Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Unlike the other holidays, like Thanksgiving, I don't have to be confined in a space with my dysfunctional family. Matter of fact, on Halloween it is my motivation NOT to see my family. I use this as an inspiration to come up with a really good costume, making me unrecognizable, just in case I should have the misfortune of running into any of them. I don't want them to be able to tell it's me.

In addition to being family-free, there are hoards of candy. Need I say more? Halloween isn't constricted to just chocolate bunnies, jelly beans and marshmallow peeps. No limitations on chocolate balls and candy canes in stockings. No, this holiday is ALL about the variety and bulk. How can you go wrong?

But mostly the reason I enjoy Halloween is I love the fact that on one day a year we can dress any way we like and not be judged. Men get to dress up like women and see what it's like to put on fishnet stockings and walk in heels. Women who are normally considered "nice" break out into their witch costumes so their true selves can come out; children get to live out their fantasies of becoming their favorite movie or TV characters. One day a year, we all get to act like 3 year olds and pretend to be something or somebody else. What is there not to like about that?

I can remember being seven years old and my parents taking me to Mr. Bigs to buy me a Halloween costume. There it was, on the shelf, the costume for me. Back then, costumes came in a box. Through the cellophane of the box, all I could see was the Snow White mask that I just had to have. It even came with black painted hair on the top of the clear plastic which matched MY hair perfectly. Although my parents were not convinced, I talked them into buying it for me. I got it home and immediately wanted to try it on, but was told I had to wait for Halloween. But that was a week away! A lifetime for a little kid. Halloween night was the first and only time you wore your costume back then. No preceding firehouse parties, birthday parties, school parties, neighborhood block parties, et cetera. I couldn't wait.

Halloween night came. I got the box and opened it carefully to not rip it because after I wore the costume that night, my intent was to put it all back in the box to play dress up with it at a later time. I finally got to try it on. It was bright red, white and blue satin with a real velvet collar. I was excited and thrilled that it fit so well as I checked my look in the mirror. I ran to show my parents, only to have my happiness dashed away by my mother who informed me that I had to wear my winter jacket underneath it. What? She must be kidding? Snow White doesn't have a puffy winter jacket with a fur-lined hood sticking out underneath! I'm going to look like Snow White on steroids!! That's it! I'm not going trick or treating! I'll stay home and give out candy instead. Curses! But since my entire family was going, staying home alone was not an option. I just prayed I didn't run into any of my friends from school looking like that.

I have vivid memories of walking around my neighborhood with the clear plastic Snow White face mask on, not being able to breathe. Condensation formed on the inside of the mask caused by the contrast of my hot breath bouncing off the inside and the cold October night air on the outside; my face getting chapped from the mixture of moisture and sub-degree temperatures.

Who could breathe through those microscopic pin holes that those masks had? Seriously? My mother tried to make the holes a little bigger to let more air in, but that just made the plastic have sharp edges that hurt my nose. And couldn't they have made the elastic a bit thicker or the staple a little stronger so the mask wouldn't break? Although, I think I broke mine purposely so I wouldn't have to wear the darn thing. I couldn't breathe! Or see, for that matter, through the small eye holes! After not being able to see the steps to houses, I ended up wearing the mask on my head like a bonnet. Not what I had planned AT ALL!

Upon the trip home, the costume was taken off and put back in the box in a crumpled up ball, not folded like I had previously thought I would care for it, never to be taken out again. I don't think I ever looked at store bought costumes the same way again. Especially those clear plastic face mask type. What kind of sham were they anyway. I didn't look a thing like Snow White.

Anyone can buy a costume in the store or buy a mask and put it on. And I'm not knocking you if you do that. At least you're dressing up, which is more than I can say for the folks that don't dress up at all. I think people that don't dress up are generally insecure and feel like they are revealing too much about themselves if they do. My personal opinion is, those people are revealing so much more about themselves by NOT dressing up. But there are always going to be those folks that don't. And that's okay. There's room at the party for those folks too. I recently met a woman who was divorced and came to a Halloween party with her wedding ring on, saying that she was coming as a married person. Goes to show that you don't have to wear makeup and be able to sew costumes to be inventive.

