DEAR ABBY: I am a professional costume wearer. By that, I mean I have been an elf, a giraffe, a moose, T-Rex and a character for a major hamburger chain. I am presently a character for a major cereal company. Once I am in costume, I am not allowed to speak.
Adults and older children think nothing of hitting me, kicking me, pulling at parts of my costume, and trying to knock me down. One 12-year-old even tried to "head butt" me while his father looked on and encouraged him!
I am in costume for about an hour or so before I can take breaks. It gets hot and sweaty inside these costumes. I have a limited field of vision and can't see many of the oncoming attacks. Even if I saw each one, I would not be able to say anything to stop or deflect these random attacks. What I do is have a paid "helper" walk beside me. This is now discouraging such actions by adults and children.
I would ask parents to please remember that there are real people inside these costumes, which are not heavily padded. I feel each and every hit and kick as if I were wearing street clothes. Thanks for printing this. -- H.S. IN COLORADO
DEAR H.S.: You have my sympathy, and I am seconding your request. That a parent would encourage such poor behavior incenses me. You should not have had to hire a "bodyguard" to protect you.
I find it interesting, however, that the children who are acting out against you do not regard you as another human being. It seems they have mistaken you for the same kind of cartoon character they see on television -- probably too much television -- against whom violence is committed with no repercussions. (I'm reminded of the "Mr. Bill" character that was once featured on "Saturday Night Live.")
One of my assistants, who has occasionally dressed as a chimp in her work as a docent at the L.A. Zoo, tells me that this is one of the hazards in your line of work. Call me humorless, but to me, assault and battery are criminal behaviors -- and if someone I cared about were subjected to it, I would be very concerned.