When I was three, I was shamed for wearing a pair of Incredible Hulk Underoos. That could be where it all started – my obsession with fitting in, with sacrificing the most personal parts of myself at the alter of Be Cool.
Nowadays, superhero underwear is common; it’s hard to imagine a child would ever be maligned for wearing it, but things must have been different in the late 70’s, because the mocking I endured was severe enough to lodge this sliver of memory into the delicate folds of my brain.
I’d seen the Underoo advertisements repeated over and over during Saturday morning cartoons, and I begged my mom to buy me a set. The day she brought them home, the sight of The Hulk’s bright green skin, screened upon white poly-cotton caused me too much excitement to contain. This was unfortunate, because my enthusiasm spilled out, and word soon hit the streets.
Extra! Extra! Read it here! Lukey Dukey is proud owner of a new pair of superhero Underoos. A source close to the Neighborhood Herald has confirmed that the Underoos feature none other than The Incredible Hulk! We’ve just received word that Lukey has just been in the process of donning this new underwear, and any moment, we expect him to make an …Yes! Here he is! Of course, it’s impossible to see the Hulk Underoos beneath his clothes, but the mocking laughter of EVERYONE out here tells us that the image of one Incredible Hulk is most certainly ensconced between his shorts and tender derriere. Now hang on folks, it appears that he’s going back…Yes! Lukey is retreating back indoors. We can only assume he plans to change into some plain underwear, but thanks to this bit of crack reporting, we can be confident he’ll be doing so through a fog of salty tears!
In fact, I did retreat indoors that day to change into a standard pair of whitey tighties – tucking my newly acquired Hulkeroos into the back corner of the underwear drawer. They didn’t stay there for long. The wonderful thing about underwear is that it is most commonly worn under other clothing. I merely waited a few days for someone else to become the target of neighborhood ridicule, then ever so stealthily donned my Underoos. They remained my secret indulgence until the leg holes stretched out, rendering them unwearable.
I think many of us do this sort of thing, especially those of us inclined toward creative endeavors. We tend to hide the most unique, most personal parts of ourselves in the back of the proverbial underwear drawer. The only person allowed to see these parts is the one in the mirror.
Stephen King wrote about his experience in writing the Dark Tower series, that he had to maintain a furious pace in an effort to outrun that ever-present enemy called doubt. Imagine that. Stephen King – one of the great novelists of our time – battling doubt. It’s not only about doubting the work; it’s more about doubting one’s self. To a creator, the two are inseparable. When I find myself doubting the viability of my work, it’s not so different from my three-year-old self, doubting his choice in undergarments.
What if I’d reacted differently back then? Oh, how I wish I had. I wish I’d dropped my shorts and displayed that old gamma radiated Hulk to the whole neighborhood. I wish I’d given them all a good look at my new underwear and followed with a nice middle-fingered salute. Although that opportunity is long gone, I still have the enemy of doubt to challenge. When I hear doubt’s ridicule, I can still flip it the bird. I may even see if I can find a set of 2XL Hulk Underoos. Maybe I can wear them while I write.