I know, in my early years, I reveled in the opportunity to dress up in my Dorothy or Wicked Witch of the West costume. With a minor obsession for Wizard of Oz, I was able to channel the sweet innocent and the very, very wicked. I remember laying on the couch watching my mother cut patterns and carefully sew together pieces of fabric, adding more to the length as the years went on. I remember these times as community events where the dads walked behind as the neighborhood kids ran from house to house.
By the time I reached junior high, I had outgrown the costumes and roaming the streets of the neighborhood. The girls were dressing like punk rockers or hookers or playboy bunnies, and I had a hard time rectifying my poor body image with the rapidly diminishing outfits.
By high school and college, I was decidedly done with this holiday. I was tired of my peers peeling off their clothes and their inhibitions and using Halloween as an excuse to act poorly. It frustrated me that typically meek, retiring people would come out in costumes that contradicted what they stood for, their being, their true self. I began to believe that Halloween for grown ups was just an excuse to put on a mask, act a fool, and hope to god that no one remembered the next morning. I believed in transparency, and honesty, and above all being true to yourself, this was not a celebration for me.
Once, in the last 25 years, I was forced into a costume. My Halloween obsessed friends, insisted that I wouldn’t be allowed to the party without dressing up. And, I obliged. I used the opportunity to put on a baseball cap and my shit kickers, turn my clothes around and join my husband in masquerading as Kris Kross, the quintessential ’90s rap stars. We were awesome. But, in a room of Swedish Chefs, Queen of Hearts, at least one Sexy Cat, a Pimp, and one very disturbing Brittany Spears, we were certainly underdressed.
This night will go down as one of the most epic scenes of debauchery ever to be witnessed by my very tame friends. Relationships ended, at least one marriage was made, there was fondling and kissing, and quite a bit of awkward homoeroticism. By the end, we all woke up the next morning shaking our heads and wondering who saw what and where. We had fun, and we still laugh about it to this day. But, there was a part of me that was sad for those people who only loosened up one day a year, for those people who needed a crazy hat or a little face paint to be who they really wanted to be.
Over the years, my opinions of Halloween have solidified. Especially, while watching young girls who I loved and respected don skimpy little numbers and traipse around as a “sexy something-or-other.” Why did these girls feel that they needed to strip down to express their sexuality? Why did they feel that their sexuality was defined by a few whiskers and a tail on their bum? Why did it all have to be so misogynistic and sad and depressing?
But, things change when you have your own kids. You begin to see things with fresh eyes and new perspectives. You begin to realize that sometimes it’s really hard being yourself as you move through childhood. Sometimes you find that it’s easier to try out something new in a costume before you try it out in real life.
My oldest is a rule follower, terrified of getting in trouble, and quite a bit smaller then his peers. His costume: An ugly, scary, moaning zombie, with a mask and spooky hands and a terrifying scythe. He walks through the streets taking complements about how scary and intimidating he looks. He’s happy to stand quietly on the lawn and scare tricker treaters as they walk by. He gets to be intimidating and tough and mean for one night.
My youngest designed his own costume exactly how he wanted. With a mask and dressed all in white, he can be a spooky ghost, and not just a baby brother. Nothing’s a hand-me-down, nothing’s been worn before, and he can be quiet and reserved or noisy and scary. It’s his choice. He can define himself in his own right with no one knowing who he is. He got to call the shots on his costume with no input from anyone.
And, me? I’m not quite ready to dress up this year, but I’m getting close. My sons hold me back, they’re afraid that I’ll embarrass them. And I like acting silly, and dressing up, and being a bit wacky, but the boys are always begging me to behave. I expect that for one night a year, they might just let me be me, as long as I pretend that I’m someone else.