10. Be in a Parade

Admittedly this is a pretty lame challenge, isn't it? Only, I have never done it, so it qualifies. At 31 years of age, I have never been in a parade. At first blush, it doesn't seem like such a big deal to be in a parade. It's pretty simple in theory. In practice, it's a little more intimidating.

I was asked to march in the Minneapolis St. Patrick's day parade with the "Calling all Colleens" group. I consented before I gave it much thought, deciding it would be really fun to celebrate my Irish heritage in this way. In the weeks leading up to St. Patrick's day, I realized that I wasn't exactly relaxed around the idea of this parade.

I think that I think a little too hard about things (I also think this is an understatement). My first concern; what on earth do you wear in a parade? In a St. Patrick's Day parade, you wear green, right? Unless of course, you are like me and you have beliefs that prohibit you from wearing green on St. Patrick's Day. It's not that I don't believe in ANYONE wearing green on St. Pat's Day, it's that I have red hair, the signature Irish pale skin, and the name Colleen Brady (that's my maiden name) which all scream Irish. Wearing green just seems like a way of saying, "in case you didn't notice..." it just seems a little much to me. Perhaps a little like it insults the intelligence of those around me. As a result, I honestly don't have a stitch of green in my closet.

My second concern; people will be looking at me. I know this seems strange. After all, people look at each other all the time. In fact, it's nearly impossible to go out in public without being "looked at." I guess the pressure lies in the fact that I was part of the spectacle, myself, and my fellow Colleens and Colleen wannabes. I feel like when you are in a parade, you should be DOING something. Like being a Beauty Queen, or playing an instrument in a marching band, or riding a unicycle. I wasn't doing any of those things, I was just walking and being Colleen, and while I like to think that people find that fascinating and impressive, in a parade setting - it's just not.

So, on parade day, I made a half-assed attempt to shop for something green to wear (and ended up with a bunch of garments, none of them green - see last week's post regarding my spending) and selected something black to wear. My husband and son had planned to be at the end of the parade route watching for me, but when he got home from work, I decided that I really wanted his support during the parade. So, Matt and Ollie were Colleen wannabes, and I was so glad. We lined up on Nicollet Mall and joined the processional.

On Nicollet Mall on St. Patrick's Day at 6:30, there are a lot of intoxicated people pouring out of the bars. People who have been celebrating since the early hours of the day. There are also families with young children lining the streets hoping to get some candy thrown in their general direction. The skyways are packed with people who don't want to handle the cold (it wasn't that cold), but want to be a part of the fun. Lots and lots of people, lots and lots of eyes... on us.

Colleen isn't necessarily an unusual name, but it certainly isn't a common name. I can count on my two hands the number of Colleens I have known in my lifetime. A conversation ensues when I meet people and they learn my name, "how do you pronounce it?" I confuse them, because I apparently pronounce my name Cuh-leen versus the more Irish sounding and probably correct Cah-leen. I will respond to anything but Co-leen, which in my opinion, is blatently incorrect and honestly an act of cruelty. I don't say my name that often, but I hear my name often - especially when someone is trying to get my attention. In normal cases, I can be pretty sure that if someone calls my name, they are talking to me. When I am in a St. Patrick's Day parade marching behind a sign that says, "Calling all Colleens," this is not the case.

The five block parade took about 45 minutes to complete. That was 45 minutes of hearing well meaning drunk parade goers hollering, "Colleen" and then watching the gaggle of Colleens turning their heads expecting to see a long lost friend, or family member calling for them. Then of course, laughing hysterically as though they had really fooled us. Oh, it was funny. By the end of the parade, when my old neighbor Kate called out my name, I almost missed her because by then I was no longer responding to my own name.

When you are in a parade, it's easy to feel like a spectacle, lots of eyes on you. I can see how some people get a natural high from that. I am not one of those people (this probably comes as a surprise to many). I felt like an animal in a zoo. Like people were just sitting there waiting to be entertained by this mysterious species of Colleens. The one thing that did occur to me though, that occurs to me anytime I am in a crowd, is how amazing it is that there are so many people in this world, and we all have the same parts, and yet we all look so amazingly different. Some people may resemble each other, but no two faces are exactly alike, even identical twins look a little different. I was struck by this so strongly during my parade experience, that it took me by surprise. I stopped thinking of myself and my fellow Colleens as the spectacle, and started thinking of each face in the crowd as it's own spectacle.

I often get discouraged with the level of judgement we have in our culture regarding people's appearance. This person is pretty, this person is ugly, this person is skinny, this person is fat, this person looks old, this person looks young... When we talk like that, we aren't respecting how amazing nature is. That we all got mixed up the same way, carried around inside our mothers, cooked for an appropriate period of time, and then launched out (poor choice of words?) into this sea of faces. This beautiful sea of faces where no two look the same. It's really quite amazing when you pause to think about it, and I hope that the next time you find yourself in a crowd and that quiet voice of judgement is echoing in your head, instead you'll drown it out with the loud voice that reminds you that screams we are all unique and all beautiful!

Next week, I am serious here... I am going to take a pole dancing class.

1 comment:

  1. Honestly, I was SOOO wanting to be there to support you guys. Unfortunately, it was just a bit late for the kids after having a long day. I did wear green and made special food for St. Patricks day, but then again I only have the hair to tie me to my irish heritage and I'm certain the hair is more Scottish than anything else.
    I think the only time I've been in a parade was in elementary school as I played the same song over and over and over on my flute. It was not that spectacular.
    I remember feeling the same way... watching the people. It was less about what I was supposed to be doing and/or performing, but more about watching everyone. Crowds are interesting.


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