I like Halloween mostly for the originality that some people come up with. They say that on Halloween, people's alter egos come out. As I was getting my annual exam this week, my gynecologist was telling me that this year she was scheduled to be in the ER on Halloween night so she had to be somewhat tame, but was still going to get dressed up. She went on to say that she is 39 and has no children. She and her husband have decided that they will not have kids, but their families keep putting the pressure on them. So she decided to go to Goodwill and buy eight baby dolls, she bought a long black wig and some big red lips. She planned on going to work in the ER as the Octomom. I loved that!

I often think back to the 80's when I was friends with a couple drag queens. To them, Halloween was like Christmas morning. The months prior to Halloween involved endless shopping to find the right size pumps, size 14 extra wide. Wig selection - smart, tidy brunette or blond bombshell? Chiffon or taffeta? Go all natural? Or show total commitment and shave their chests, legs, arms and who knows where else. All for one day of being able to express the person they were inside. What joy to see them so happy! "Deck the Halls" should have been a Halloween song not a Christmas song. "Don we now our gay apparel, fa, la, la..." Who other than gay men would sing "fa, la, la" with such enthusiasm?

Anyway, there's something daring, something courageous, about dressing up. It's fun while you're getting ready, but then you have to actually face people in your get up. It always makes me a bit nervous as I'm sure it does others. But I find that if you're with friends that have a sense of humor, it can be a blast.

One of my favorite costumes in the past that I dressed up as was a Bumble Bee. This consisted of a striped black and yellow sweater, yellow jeans with black tape rings, six legs made from tin foil, black tape on bent metal clothes hangers and tennis ball antennae attached to a head band. A stinger lay limp on my butt, not providing much of a threat, but was there for the effect. This was one of my favorite costumes not because it was elaborate, but because of the puns I could come up with all night. "Hey, Bee quiet!...You, Bee-have!" and "Man, I'm buzzzzzzed!" An endless night of funny one-liners about the costume is what makes it fun.

I dressed up one year as Edward Scissorhands. I entered a bar contest even though the competition was quite stiff that year. But remarkably I won. I enjoyed that costume because I had a good time giving complete strangers pretend haircuts and watching their reactions as I clinked my scissors around their heads. The reactions ranged from, "Get the heck away from me" to "Just take a little off the top." The one drawback to that costume, should you want to copy the idea, is that drinking and eating presented a challenge, just like in the movie where he would cut himself. Have you ever tried to pick up a cup with a bunch of scissors taped to your hands? More of a challenge is bringing the cup to your mouth without poking your eyes out.

A popular Halloween costume any year is any character from The Wizard of Oz. One year, three of my friends and I decided to dress up like the characters of the Wizard of Oz. We had to decide who was going to be who. We could have drawn straws to see who would play each character, but that wouldn't have been the right thing. You have to pick the character that you can identify with the best. Let's face it. I didn't qualify for the role of Dorothy. Nobody wants to see me in pigtails, kind of like seeing CarrotTop in pigtails. When you look at him, you have to wonder what is he thinking, don't you? I would have gotten the same reaction. Plus, I'm not the ruby slipper type. (Although I might have looked good in that little checkered number. Oh well.) The scarecrow wasn't an option either because I wasn't smart enough to figure out where to put the straw. Plus my friend had the perfect IQ to play the part. It really came down to the choice of the Cowardly Lion (cowardly I am not) or the Tin Man. It was decided that since I didn't have "a hott", that I would go as the Tin Man. I can hear some of you saying, yup, dead on! But remember, this is the ALTER EGO, which means that I really DO have a heart, just like the Tin Man did. Case in point, who was the one in the movie that was always crying, caring, inclusive, and sensitive, huh? The Tin Man, that's who! It was only fitting that I take on that role.
"Cuz Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man that he didn't, didn't already have." - America

I liked dressing up like the Wizard of Oz in a collaborative effort with the other girls because it was a team approach. We had to hang together all night, in unity. We had to skip together like there was a yellow brick road, to show off our costumes to the judges. We won the contest in a packed New Haven bar that year and it was fun sharing the experience with others for a change. I have fond memories of that evening.

