I was obsessed with The Phantom as a kid. If you’re not familiar with The Phantom, he’s the superhero who wears a purple spandex suit from head-to-toe, rides a white horse, and was played by Billy Zane in the mid-nineties film adaptation. And, go figure, I was the only kid in the neighborhood obsessed with The Phantom.
I can actually remember the moment I became obsessed with, “The ghost who walks.” I was at a comic book store, and I saw him, hiding behind a couple misplaced issues of Spiderman. I remember thinking, “Man, this guy looks so cool in purple.” He was on a pirate ship, he was fighting natives in the jungle, and he was handling business in a three-piece suit at night. I was in love.
Just to get it out of the way, yes, this obsession had an affect on my reputation in the neighborhood. I began stealing my mother’s pantyhose and 80’s workout gear. If it wasn’t purple, then I colored it with a magic marker. If it was too loose, then I didn’t wear it. I would go to school dressed in my normal clothes, but underneath lay a suit of purple.
As soon as school let out I would race home, strip down to my spandex, grab a broom – that would act as my faithful steed – and hit the neighborhood.
I spent the majority of afternoons running around yelling, “Com’on Hero, let us fight these rapscallions!” Hero was the name of The Phantom’s horse.
Sometimes I would go door to door and ask my neighbors, “Is it true that you wish to steal the Crystaline Diamond? If you do, I warn you, I shall stop you.” My neighbor, Mr. Jefferson, usually just stared at me and said, “Listen you fuckin’ retard, go back home before I beat the shit out of you like your daddy ought to.”
I made my mother swear that she wouldn’t tell my father, and for two months my secret was safe.
As Halloween approached, I told myself that I would come out, to my father; I’d let him know who I truly was, The Phantom. I imagined the conversation going something like this:
“Father,” I’d say, “I want to let you know that I have been, and plan to continue fighting crime.” “Great,” He’d say, and that would be the end of it.
That is not how the conversation went.
On Halloween, I decided to wear my suit all day long. I went to school in the suit, I walked home in the suit, and at 5:30pm, when dad got home, I stood on the front porch in my suit.
He stopped dead in his tracks. “You look like a giant purple penis,” he said.
“Father, I’m fighting to keep this city safe. I’ve made my decision and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“Listen Nancy, you keep wearing that thing and sooner or later the only thing that you’ll be fighting is the urge to get a sex-change.”
“But, I… I fight crime,” I said.
“Okay, have it your way Susan,” He said. Then he went inside the house.
I stood on the porch for a few minutes. “I’ve made the right decision,” I said to myself.