The Great Gaston
Halloween is an exciting and magical time for children, unless that child is forced to dress up as Gaston, from Beauty and the Beast. As a female. Aged six. Against her will. In this case, Halloween is a traumatizing event, full of ridicule, shame and a disdain for formerly beloved Disney films.
As an American girl who grew up in the early 90s, I was a Girl Scout, like every other young female. The difference between myself and many other little girls however, was that I loathed it and never wanted to participate. I would’ve preferred to be outside playing sports, or even going to school. Almost anything was more enjoyable than those damn Brownie meetings. The Girl Scouts were responsible for my earliest memories of feeling awkward, uncomfortable and constantly confused about the bizarre behavior I’d witness.
Since my fun-fearing parents didn’t allow me to go on any of the excursions that took place outside of the stagnant church used as our venue for weekly gatherings, I was less than thrilled to hurry to the mundane meetings. Every week was the same. One of the moms who was in charge of our group would always bring her entire nest of snotty-faced children. They would run around screaming and being obnoxious while she’d brag to other mothers about their advanced aptitude for Bible studies. She would pause only to call attention to the front of the room so that we could discuss important details and upcoming events happening within our organization, which there were none. We were in first grade.
Afterwards we’d all gather around cafeteria-style tables to make a macaroni poster for the umpteenth time or knit a ghastly coaster using brown and yellow yarn. No camping for me thanks. I’ll just be over here using mini wooden logs to make a lousy popsicle stick house rather than resourcefully learning to build a fire. One never knows when you may need to break out a makeshift tiny birdhouse, as opposed to something silly like basic survival skills.
Unsurprisingly, I didn’t have many friends in my troop given my super positive attitude about cake baking, so I mostly just sat there staring at a wall and sucking my thumb while counting down the seconds until the agony was over. My demeanor hasn’t really changed much throughout the years other than growing out my hideous bangs and trading in my nervous thumb sucking for hair pulling. Instead of gnarled teeth, I have spotty brows. I’m fortunate to have a signature left dimple that takes some of the attention off the disaster that has become my eyebrows.
I recall spending a majority of my time at these riveting meetings trying to avoid the white-haired girl in my group who had unsightly warts all over her hands. And she seemed to have spent a majority of her time trying to chew those warts off, ravenously gnawing at her own flesh. Her oral fixation only intensified mine. The more she bit down on her warted knuckles, the more I sucked my thumb to try and emotionally cope with the horror.
But of course, one day we must’ve locked limbs when reaching for a crayon in the midst of coloring rainbows and unicorns, because I’d soon end up with two warts of my very own. Thus beginning my lifelong battle with Trypophobia, a perfectly rational fear of grotesque patterns and disgusting clusters of small holes or bumps. I couldn’t stand the sight of those hellish hole clusters forming on my body. Thanks a lot Katrina Collins, because of you and your wart eating/virus spreading I can’t look at lotus flowers, beehives, mushroom spores or any other organic monstrosities put on this earth to torture my eyeballs. My warts may have eventually disappeared, however my repulsion for diseased epidermis is forever.
I was most likely home tending to my wart scars via burn removal on the day our troop chose the Beauty and the Beast theme for the upcoming Halloween parade, because when I came in the following week I learned that everyone had already chosen their costumes. I would quickly discover that this meant that I’d be the lucky recipient made to dress up as an unwanted, unchosen character. Gaston. God damned Gaston.
I can’t remember exactly what my six-year old reaction was to hearing this tragic news, delivered by dear ole Warty’s Mom herself, but I imagine somewhere in my bangs-covered head I was thinking, “Are you fucking kidding me? This is some serious bullshit.” But I probably just smiled and said “Okay, sure, Gaston it is then,” like the good little Girl Scout I was groomed to be while trying to hold back furious hot tears. After all, I had to graciously uphold the organization’s cultish slogan, “Do a good turn daily.” I should’ve taken the Scout’s propaganda literally by turning myself around and walking out the door.
I wasn’t one of the blessed brats of America who got to experience the magic of Disney World. But I did sleep in a bed of Little Mermaids and in it I dreamt about twirling around a tail-wagging ottoman dog while wearing a fancy yellow ballgown and white gloves. So not only would I never know what it was like to be a princess for a day, now I was forced to cross-dress as the most dreaded villain of my favorite childhood movie and parade around town for public amusement. Dressed as a meatball of a man, a total buffoon, a narcissistic misogynist, the Donald Trump of Disney characters. Dreams crushed.
They were acting as if there just had to be a Gaston or else the reputation of my small town parade would be in ruins. I could’ve gone as LeFou or a common villager or even one of the woodland creatures that appeared in the beginning of the movie. But no, they insisted on my being Gaston. I’ve come to suspect this was all intentional, because hell hath no fury like school children’s Mothers. The nerve I had, not being overjoyed by obtaining calloused warts and unsolicited Bible verses at my local chapter.
My spiteful troop Moms were conveniently ignoring the most obvious conclusion, that I was the clear ringer for Belle. I had all the qualities of a Belle. I was petite with the same brown hair and brown eyes combination. I often had my nose in my book and surrounded myself with cute critters. I had no future plans for marriage. And I definitely knew that there must’ve been “something more than this provincial liiiiiiife.” I can also say “hello” in French, as it is basically the only thing I said in French the two months I stayed in Paris last summer.