It's the homemade costumes that get props from me. My kids have always had some kind of homemade job that has been on the creative side. Anyone can be a witch, a princess, vampire, ghost or dress up like the opposite sex. No offense, but boring! The true Halloweenians take the challenge seriously and search current events and capitalize on the moments in time that are controversial, funny, warped, or sometimes even sad.

Suffice it to say, that this year when my daughter insisted that she wanted to be a witch and saw the perfect costume that she wanted at Walmart, I was greatly disgusted and disappointed. But I remember how important it was for me to get the one I wanted, cursed Snow White, so I let her be...a witch.

It killed me to let her be a witch. But I thought, I'll get her back when I tell her she has to wear her jacket underneath! Nope. Plan foiled. It was 72 degrees this Halloween so she didn't have to be subjected to being the jacket-plump witch. All in all, a lovely night and no emotional scars were inflicted. Drats!

If I can digress for a moment. Is it me or have Halloween decorations gotten more elaborate? No more plain jack-o-lanterns with triangle eyes and nose, but instead fancy carvings of witches on broomsticks and Spongebob Squarepants carved into pumpkins; houses lit up with orange string lights; blow up Grim Reapers; and plastic pumpkin candy containers to collect the candy in? What happened to the plain old pillow cases that we used when I was a kid? People are spending their disposable income on all this stuff and then skimping on the candy! My daughter didn't get one full-size chocolate bar. Not one! When I was a kid, I would at least get 1 or 2 full-size Hershey bars. I guarantee my daughter couldn't care less about these people's fog machine and forgot about it the minute she stepped off their porch. But had they given her a full size bag of M&Ms, she would have remembered their house next year. Have we lost the meaning of Halloween? The over-indulgence of candy? The not-being-able-to-carry-the-sack-of-candy-because-you-got-too-much dilemma? Or is it all about how pretty or scary people's houses look now? Ok, I'll let it go. I'll go to Walmart and buy full-size candy bars marked down. And maybe some marked down orange lights while I'm at it.

Since my daughter did not allow me to let my creative juices flow this year (a witch! I'm still not over it), I decided to dress up myself. But like I said, no store-bought costume for me. I decided this year I was going to make a political statement. My friend and I got all geared up in army fatigues, army boots, me sporting a mustache and cigar. My friend's name tag read: Don Task. My name tag read: Don Tell. It might take a second. Give it a minute before you read on if you haven't caught on.

Now, since this is MY blog, I'm merely expressing MY opinion on the subject. You don't have to agree, and this particular blog is not about political stances. So don't be sending me comments about your stance on this issue. (Unless of course you agree and, in that case, I'd love to hear from you!) But I do want to state that I dressed up like this because I just think that the Don't Ask, Don't Tell solution to gay people in our military was and still is such a ridiculous solution. Leave it to Clinton to come up with it. Maybe he was referring to his own sex life and didn't want anyone "asking" him about it and he didn't want to "tell" what he was doing with Monica Lewinsky. But with the Democrats in control again, I am hoping that this becomes less of an issue and if gay people want to serve in the military, they should be allowed to, openly; that they shouldn't be made to feel different, act differently, or keep quiet about their sexual preferences. I hope there will come a day when our children ask the question, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell? What was THAT all about?" We will tell them and they will say "How silly!" So I wanted to do this before it becomes a non-issue, which I hope it does in the near future. So my costume was political, and yet funny. Plus I had army fatigues in my closet so it was easy.

My second choice was to go as balloon boy. I was going to get in a box with 2 X 4's glued to the sides as rafters. Next year.

My Kaneclusion: If it is indeed true that dressing up for Halloween brings out people's alter ego, then what I really want to be in life is an openly gay man in the military, who has no heart, who would rather be cutting hair, who walks around buzzed all the time, looking for dwarfs. Interesting. Maybe in my next life. But if it really just means that the people who like to dress up on Halloween just enjoy having fun, then that alter ego crap is exactly that.

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Anonymous said...

LOL! I look forward each week to see what your going to talk about. It brought me back to my childhood. Loved those pix ~

Anonymous said...

Love the entire thing, esp. the bits about homemade costumes (always the case for us growing up, as well) and the clever political statement. Great pics!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE Halloween! Your writing brought it all back home for me! I feel like I live Halloween every day in Palm Springs!