For whatever reason, for a brief time in fifth grade, I got it into my head to sleep in my school clothes. My mom didn't make sure we were up, generally slept through that part of the morning, so I'm pretty sure she never even noticed I was doing it. Well you can imagine the way a kid who is doing that ends up smelling like after a while, and kids being kids, I was quickly told of my odoriferous situation. I'm going to assume that most of the kids just assumed it was because I was poor, which we were, though that had nothing to do with my strange notion of sleeping in my clothes, or that I didn't know what a shower was, when I took one daily. Add on the fact I was a rather shy kid back then, and the rest of 5th grade kinda sucked. There were other issues going on then too, but this certainly did not help. That's also the year I had to go on a field trip, to the lake my father died in.
A few years later, during the whole carnival years, the aroma problem reared it's ugly head once again. This time, it wasn't because I was sleeping in my clothes, it was because where we were living for the winter, I wasn't able to take a shower every day. It was probably the most humiliating thing to happen to me at that age, though not one of the other kids ever said a word to me, so for that, I will always be grateful. It also didn't help that I had been changing schools so much, every two weeks, due to the carnival moving towns. So I was never comfortable around kids my own age, since all the other kids on the road were either older or younger to me. And moving every two weeks, it was pretty hard to make friends. Instances like this, just made it worse.
So I get Pig-Pen. His friends are nice to his face, though their teasing can be a bit harsh at times. They talk about him behind his back, and his creator regretted the fact he ever drew him. We never learn his real name, or his family situation. Half the time, it appears that there is no one at home looking out for him, but other times, his mom is calling him home to take a bath. Most of the time it appears that his dirtiness is by choice, but other strips you can see the emotional damage the teasing inflicts on him. I really do think he's just a boy who likes to play, and doesn't care about the dirt. But I can relate to those glimpses of pain, when other kids don't bite their tongues. When the choices of an adult, has a negative impact on your self esteem, I get the ramrod straight back you end up putting up, in an attempt to show the world they aren't getting to you. Pig-Pen, and the real human kids like him, like me, deserve better than what's said to them. He's always going to be a part of me, and despite it all, I'm grateful for it.
And for the record, both situations have stayed in my head. It's part of the reason I take two showers a day, and have used cologne since high school. I will never put myself in that situation again. That's a promise I made in TX after I was called to the principal's office that last time, being offered the use of the locker room showers before school.