Some of us shine, while others prefer the shadows

In Winston Groom’s novel Forrest Gump, the hero is a much different character from the one played by Tom Hanks in the movie. The literary Forrest is, well, simpler.


The story he tells of his life is even simpler. For that reason, my favorite line – the one I remember after all these years, anyway – goes like this:

“The judge, he lean forward from behind his big ole desk an peer at me like I am a Marsman or somethin.”

I love that description. Feeling you are a Marsman around other people is a lot worse than feeling like a Martian. A Martian will say it loud: I’m green, and I’m proud.

A Marsman, on the other hand, is much less assured in human society. A Marsman is meek, wanting to blend in.

I felt like a Marsman today when I looked down and noticed that my shirt had taken on the appearance a refrigerator door in the House of Lint. There was lint, dust and dog hair all over it, although it had been neat when I put it on.

Was it my imagination, or were co-workers looking at me like I was a Marsman?

It’s a fairly new shirt and – wait, there’s another piece of lint – it must be made of some weird mixture of fibers that attracts debris. I can’t tell you the contents; the tag that lists the materials is hidden somewhere inside, and I can’t just take my shirt off in the office to go exploring.

All I know is, it’s very soft. Soft and linty.

It’s a dark shirt, too, so it really shows off all those things I’ve picked up. There’s a chance the Earthlings around me will think I have a new style of shirt boasting a multitude of colors and textures.

I hope so, because I don’t like to stand out in a crowd. That’s why I hide behind the newspaper.

When our daughter was tiny, she was the exact opposite. Kylie would sing and dance all day like a modern Shirley Temple while listening to music on her little children’s record player on the living room floor.

We thought for sure she would want to be an entertainer, and we were partly right. When we asked this youngster what she would like to be when she grew up, she had no doubts: “A dancing historian.”

We had never seen a dancing historian before, but we thought it would have made a confusing Halloween costume. Still, if it made her happy, maybe we could find a really strange college that offered a degree in her chosen career.

Fortunately, she had a backup plan. Years later, she told us she had two ambitions back then:

“I wanted to be a dancing historian, and a red crayon.”

A red crayon? That stumped us. Why?

“Because everybody picks the red crayon first,” she said. She’s always been a standout, so that career turned out all right.

I guess the world has plenty of room for popular crayons – and a race of awkward Marsmen.