Once upon a time, we celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with much fervour. For the former we fattened a turkey, and for the latter we fattened a jackass, namely me. This was because every Christmas I was expected to wear a costume, fix a beard and go about ho-ho-hoing for the benefit of the neighbourhood kids who weren’t interested in the gifts so much as in seeing if my beard could be pulled off, or perhaps set fire to.
I can’t remember how I was tricked into this gig. Lost a bet, possibly, or promised a dying grandmother not my own. Anyway, there it was. I was popular because I needed fewer cushions around my middle for the same tubby, jovial effect.
And then some kid had a birthday between these two events. And he made his parents promise that they would invite Batman. You know it’s impossible to get a Batman at this time of the year, began my wife, and I could tell immediately where the conversation was going. No, no, I screamed rushing out of the room, or at least trying to rush out but I was too heavy and couldn’t move fast enough.
Now, the sharper minds among you dear readers, would have noticed that there are some essential differences between Santa Claus and Batman. The latter doesn’t need cushions around his middle, for one. In fact the costume comes with built in rippling muscles all over, some rippling with greater purpose than others. You can slip into a Santa costume easily; the Batman costume involves much tugging and pulling especially if you have been preparing your body for the easy-going, jolly Santa. As I tugged and pulled, I realised I needed help, and simultaneously realised why Batman carried Robin everywhere with him.
And then it was done. I looked like a Batman who was preparing to be that year’s Santa in Gotham City. Part jolly, part grim. Not quite George Clooney, more like a sumo wrestler. The only crime this Batman seemed capable of solving was who tore his costume in so many places.
So why have I dredged up all this from my memory where it had been lying unbidden all these years? It has to do with a friend who told me he had been in training to lose weight and put on muscle to play Batman at his son’s birthday party. A whole generation later, the horror continues.
Hope his story has a happier ending than mine. My career as Batman was brief and ended when I was chased up a water pipe by the birthday boy’s family dog. Someone took a photograph – and it did look like Batman was scaling the building.