I’m really disappointed in Superman. The action hero came to Earth from the planet Krypton when I was 4 years old, and we’d practically grown up together. But he let me down in my hour of need.
That hour came late on a Friday afternoon in the spring of 1946 when the seventh-graders from my Bryant Elementary School class met with counterparts from St. Joseph’s Parochial School for our weekly theological discussion and fistfight. We started by pelting each other with names that would certainly not be considered politically correct today. This quickly escalated to blows, bricks and garbage when available.
So I was lying there on the sidewalk with Timmy Groh’s knee in my mouth, as was my Friday afternoon custom. Next to me, Pansy McCormic was beating Dick Stacy on the head with her world geography book. These were not years when you ran to your parents about trouble with other children. We were expected to work it out for ourselves, and we were expected not to get home too early either. Luckily, we were all really inept. We tended to deliver blows to the forehead of our opponent with fists folded under as if tapping a melon for ripeness, so there was little permanent damage. But it did take a lot of the joy away from Fridays.
So while I was lying there trying to keep my front tooth from being dislodged by Timmy’s knee, I remembered something important. In reading my favorite comic, I had noticed that Superman’s great powers were conferred by his costume because when he was dressed in his wimpy Clark Kent outfit, he couldn’t even peel a banana. In his Superman regalia, he was invincible.
Based on this discovery, my contemporaries and I spent the week making ourselves Superman costumes from red-and-blue crepe paper. The next Friday, fully outfitted and making an unexpectedly attractive and visible target, we marched down Mallon Avenue to face our foes. They destroyed us even more quickly than usual.
I had to accept the idea that clothes may make the man, but the costume doesn’t make a Superman — or woman.
Even then I was a big proponent of avoiding the truth just as long as humanly possible, or slightly longer. While I was musing, we all graduated, went to different high schools, and the Friday afternoon discussions faded. I went on fighting for truth and justice in my own inept way, battling unjust parking tickets, intransigent condo boards and other petty tyrants.
In June, the new Superman movie, “Man of Steel,” was released. “Superman is lost, angry, and frustrated,” one critic complained. Heck. Who isn’t? At 75, he’s past due for his first midlife crisis.
Last week, business columnist Elizabeth Zielinski wrote in Meetings & Conventions Magazine that our progress is sometimes stalled by our trying to continue doing what we think we’re good at. She went on to say, “As the world changes around us, our goal should become not to try to get back to who we were in the good old days, but to actually replace what we thought was a best practice with a better one.” In other words, learn new skills for where we are now. I hate it when another writer makes so much sense.
It’s been hard for me to face that I occasionally need some help keeping my balance when I walk. Last week, my physical therapist decreed that I must keep a cane with me at all times. And use it. A cane!
“I always have one with me,” I said virtuously.
“Try taking it out of the car,” he replied.
So I sent away for a folding cane. It snaps to full length with a sound like d’Artagnan’s sword and is covered with a gorgeous purple design. This is not a cane — it’s a fashion accessory that fits nicely in a slightly oversize purse. All of my purses are slightly oversized, so I’ve just reinvented myself. Your turn.
I probably won’t see the Superman movie. He needs to grow up. I can tell you one thing: If Superman keeps trying to leap tall buildings in a single bound, he’s going to need a hip replacement very soon.Dorothy Wilhelm’s website is itsnevertoolate.com. Reach her at 800-548-9264; P.O. Box 881, DuPont, WA 98327; or email@example.com. She is the author of a tiny book, “No Assembly Required.”