I Contain Multitudes!: A Childhood in Costume

Barranquilla, Colombia is the most boring place in the world when you’re a small child (it’s also pretty boring as an adult, for entirely different reasons). I’ve always felt a strong sense of empathy whenever I read about the plight of the disenfranchised suburban American youth, because, though I myself never experienced the white picket fences and prosthetic sunny dispositions found in the eternally-stuck-in-the-1950s cultural cesspools known as “the suburbs”, I could very much relate to that despondency; that overwhelmingly grey feeling of complete boredom.

I suppose because of this, I always perceive my childhood as this unbearably drab, lifeless wasteland of nothingness. I expect every single picture I find from my early years to paint a picture of this extremely joyless existence, staring out the window, wanting nothing but to find escape from the clutches of the excruciating lassitude of Barranquillan life.

Turns out that’s not quite the case. Instead, I am shocked to find that the childhood described in my pictures is completely different from how I remember it. The onset of the adolescent angst of my teen years caused me to cognitively reframe my childhood but man, I was a happy kid. I had lots of fun. I played with neighborhood friends and, as evinced by these pictures, I dressed up in costume. A lot.

I don’t know why there are so many pictures of me in costume, and why some of them are so absurd. It might mean my parents were as bored as I claim to have been. It may mean I was just fascinated with dressing up and playing strange characters. It may mean I lived like every day was Halloween (which would explain a couple of things). Regardless, here are a few of the pictures that illustrate the master of disguise that I was in my formative years.

Now, ostensibly, this is a Ninja Turtles costume. You can tell from the bandana and those sais strapped to the… belt…   right over the…   turtle-stomach part of the costume. Except those aren’t actually sais (or even a child-friendly approximation of them), they’re drawn into the same piece of plastic that represents the…  turtle-stomach.

This cheap-ass, unspeakably lame costume is offensive for a number of reasons (what are those stars on the turtle-chest area? The TMNT didn’t have any red stars on their costume, did they?), the most egregious of which is… the lack of a turtle shell. Dude. If you’re gonna wear a turtle costume, of the “teenage mutant variety” or otherwise, you need some sort of shell on your back. Otherwise you just look like a freak with a bandana and a piece of plastic over your stomach, sporting useless drawn-on sais and those ridiculous red stars. Goddammit.

(also note how my expression on this picture is the exact same grimace as the picture that decorates the top right corner of this blog.)

I’ve been thinking for the last few minutes about how I could refer to this ridiculous costume and the best I could come up with is Intergalactic Muffin Man. I really do look like an extraterrestrial visitor from Planet Muffin, on an expedition to Earth to teach humans about the Way of the Muffin.

I honestly don’t know what I (or my parents– or more specifically, my mother) was going for here. I look like an extra in the most flamboyant Lazy Town episode of all time.

Don’t I look super stoked to be playing Joseph in the school nativity play?
All these years later, I still haven’t been able to grow proper facial hair.

This picture is all sorts of bad-ass. Look at this suave motherfucker, wearing the same outfit he wore to the country club comparsa, pipe firmly placed in the side of the mouth, hitting on this chick decked out in full carnaval regalia. Smiling smugly at the camera, with the full knowledge that I’m the fucking boss.  Ah yes. I was a player from a very young age. It’s too bad little Susy dumped my ass after she figured out the massive forearms weren’t real.

This costume is another confusing one. I just look like some sort of Colombian jugle terrorist. I guess my parents were going for a Baby Rambo sort of deal but really I just look like a neglected, possibly homeless child. The dirty face was an especially nice touch. I know this costume came with a fake machete (I have a very distinct memory of running around a party all decked out in cammo gear and wielding a plastic machete in my hand), but I can’t find any pictures of it. Shame.

This picture makes me laugh, though, every time. It’s probably a combination of the stance, the disoriented look on my face and those hilarious cankles.

Check me out. I’m the Flash. Look at my pose in case the costume isn’t enough of a tip-off for you. This is a pretty good costume and I think it’s by virtue of the fact that it was actually store-bought, not put together Mad Scientist style by my mom.  Of course the drawn-on muscles were completely the wrong message to send to a pudgy child with dreams of one day being a superhero.

I get a huge kick out of my pose in this. I’m going so very, very fast. And somehow this crappy early-90s disposable camera captured me as I ran through the doorway. That Kodak Ultra always had a great shutter speed.

I have absolutely no idea what this is supposed to be. I am some sort of ape/wolf monster, wearing a sparkly blue outfit and a chains on my wrist. I suppose the story goes that I am this monstrous creature– an ape with the body of a chubby 6 year old boy– who was locked and chained, broke free, killed one of Janet Jackson’s early-90s backup dancers and stole their outfit ’cause it was so damn fly. I now prowl the streets of Barranquilla, vigilante-style, engaging in dance-offs with some of the city’s toughest gangbangers, all the while keeping my sparkling blue outfit spotless and shiny. Makes sense.

4 thoughts on “I Contain Multitudes!: A Childhood in Costume

  1. Jorge, preguntonta; Barranquilla es ciudad psota o más bien ciudad tirando a pueblo? Conocés a Shakira? jaja.
    No podía dejar de preguntarlo.
    Interesante post.

    1. Jajaja… no sé si me ayuda mucho la aclaración. Creo que quieres decir “ciudad posta”. Si, Barranquilla es una ciudad posta, con 2 millones de habitantes. Es un puerto industrial a 30 minutos de la playa. Pero le falta mucha cultura, arte, cosas que hacer. La juventud Barranquillera sale a bares demasiado caros, se emborracha y sale a bailar. Solamente. Por eso solamente voy una vez por año, para ver a mi familia y amigos. Es, para un adolescente amante del cine y la música, muy deprimente y opresiva.

      Nunca conocí a Shakira pero creció a 3 cuadras de la casa de mi abuela. 🙂

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