Now, I think it was my fifth summer that I spent going to day camp. The camp itself wasn’t too memorable, except for the fact that it was the site where my big head – you know, the one that was so problematic at the time of my birth – came back to haunt me. As official campsters, we were supposed to order special ‘Happy Face’ T-shirts to wear to camp everyday. A white T-shirt with a big, yellow happy face plastered on the front. For some reason, I thought they were the coolest thing and could not wait for them to arrive.
When the T-shirts finally arrived, I rushed to go put mine on. Much to my dismay, however, I couldn’t actually get it on. Although it was the appropriate size for my body, I could not seem to get it over my head. My big, fat head. But I kept on trying, using force close to the point of ripping it, but no luck. I brought it home with me that night for an ‘extended’ fitting session, thinking maybe with a bit of stretching and pulling I could ‘make’ it fit. But my second attempt was also futile and the T-shirt had to go back.
I went back to camp the next day, hoping to hear stories from other kids who also struggled in vain to get this defective lot of T-shirts over their heads. But no such stories surfaced. All that surfaced were a bunch of happy-faced kids wearing their ‘Happy Face’ T-shirts. It was hard to be inconspicuous, being the only one without one. Not only did I not want to stand out, to be the different one, I also didn’t really want to explain why I didn’t have one. I was one unhappy camper. But, in the end, I guess I was never meant to wear a happy face. No sir, the symbolism wasn’t lost on me.
Published excerpt from: “The Life of a Loser (a work-in-progress, so to speak).” Portfolio milieu 2004. Vancouver, BC: milieu press; 2004.