(I wrote this post about seven or eight years ago for a different blog. I now use it as an example of a narrative reflection in my college-level Rhetoric and Research class, which I teach for North Central University. My R & R students have all seen the now-famous leopard shirt and platform shoes. With Halloween approaching, it seems appropriate to post this here.)
God asked me to come out and play.
My daughter Naomi and I went to the Earth Exchange thrift store to look for a costume for her for the Fall Frolic Halloween alternative at our church. As I was scanning the clothing racks for something for her, I ran across a black shirt jacket with the head of a leopard painted on it and leopard pattern trim on the sleeves and collar. I showed it to Naomi. “You could be a leopard tamer,” I said. Naomi dismissed the idea, so I put the shirt back. I kept suggesting other ideas to Naomi, and she kept suggesting other ideas for me. When we had exhausted every possibility for Naomi, she insisted that I find a costume for myself. I went back to the leopard shirt. “I could be a leopard tamer,” I said.
We proceeded to look for other pieces to complete the leopard tamer outfit. There were some long black pants that I had ruled out because they were size two, but Naomi encouraged me to try them on. Naomi found a black t-shirt with the appliqué of Mickey Mouse in a leopard pattern. I said, “That’s great! It means I can turn a leopard into a mouse!” The pants fit (surprise!) except they were way too long. That’s when Naomi presented me with some amazing black platform shoes. They were a little too large, but they added three inches to my height! Naomi then found some black clip-on earrings, and I found a black stocking cap and a black water bottle holder in which I could place the whip my son had used with his Lord of the Rings costume. To my surprise and delight, I was unexpectedly outfitted in a costume so unlike my “real” persona that it was sure to make anyone who knew me smile at the irony.
At the beginning of the evening, I had the opportunity to have my nails painted, something I seldom do. One of the junior high girls who was volunteering at the nail-painting station was wearing orange nail polish with black spots. I asked her to paint mine the same way. Having always been a minimalist when it came to fashion, I never understood my girly girlfriends’ fascination with accessories. Now with my earrings, heels, hat, bag, and nail polish, I was fully accessorized. I felt “put together.”
Wearing the outfit for four hours affected me. I felt unusually tall, feminine, confident, and capable. Whenever I met a little kitten or leopard, I asked if she wanted to be tamed by me. They all refused! Nevertheless, I knew that if I were a real leopard tamer and they were real leopards, it wouldn’t be up to them. The leopard tamer is the one who calls the shots.
At the end of the evening, I had a new appreciation of my own strength and femininity. I understood that strength and femininity need not be in opposition. In fact, they complement and enhance each other. It was a healing revelation I desperately needed right now. How mischievous for God to teach me so playfully!
Thanks, Father. I’ll play with you any time!