The Superpower of Choice

The Superpower of Choice
Chris Rodriguez, Lovett School
December 5th, 2023

spiderman crouches in a gymnasium

Every day when we open the closet, we have the power to decide who we want to be.

Figuratively, of course, we can choose to be brave, to be determined, to be kind. But literally? Well, in my case, I have to decide whether it’s too hot to be Captain America or too cold to be Spider-Man.

You see, I am a cosplayer. My closet, an entire cabinet, and various other nooks and crannies of my one-bedroom apartment are filled to the brim with Lycra jackets, leather holsters, spandex masks, more wigs than Dolly Parton, and fabrics that would rival Joseph’s technicolor dreamcoat in total hues represented. I own, for some reason, six different shields. My dining room table has seen more EVA foam and contact cement than it has seen food. At last count, I have accumulated costumes representing 27 characters, spanning from superheroes (Daredevil, Captain Planet) to anti-heroes (Johnny Lawrence from “The Karate Kid,” The Winter Soldier) to timeless everyman figures (Indiana Jones, Charlie Brown).

As the child of two mental health professionals, there has long been behind-the-scenes family analysis conducted on why I’m seemingly so eager to be anyone other than myself. While I can’t speak for all cosplayers, I might venture a guess that it all comes down to confidence, and how we want to be perceived by others. 

In every secondary school community, there are the popular teachers, staff members, and coaches - the people whom students instinctively flock to, nominate year after year for every award, and fondly look back on as the most transformative individuals in their lives. I’ve never been that person.

I don’t have charisma to spare. I don’t run through the halls busting everyone’s chops. I work out with headphones on instead of coaching a sport after work. I mean, I have serious opinions on the Oxford comma. This is who I am, and I’m okay with that.

But when I put on a costume, whether for Halloween or a Homecoming “Favorite Character Day” or when I’m teaching a class on the Harry Potter series? I come alive. The eyes in the hallway turn my way. I see smiles instead of nothing. Shouts of “Cap!” or “Hey, Coach Lasso!” ring through the building. For a brief moment, I am the person in the spotlight. More simply and more importantly…I am a person. Questions and compliments abound, but so does basic connection.

We all desire recognition for our work and all want to feel like we’re seen by others as more than mere cogs in the factory producing students for college. In the fall, when our offices often become revolving doors for demands - review this essay, send that transcript, sign this form - we risk losing our humanity and our individuality. We are college counselors, yes, but we are also deeply nuanced people as well, each of us with our own unique backstories just as vibrant and fascinating as those of our students.

Not every person has the ability to take over a room without trying, nor will every person be asked to speak at commencement. Few of us can hope to have our lives portrayed in “Dead Poets Society 2.” But we all have the choice of who we will be each morning and we all should remind ourselves that we, just like Thor, are still worthy - of love, of respect, of being seen as human beings - even when we’re at our lowest points.

Donning the fur coat of Barbie’s Ken or the proton pack of a Ghostbuster doesn’t by itself make me an interesting person. I never feel the need to prove my worth to others. But if playing these roles from time to time helps open others’ eyes to the gifts I have, especially those I share to help my students, then it’s worth every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears (all literal and all too frequent, unfortunately) that go into my characters.

You can see more of Chris’ cosplay on Instagram at @shortdudecosplay 
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