When I was in Little League, they had to special order a batting helmet for me that could fit around my big dumb head. If one of the other idiots on the team wore my special helmet by accident and was on base, we either had to trade or I’d go up to bat with a tiny kid’s helmet perched on top of my giant head like a two-story goddamn disgrace. Before that, in second grade, my neighbor (an adult man) called me, “Box Head.” To my face. Because I bobbled all over the block with this thing on top of my neck.
But I think the first time I knew I had a huge head was when I was four years old. My parents were out of town and my grandmothers on both sides were babysitting my sister and me. My dad used to be a middle school social studies teacher and every year he would take a group of students on a bus trip to Washington D.C. My mom would go along to help supervise. I loved when my parents went on those trips because it meant that they would come home with all these cool souvenirs from the Smithsonian, like Native American headdresses or Astronaut Ice Cream. This particular trip, however, did not go so well for me on the home front.
One day, my two grandmas decided to take my sister and me to McDonald’s for lunch. After we were done eating, my sister and I headed outside to play on the playground. This was before the fancy pants McDonald’s PlayPlaces that began to emerge in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s. These were the days when McDonald’s had ash trays and a filthy aquarium and a playground with just a few slides, the shittiest carousel in the world and a spinner thing that made kids barf all day. Yeah, let’s have little kids spin around real fast right after they’ve eaten a hot pile of trash! Why wouldn’t you want the whole outside of a restaurant to smell like sugar barf?
Anyway, the whole McDonald’s playground was concealed with an iron fence. My sister and I both have cloudy memories of what happened next, but we just know that 1) our grandmothers were definitely not watching us and 2) my sister bet me that I couldn’t fit my whole head in between the bars of that fence.
Of the five or six people I’ve ever met in my life who have a bigger head than me, all of them are either comedians or members of my family. At age four, this thing wasn’t quite what it is now, but it was still massive. Despite that, inside of that head wasn’t a brain mature enough to say, “You probably shouldn’t try to stick your big ass head through those skinny ass bars.” I just wanted to win a bet.
I remember struggling, but being determined to squeeze my head through. After a while, a small circle of other kids had gathered around to see the free freak show. My sister turned to one boy and said, “He can’t do it.” And the boy shouted, “There’s no way! His head is way too big!” Other kids easily slipped their regular-sized heads in and out of the bars to test and compare just what kind of Joseph Merrick monster they were dealing with here.
I would prove them wrong. I would prove them ALL wrong. I pressed as hard as I could until I barely squeezed all the way through. Fuck you. Victory.
The next thing I remember is the Muscatine fire department arriving at McDonald’s to pry apart the iron bars to get my buttfuck head out of there. My grandmas fed me french fries from the other side of the fence like the dumb petting zoo animal I’d just turned myself into. I didn’t care. I liked firemen. And I liked french fries. And I just proved how fucking awesome I was to a bunch of kids, whose parents had probably led them away by the arms by that point, telling them not to look at ‘that boy.’
That was the last school trip my parents took to Washington D.C. The good news is, they did bring me back Astronaut Ice Cream - the neapolitan kind. And I also got a Native American headdress. The adult-sized kind.