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How 'X-Men' Changed My Life

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Apr 29, 2012 | 4:40pm EDT

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the x menThere comes a point in every child's life when they just want to find someone they can relate to — someone who understands them, and won't judge them for still being afraid of that monster under the bed. (Guilty.) But while some kids opted to go the whole "imaginary friend" approach, I found solace in a rather unsuspecting place: In the comfort of superheroes.

I know it sounds strange, and I guess it is, especially sense I don't consider myself a huge superhero buff, as much as I'm enjoying celebrating our Superhero Week (and, like every else in the world, planning fighting for a seat to see Avengers this Friday). But life always has a way of surprising us, and there was a time in my adolescence when a fictional super character helped me cope with a childhood crisis. Picture this: You're a 12-year-old girl gearing up to go to your very first middle school dance. Of course, this means a major shopping spree is in order — new dress, new shoes, the whole works. It's a big deal in every girl's life (or at least it seems like a really big deal at a time in which you don't have to worry about bills, debt, mortgage, etc.), and you feel like you're well on your way to a truly phenomenal night filled with good friends, dancing, and hopefully some flirting with your not-so-secret crush.

But then it happens — three days before the dance you notice a small freckle on your arm that doesn't belong. Then, at lunch, you notice another one has shown up on the back of your hand. Then it hits you: Chicken pox. This is Teenage Armageddon at its very core. Thanks to this, your whole weekend has changed. Instead of a night of dancing with friends, you're now looking at a weekend full of pox cream, oatmeal baths, avoiding mirrors, and your parents. (Kill me now.) It seems silly to place so much weight on a sickness that nearly every child comes down with, but when you're young, your whole entire world and existence revolves around your social life, and that social life often shapes your lifelong confidence. Not being able to participate in something you know your friends will be talking about for weeks on end is almost too much mental anguish to bear.

So what does all this have to do with a superhero? As a way to help take my mind off of my unfortunate condition (at this point my face looked like one giant pock mark), my parents rented a whole stack of movies for me to watch in the hopes that I'd focus more on the TV and less on my itchy flesh. One of the films, X-Men, introduced me to Rogue. You can imagine why I was immediately drawn to her character. Rogue's touch — if held for too long — can be fatal, and allows her to absorb the powers of the person she's in contact with. It basically makes her a superhuman pariah — something I was becoming all too familiar with after being placed on chicken pox lockdown. She was cursed, unable to participate in typical teenage activities, and shunned by many who wanted no contact with someone with so heinous a condition. 

So there we were: Two incredibly pissed-off outsiders. Though Rogue isn't real, she was exactly what I needed in my depressed adolescent state to help put things into perspective and learn that even as a social outcast, it's possible to connect with others on a super-human level. If she could manage to cope with never being able to touch anyone, then I could certain deal with it for just a few weeks. Not only that, but she dealt with her super-problems in the best way possible: By being a generally kick-ass woman that any young girl could look up to. Her superpower did sometimes shake her confidence, but she always gained it back in time to save the freakin' world. Surely, if she was secure enough to survive global disaster, I could be secure enough to survive middle school.

And if that's not enough proof of how much this superhero has impacted my life, I'm grown into a confident adult who also happens to be an avid True Blood fan, which oddly enough stars Anna Paquin — the very same person who played Rogue. Coincidence? My superhuman senses tell me no.

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