Little Green Men

When I grow up I aspire to communicate with aliens.
Digital illustration: Little Green Man

You know how it is, when you’re a kid: the stories of the unknown are easy for anybody to concoct, since practically everything in the universe is still complete terra incognito to a kid. When I was a little squirt, there were endless options for what could be considered alien, from plain old grownups I couldn’t understand to spies and horror-story monsters, teachers and people who spoke indecipherable languages (you know, like Mathematics), ghosts and clowns. Or any combination thereof. But the best kind of aliens about which to tell tall tales would pretty much have to be extraterrestrials, nearly all of them apparently coming from Mars in the popular lore of my youth, and virtually every one of the Martians being, evidently, a little green man.

We make our gods and monsters in our own image, to a certain extent, even as grownups but most especially as children, so it makes sense that my childhood’s aliens should still have been humanoid, even if from 225 million kilometers away in space, give or take. I suppose that the green skin was mainly to clarify just how different these otherwise similar creatures were from us earthlings, and the littleness perhaps meant to signify their being lesser life forms than the obviously superior terrestrial ones.

But we little life forms known as kids were also savvy enough to make up our tales of Martians and Little Green Men in ways that would generally prove that our own smallness wasn’t so much a marker of inferiority in our race; we could best the invaders (as they always were, in those days) just as much as our elders could, maybe better. And of course we all knew at some point that we could best the human grownups, too. Especially as we grew older and began to realize that, like all of the other sorts of unknown and fearsome creatures that were alien to us, those ghosts and monsters and clowns and teachers, aliens might prove to be different from what we had imagined them to be.

Some might, in fact, turn out to be smarter than us. Be revealed as benign or, to our amazement, even benevolent. Just as we began to understand that not all humans and creatures that resembled humans to the casual observer were intelligent or benevolent or, indeed, quite human at all, we started to realize that each being whose path intersects with our own might prove, on closer observation and interaction, to have unknown depths and nuances, hidden flaws and unimagined strengths and gifts. We all begin as aliens to one another, in a way. It’s in learning to know each other as real and distinct individuals, to see each other with unprejudiced and open-eyed clarity and no preconceived notions of worth, of the good and bad of our hearts, that we can discover connections. Kinship.

I can’t say I think it at all likely that my ancestors were little green men who arrived in a flying saucer from Mars. And I’m not so all-embracing that I’ve given up my sense that there’s something alien and not quite right about most clowns. But I’ve got my own set of strange quirks and characteristics, and since I’d like to think other people will give me the chance to become a good person if I’m not already there, I hope I’m at least smart enough to get to know them as well as I can before assuming that they’re from another planet.

19 thoughts on “Little Green Men

    • Yes indeed, one of my favorites, too! I’d forgotten entirely until you mentioned it that the showing I first saw was, I think, one of the audience-polling test runs of the movie. I’ve seen it a few times since, and regardless of the bits of clearly dated content in terms of clothes and hairstyles and what was trendy and all of that, it never gets old for me!!


    • NO KIDDING! Oops, sorry for squealing like that, but I did and do find them supremely creepy for the most part. I wouldn’t go so far as to classify myself coulrophobic, since I don’t have nightmares about them or imagine all clowns are trying to kill me, but disgusted by them (what would be the cool-sounding Latin term for that? Coulromisia?)—oh, yes. 😉

  1. This reminded me of how surprised my sister was when she took me to see the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, way back when, in the late 70’s. At the end of the movie, when some of the humans are willingly stepping forward to enter the spacecraft to enter into the unknown, I was utterly jubilant, and exclaimed something along the lines of, “I would go. Oh, yes, I would definitely go. Just give me the chance. Take me with you.”

    My sister stared at me like I was, well, some kind of alien, and shook her head vehemently back and forth, muttering that only a crazy person would willingly follow alien beings into a spacecraft so that they could be whisked away to who-knows-where for who-knows-how-long. For weeks and months after that, she would look at me differently, like I had proclaimed the most peculiar of ideas. She was utterly shocked, because she knew I was being honest about my willingness to step forward if such a chance should arise. Her opinion of me became cemented as someone who would risk absolutely everything for the unknown.

    Years and years later, when I was in a hospital room after being resuscitated from a suicide attempt by drug overdose, she came to visit me, and her first words to me were “I knew I should have never taken you to see that movie”. It was an icebreaker that made us both laugh, at a time when much sadness filled the air. Later, in conversations, she would say that in some ways, she had always known this day might happen. That even though I was alien to her, I was also family. Little green men has become our inside joke, used as a point of reference to underline not only our differences, but also our connection.

    Whether it’s little green men, or just people who are different from ourselves, we’ve managed to hold on to our similarities, while also embracing our differences. You might say we’ve alienated ourselves from separation, and in doing so, have discovered acceptance.

    • What a wonderfully inside-out turn of events you two managed to make of the whole thing. 😀 That’s good sisterhood, in my book. I think it safe to say that all three of my sisters and I find each other alien in various ways, but most of them further endearing than otherwise.

      On another branch of the topic of little green men of all sorts, Richard and I just started re-watching the X-Files, which neither of us has seen since about when the series ended its initial broadcasts. It’s amusing at a number of levels to revisit that series, not least of all because no matter how much technology and science have advanced our knowledge and abilities to look deeper into the universe and our own world, I don’t see all that much change in attitudes or genuine understanding. Interesting, to say the least. 🙂

    • Sometimes I suspect that it’s when we think ourselves *least* different from each other that we get our wires crossed and find it hard to communicate! Whatever galaxy you’re from, it clearly produces exceedingly intelligent life and delightful creatures! 🙂

  2. Even though we’re all “our own kind of alien” we should all learn to love one another and live in harmony. On a lighter note, I used to have a clown costume my Mom made for me and I wore it several times for Halloween. Now I’m not so crazy about clowns. They’re more creepy than funny in my older years or maybe I’ve just seen too many movies. 🙂 Happy Wednesday, K! ♥

    • I *will* say that clowns are one of those topics very few people are indifferent to or lukewarm about—most of us tend to be extremists at one end of the spectrum or other. I had a couple of kids’-TV shows that had clown characters endearing and non-threatening and sly enough to win me over, but once I got past that age, nobody else in clown gear could get past the barrier, so since then I’ve been a pretty dedicated avoider. Can’t explain, no. Just know it. 😉

      And yes: harmony! The very notion of harmony *requires* the bringing together of differences, and is so much richer and more flexible than homophony. If only more people would figure that out. Someday, perhaps? 🙂

      Have a lovely, lovely week, my dear L! ❤

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