s Disney princess gowns of velvet and chiffon with matching sequinned and befeathered head-dresses. There’s luxuriant, scarlet pirate capes trimmed in gold rickrack to complement satiny ruffled shirts and faux boots built into jolly-roger pants. There’s Narnia knights with injury-proofed foam swords, bedazzled mermaids, copyrighted dogs, pixies, race car drivers, catsuits, black-tulle witches, astronauts, ballerinas and more floaty fairies than you can poke a magic wand at. I even commissioned a full kangaroo and koala suit in honour of our home country.

Yes, this dress-up box is truly worthy of any Hollywood movie-set costume department, and I am happy to report its contents are one of the few things my kids consistently and gratefully indulge in.

I do, however, have a small worry. It’s five-year-old small and it consists of a red cape, a blue body suit and a large yellow “S” tattooed on the chest (with built-in muscles, thankyouverymuch). Yes, it’s Superman. My Son – Superman. My Every Day Every Night Wear to the Shops, Out to Dinner Son and Sleep, Son – Superman.

I know it’s meant to be “normal” – I know virtually every boy hits the superhero phase just as sure as he’ll hit the monsters-under-the-bed phase (isn’t that a sleep-sapper?). But can one small boy really surrender himself so totally and unyieldingly to the Superman phenomenon? When it started, we had every window in our high-storey apartment welded shut. We bought a mini trampoline. We forgave his kryptonite-esque aversion to any food that resembled a green bean. We forbade Ayi to wash The Suit lest it become unavailable for wear in the time it took to whip it off, leap into the bath in a single bound and dry oneself faster than a speeding bullet.

So The Suit is looking a little worse for wear. It’s pilling, lumpy and lopsided. It’s maybe even a little smelly. But that’s okay. It’s not the outside that counts, after all. And it’s great to know that despite this (hopefully temporary) obsession, inside that suit is a truly super little man.

First published on the City Weekend Beijing website.

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