After the meeting’s conclusion I defeatedly plopped myself into the passenger seat of my family’s Chevy Lumina, making sure to really stage the huffing and puffing. My Mom was trying to contain her laughter, completely unsympathetic to my misery. If anything, my parents were probably relieved that they could just scrap together some of my dad’s and older brother’s clothes rather than having to purchase a pretty golden gown. Once we got home, my Mom set out to procure the materials for my inaugural tranny impersonation.
On parade day, as all the other little girls giddily geared up as personified kitchenware and dining room decor, I reluctantly pieced together my outfit. My Mom fashioned a red shirt fitted with bulky shoulder pads to convincingly mimic the whole muscular appearance on my slender 50-pound frame before tightly wrapping a brown belt around my small ribcage. I borrowed my brother’s black sweat pants in lieu of Gaston’s lady tights and then pulled old brown socks over my sneakers and up to my kneecaps to replicate his tall bulky boots. Come to think of it Gaston would’ve been pretty fashionable a few years ago.
As if the humiliation wasn’t yet fulfilled, my Mom had somehow salvaged a jet black wig that resembled a raccoon and placed it atop my head. She tied yellow ribbon into a bow around my raccoon tail before painting thick black eyebrows and sideburns on my furious face. Finally, I was given yellow gloves which I’m fairly certain were either from the kitchen or my grandmother’s house, or both. I angrily stood in the living room, refusing to leave the premises and be seen in public in this getup.
A silent protest was my last ditch effort to try and get out of it all before the damage truly set in. Alas, I would lose the good fight and sent out into the night, faux sideburns and all. But I did have one small victory in not allowing my parents to photograph the occasion, which I now regret. As an adult I can finally see the hilarity in the situation and wish I had evidence of the time I overcame The Great Gaston Incident of ’93. But sadly, this pitiful imagery lives now only in my memory.
During the parade, all the other costumes elicited praise of “Aww, there’s Chip” And, “Oh! Look how pretty Belle is!” Or, “Oooh cool, it’s the BEAST!” Even he was considered cool and worn by Warts truly. Meanwhile, all I got was, “Gaston! HAH!” These jeers were followed by cackling laughter, although that was likely directed at the pissed off look on my face, even though it was barely discernible under a mop of coarse black fur hair. I pouted every step of the way.
That episode was not to end in a happy fairytale, where my parents secretly surprised me with a Beauty costume to use for neighborhood trick-or-treating. Instead I’d dress as an old lady or the trusted cat costume from the previous year. Perhaps I’d just stay in my bedroom and seethe in unbridled anger over the assault on my freedom of Halloween expression. I never did get to be a princess or visit the Disney Kingdom. For me, that was the year make-believe died.
I’d hang around the Girl Scouts for a couple more months until Christmas. During another routine meeting of menial chatter and domesticated activity, where we were gluing glitter on stockings, I broke the news to all the gullible ones that Santa wasn’t real. This was met by a ubiquitous uproar from my classmates who still lived in a world where reindeers flew, a fat man delivered gifts and where little girls were free to believe they were fantasy princesses. But I knew better. Gaston had changed me. There was no looking back after that and this was my revenge on those brats after they robbed me of Beauty.
After the meeting, in which I was the whistleblower who released such highly classified information, I was ousted by angry Moms who wanted to see me punished for my crime. Warts Sr. poked her head in my window and informed my parents about the awful thing I had done, that is, being honest. My Mom’s go-to response was always to feign ignorance, whereas my Dad went with his distinctive authoritarian principles. “Yeah, so what lady? Santa isn’t real? I tell my children the truth!” Peels out of the parking lot. Scolds me the whole ride home.
My parents had already broken the news to me that Santa was a myth a year earlier. The reasoning my Dad argued, was that he didn’t believe in lying to his children, which was in of itself, a blatant lie. Wait, but aren’t we celebrating a baby Savior born of immaculate conception? Santa actually seems far more credible in comparison. Mostly, I think he just wasn’t up to the facade and didn’t want to waste money on extravagant presents.
Post-Santagate, my parents took my not-so-subtle hint about my disinterest in Scouting and realized I had no future with the organization. They finally let me quit. Essentially, other than having first dibs into the cookie trade, nothing overly positive came out of my experience with the Girl Scouts. I was exposed to ugly viruses, had my civil rights seized from me on that dreadful Halloween night and verbally attacked for my Santatheist beliefs.
I’ve recently seen a trailer for a remake of the classic-fairytale featuring Emma Watson as Belle and a rumored Luke Evans as Gaston. Should his acting abilities not be up to par, I’d like to extend an offer of my authentic services, now that I’ve learned a bit about how things work in life. It’s set to be released four days after my 30th birthday and I couldn’t think of a better gift than reprising my role as the thick-necked, bumbling barge, perfect paragon of a man, Gaston. Age, experience and the current state of American politics has since taught me that in a world full of intrinsic beauty, one should aim to break spirits, not the mold. Dare to be an egotist!
Whether that means eating five dozen eggs for breakfasts, decorating your home with antlers or biting competitors during wrestling matches, do it with pride. And if people do not like you for who you are, don’t fret dear child! Through intimidation, sheer brawn and incessant boasting, you can not only extort women into falling for you, but you can also successfully run for U.S. Presidency! “MY what a guy, Gastonnnn!”
Originally published at www.chandrabrynn.com on October 31, 2016.