Re-watching Labyrinth unexpectedly opened up another memory from my childhood – my distrust of grown-ups.
I can’t think of a particular event that started this, I just remember having a general awareness that who adults were when they talked to me was different than who they were when they talked to each other. There was a keen hypocrisy in their expressions. They wanted to be seen by me as innocent, but clearly, by the way they spoke to each other, they were anything but.
I remember watching Sesame Street, enjoying the puppet characters, which I saw as innocent. But whenever an adult walked into the scene I felt as though a world of innocence was suddenly violated. The pretension caused by the puppets having to pretend that the adults were as innocent as the children often destroyed the scenes for me.
Labyrinth stars a teenage girl who desperately wants to hold on to the innocence of a child’s heart, but is being forced into a world of adults and responsibilities that she doesn’t feel ready for. At one point in the movie she finds herself at a masquerade ball, filled with people wearing goblin masks behaving indulgently with each other. They are grown-ups trying to look as innocent as the puppets in the rest of the movie, while clearly acting depraved.
It’s a perfect metaphor.
Growing up was a fact of life that was difficult for me to accept. I didn’t want to become one of them. Of course my body clock didn’t give me a choice – sooner or later I was going to become one of them whether I wanted to or not – and I would lose my innocence. But before my teens I made a pact with myself to never forget what it was like to be a child in a world of grown-ups.
My innocence is gone. I can’t pretend it’s still there, nor do I want to – I know some kids can see through that. My best bet when I’m interacting with children is just to be honest. They appreciate that. I try not to swear or anything in front of kids, but neither do I act as though I never swear at all.