We like to think of Halloween as a one-day hiatus from being ourselves. It’s our chance to dress up like someone totally different from ourselves, to try on another life for size. But who are we kidding? That’s not how it works. Every costume I’ve ever seen reveals more about the person wearing it than it does disguise anything. Sometimes it well executed, revealing just how clever, creative or daring a person is. And at others, well, it exposes our insecurities, insensitivity and misunderstandings.
People who want to be viewed as clever create homemade costumes and dress a pun or a rare literary reference. Those who want to highlight how sexy they are dress as a sexy whatever. Of course there are the dummies who somehow missed the Blackface Is Bad memo that’s been going around for a century. And from the controversies that arise from that we even learn more about ourselves as a culture, in terms of how far we still have to go, as well as how good we should feel that so many people are willing to stand up and say, “That’s not acceptable. The entire internet agrees you must be shamed.” Thanks, Buzzfeed!
The idea that Halloween is more revelatory than anything else got me thinking about my last costume a few years ago, which by all accounts, did not go over well. I was a naked Ken doll. I thought this would be hilarious. It would be super awkward looking, gender-bending, and an interesting cultural commentary on the Halloween Is Sexytime trend. I also thought I was going to a party at a friends’ house. The party fell through, however, and we ended up going to an event at a bar. Oops.
It was the weirdest night ever. Most people at the event mingled, asking one another what they were and talking about their costumes. Perhaps because both my gender and costume were so unclear, nobody talked to me. I’m pretty sure even my friends treated me differently that night. Standing in line for the women’s bathroom was an especially awkward experience. There was a lot of judging. It was kind of a bummer.
To this day, I maintain that my naked Ken doll costume was AMAZING. But it was not successful, that is for sure. I’m just not sure what that says about me. I think I’m clever-er than I am? People normally treat me extra nice because I’m a cute blonde woman, and I wasn’t prepared for social banishment? I was just at the totally wrong venue? I don’t know. Whatever it was, I’m still trying to learn from myself.
This year, as I’m dressed as a childless married woman who has forgotten to buy candy, the lesson is clearer: I should probably get more in to Halloween next year. So…what are you saying about yourself this year?