Closer to the Rainbow: My Childhood Idols

by: Addison Bell

It’s hard to remember things from when we were little, but one thing that we cannot forget is whom we idolized. Our childhood heroes are important — because they play a role in our development. Barney sparked in us a love for people and hugs. Barbie helped us to become familiar with the human figure, and she taught us how to take other people’s clothes off (I could take Ken’s clothes off in a matter of seconds). Burt and Ernie told us that it is perfectly okay for two men to live with each other (I didn’t care for them; I was more of a Cookie Monster type of boy). Helga from “Hey, Arnold” showed us that it is totally fine to obsess over a crush, and she even encouraged us to make a shrine of that person (you should have seen my closet).

Yes, our idols teach us many of life’s lessons. Lessons that we remember for the rest of our lives. I am who I am today because of a lot of people, including my heroes. For a long time, I was embarrassed of them, mostly because they were not the idols other boys had. I was a weird kid, sure, but I know I would not have had the same childhood if I had not had these figures in my life.

5. The Pink Power Ranger

My first idol. It started before I was even in Kindergarten. Maybe I didn’t idolize Kimberly, maybe I just idolized the color pink. Pink became my obsession. Everything that I owned was pink. Pink underwear, pink school supplies, pink everything. My favorite drink was cream soda, even though I thought it tasted nasty.

In Kindergarten, I dressed up as the Pink Power Ranger for Halloween. One of the many reasons as to why I love my mom is because she let me do it. I felt like a fucking superhero that night. All of the boys were dressed up as the Red and Green power rangers. A few of them looked at with confusion, but I didn’t care. I strutted my shit to every door when I went trick-or-treating. That night, I felt invincible. Unfortunately, for years I was ridiculed for my costume choice.

In later years, pink made a comeback. It became a masculine color. All of the heterosexual boys were wearing it, even though I didn’t think they pulled it off. When it happened, I realized that I was a trendsetter. That’s right. From the early age of 4, I was way ahead of the game.

4. Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman

When I was growing up, all five of brothers were obsessed with superheroes, mostly Batman. We had the action figures and played with them all of the time. Over time, my three older brothers developed a love for professional wrestling (Austin 3:16, bitches), but my two younger brothers maintained their love for the Dark Knight.

Sure, Batman was cool and everything, but guys were lame. Girls were cooler, mostly because they got to wear better clothes. We started watching the Batman films. My favorite quickly became Batman Returns, just because of Catwoman (I marveled at Selina Kyle’s pink apartment). To me, Catwoman was (and still is) as equally badass as Batman, but she was better because she was a she. (Plus, her costume was fierce.)

Because of Catwoman, I bought a whip. Who does that? Me, of course. I would stand in my backyard and whip things, especially plants because they were the only things I could break. I would love to go back in time and talk to my neighbors. That would be interesting.

I love my brothers because when we played Batman, they let me be Catwoman. We would get all our action figures out, all of the Batmobiles, the Bat Cave, etc. Then I would get into character. I had all of Michelle Pfieffer’s lines memorized. Basically, if they ever do a Broadway adaptation of Batman Returns, I could easily play the role of Catwoman. I even know how to use a whip.

3. Judy Garland

I always thought of her as Dorothy. When she sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in The Wizard of Oz, rainbows became my favorite thing (funny how that worked out).  She had a terrier named Toto, so did I (except his name was Scottie). All I was missing were the ruby slippers.

Anywho, it wasn’t until later that I found out who Judy Garland was. It was right around when Me and My Shadows premiered. My mom and I watched it during its run, and Judy became my inspiration. Before I watched the mini-series, I had no idea that she lead a very tragic and conflicted life. She battled drugs, fame and men. And throughout it all, she remained glamorous.

Coincidentally, this was the same time my class was going through D.A.R.E. education. We were assigned to write an essay about someone who inspired us. Mostly everyone wrote about their moms and dads, grandmas and pets. Not I. I chose Judy. I remember the class staring back at me with a mix of bewilderment and stupidity. Of course, I felt dumb because no one knew what I was talking about, but then I started singing “When You’re Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You)” in my head. Too bad I didn’t know how to tap dance.

2. Drew Barrymore

I knew who she was when I watched E.T., but I didn’t know about her troubled childhood. It wasn’t until I watched The Wedding Singer that my love for Drew Barrymore was born. My mom and I watched all of her chick flicks. I cried during the scene in Never Been Kissed when she gets egged. I cried again in Ever After when the idiot prince disowns her, and she face plants into the gravel. Basically, if you made me cry when I was growing up, I adored you (except if my crying was a result from physical pain).

And then the inevitable happened. I watched Scream. For some reason, I thought Drew was the star of the film; thus, I didn’t think she died. False. When she got butchered in the first five minutes of the film, I hid under bed and thought the world was going to end. I like to think that this sparked my battle with depression.

1. Britney

I don’t remember when it happened, but it did. Shortly after “Baby One More Time” hit the radio, I fell in love, a love that became an obsession. The walls in my bedroom were covered with her posters, I went to sleep at night with “Oops…I Did It Again” on repeat, and everyone started making fun of me. And you know what? It was worth it. My mom bought me a blanket with a picture of Britney from the “(You Drive Me) Crazy” video. I told my friends that I slept with Britney every night.

I memorized her dance moves with a friend. We practiced in his basement. Our dedication paid off in the end, as we busted moves at our D.A.R.E. graduation dance (note: at the same dance, I ended up crying in the bathroom because the girl I was crushing on danced with another guy). But that night, I felt the power of Britney in me. Sure, in later years she would end up shaving her head and flashing her vajayjay, but it was okay. Like Britney, I had rough patches. And I eventually shaved my head, too.

***

When I came out to my parents, both of them said they knew, even when I was little. At first, I thought, “How the hell did they know and I didn’t?” And then I thought, “Jacob, you had Catwoman’s fucking whip. You wanted to be Dorothy. You didn’t want to be Drew Barrymore, you wanted to be paint your nails with her. You cried when people told you Britney lip-synched. You were flaming by the time you were in 3rd grade!”

But it is nothing to be embarrassed about. If anything, these idols, these heroes, helped me figure out who I was, and they encouraged my homosexuality. Judy said, “I still believe in the idea of the rainbow. And I’ve spent my entire life trying to get over it.” She’s talking about riding her life of worry and trouble, repression and hatred. She’s talking about fulfilling all of her dreams.

I don’t think I will ever get over the rainbow. But because of Judy, because of my idols, I am closer to it.

Addison Bell is a senior at DePaul University where he is studying English Literature. He is the President of Oxfam DePaul and volunteers with Oxfam America, an organization dedicated to ending world hunger, poverty, and social injustice. Follow Jacob on Twitter @boy_1904 and on Tumblr: colourmegreenwich.tumblr.com.

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