Courageous Conversations about Clowns

“I’m feelin’ a little raggedy today!” Chloe declares upon her entrance into the Signature office. I pull out the “Chloe Hill Memorial Mug” (where she will drop change every time she drops the f-bomb) and place it prominently on the table. On her “raggedy” days, it’s only a matter of time.

On most days, Chloe is our resident sage. She will sit tranquilly at the back of class, raise her hand calmly, and then lay us out with some profound insight or another. Our minds blown, she goes back to looking contemplative.

But not on her Raggedy days. This is a term she invented. Loosely translated, it is a hybrid of “ratchet,” “sassy,” and “hysterical.” It wasn’t until her sophomore year I got to meet Chloe’s inner clown. Everyone else had already had the privilege.

Chloe's clown beats up some other kids clown...
Chloe’s clown beats up some other kids clown…

Chloe and I share a number of significant connections. We think deeply. Love writing.  Are in pursuit of a profoundly meaningful life…and we were both voted class clowns by our peers.

I got to share this distinction my senior year at Hillcrest High School with my very dear friend Carl Swanson. Carl and I grew up together. His mom babysat me. We went to the same church and the same elementary and middle school…but it wasn’t until High School we became the kind of friends who provoked the constant (and annoying) question: “Are you guys together?”

Yuck. As ever, nope. Carl was my brother…And senior year we were con-joined twins.

conjoined clowns

He was the student body president, I was the vice president, and we were BOTH voted class clown. So…that year was fun. I don’t know that there is a high school honor of which I am more proud.

Chloe was a bit more ambivalent. She was voted class clown not once, but TWICE. In 8th grade and now more recently in this, her senior year.

“It’s weird. I mean, I’ve changed so much. I feel like I’m so different.”

But when I asked her if there was a superlative she would prefer?


In the spirit, though, of over-analysis, we had to talk about the deeper meaning of being voted class clown for another hour.  Because to be a clown isn’t as simple as one might think. Are we a fool? A jester? A minstrel? (Definitely NOT a mime.) These distinctions matter.

In Shakespeare, it is often the so-called “fool” that stands apart, observing the action, calling to attention the deeper truths…through bawdy humor and innuendo. Often, it seems, they are the only ones that can see the world as it is. And because they make us laugh, we let them tell us the hard truths they see…instead of throwing tomatoes at them. There is something about laughter that lets us probe into our discomfort more deeply.

Recently a woman who I had just met said to me, “I feel like behind your quirk you’re hiding this Boss Bitch.”

Wow. Okay.

To  her it seemed I was “using your quirkiness as a defense mechanism.” I mean, I absolutely do that…but no one had ever called me on it so blatantly.  Since that moment, I have become much more aware of whether I am using whimsy to hide or reveal. To diminish the power within, or amplify it. Even over the course of this Lenten Writing practice, I got 10 minutes into a blog post a few days ago (about goats)…but realized I was hiding more than I was saying…often behind the guise of wit and word play.

Carl and Chloe are both these people I credit with bringing out my bravest self. Carl’s honest exuberance inspired faith in my own. Chloe’s raggedy commentary pushed me into courageous conversations. I have held hands with both of these hilarious humans and let the resonance of their laughter echo off my own vocal chords.

There is courage in the clown. The truth of the punchline hurts less, if there is a laughter before and after.

More musings about the power of honest whimsy…

Business Whimsical and the Playfessional

Whimsagogy and Epifunny

Whimsy while you work


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