Discover The Person Hidden Inside Yourself

Writer Marla Hardee Milling shares how she broke free from her shyness and found another personality she never knew existed - at clown school!
Marla Hardee Milling

A new "me"
I've experienced bouts of painful shyness throughout my life. It's no wonder then that family, friends and acquaintances ask, "What possessed you to do it?" when they hear of my new "personality."

There are all sorts of noble reasons I can think of when pondering how to answer that question. But the truth is, when I put on my bright red Pebbles-styled wig, face paint and giant shoes -- orange on one foot and neon yellow on the other, I'm doing it for myself.

Dressed as a clown, my name is Fruitloop. And you know what I've discovered about her? Fruitloop is definitely not shy. She loves attention and loves making people laugh.

Clown in training
clown mom Frootloop I didn't know Fruitloop existed until one day I read about upcoming clown classes at The Health Adventure in Asheville, North Carolina. She emerged, much like Athena jumping out of Zeus' head, and nagged me about signing up immediately. Clown classes? I had never ever thought of having such a hobby. But Fruitloop was strong and forced me to pick up the phone and call.

The first night, I was the first to arrive. My palms grew sweaty when I noticed all the chairs were arranged in a circle. I'm uncomfortable when I first meet groups of strangers, and circles just perpetuate the fear. "What are you doing here?" my shy mind screamed. "It will be OK," Fruitloop reassured.

As the rest of the class filled their chairs, our instructor "Kabookee" shouted for everyone to get on their feet. We would have our first exercise before our "official" introductions. Kabookee took a long, slender blue balloon and held it up for us to see. "We're going to pass this around the circle, but you can't use your hands," she said. She tucked the balloon under her chin, and we began to pass the balloon from neck to neck, and sometimes cheek to cheek. Smiles immediately broke on everyone's face and the laughter proved contagious. During the hilarity of the moment, my shy self must have merged with my clown self, because I thought "I am definitely in the right place!"

clown mom Developing from the inside out
When I signed up for the class, I had a pre-conceived notion that we would spend a lot of time on makeup and costumes, and then go our merry way. Instead, this class focused more on character development, and building clowns from the inside out. We spent time doing improvisations and learning to use gags and tricks that would complement our own distinct "clown" personality.

I had latched on to the name "Fruitloop" even before the classes officially began. But I didn't know a lot about her. I have discovered, through the guidance of the class, that Fruitloop is four years old and she just loves practical jokes and being really silly. She loves bright colors, and nobody, but nobody can make her laugh like Spongebob Squarepants.

New skills
Clowns also need to have their own set of skills or specialties. As I worked through the gags and gimmicks in the class, I wondered what Fruitloop would be able to do. She didn't feel confident trying to juggle.

Face painting seemed equally difficult, and the gags and skits just didn't feel right. Then, Kabookee introduced the class to balloon animals, and Fruitloop went wild. She loves balloon animals and learned quickly how to inflate the limp, brightly colored strings into plump balloons and then twist them into the shape of dogs and giraffes. Her expertise in other shapes is sure to follow.

Fruitloop also learned that she enjoys making paper flowers on a pipe cleaner stem. These simple flowers are fun and easy, and a perfect activity for a birthday party, especially Fruitloop's fellow four-year-olds. Another Fruitloop favorite is bubble blowing, especially when she gets one of those nifty pencil-sized bubble tubes with a tiny wand that allows her to blow oodles of tiny bubbles.

Fruitloop and her instructor, Kabookee A degree in "fun"ology
The class also provided instruction in face painting and deciding if your clown is a Whiteface or an Auguste. In clown hierarchy, the Whiteface is the one who would throw the pie or pull a prank, and the Auguste is the one who falls victim to the prank. Fruitloop is a Whiteface. My two-year-old and four-year-old sat beside me in the bathroom and watched as I put on my "death mask" for graduation day. The complete coat of white over your face is known as a death mask before a clown then puts on the finishing touches. Fruitloop paints blue upside down triangles underneath her eyes, rounded lines above her eyes, big red smile, and then she pastes on her professional clown nose.

I bounded into the graduation ceremony fully transformed as "Fruitloop." Each graduate had a chance to show off their newly acquired skills before the diplomas were awarded. When Kabookee asked who wanted to go first, Fruitloop surprised everyone by jumping out of her chair, waving her stash of inflated balloons and yelling, "I do, I do!" She then wowed the audience with her quick twists, producing a cute doggy.

Then, again, when Kabookee called Fruitloop's name to come and receive a diploma, the action started again. Fruitloop jumped from her seat and said, "Me, really me?" When Kabookee said yes, Fruitloop skipped and jumped and hopped across the stage, and whooped and hollered, "I did it! I did it!" She grabbed Kabookee's hand and said, "Thank you, Kabookee. Thank you, Kabookee." Kabookee's eyes twinkled as the two improvised a spontaneous routine of trying to pull back from the handshake, yet the handshake remained intact, while Fruitloop continued to say, "Thank you, Kabookee. Thank you, Kabookee." The crowd loved it.

I think my shy days are officially

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