Halloween Costume Redemption
I start planning for Halloween in August because getting to wear costumes is second only to the perfect sipping tequila in my book of pleasures. The chance for me to realize left-over childhood fantasies and transform myself into anything I want to be, is irresistible.
My relationship with Halloween costumes didn’t get off to a great start though. When I was six, my mother thought it would be clever to dress me up as a potato sack. My mom didn’t understand my feminine world, which often resulted in creative differences like the Sandy Duncan hair-cut and culottes.
She got the potato sack idea from my grandmother, who wore this at a costume party in the 60s and was a smashing hit. The difference being that my grandmother was the epitome of kittenish glamour in her day, so the misdirect was funny. But on a six-year-old girl with a butch hair-cut and an aching desire to be liked by the first grade alpha females known as The Kims, it was burlap torture. There’s no happy ending here; the potato didn’t stay tied to my head and The Kims officially branded me as weird.
The next year, my mother attempted to make amends with a handmade Alice and Wonderland costume complete with crinoline and a lush, long blonde wig, but the damage was already done. I was officially at the bottom of the social food chain until third grade.
Halloween costumes came in and out of my life thru my teens and twenties, but I often lacked the cash, craftiness and kindred spirits to pull off my ambitions. In college I attempted a DIY Cleopatra made from sheets, Scotch tape, old necklaces and sparkles, all of which aptly fell apart piece by piece (except for my jet black wig) as I marched across campus on my way to a party. In the early 1990s, I talked my then boyfriend into dressing up as Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz. The problem was that neither of us are black, unlike a lot of our friends. So between the “WTF” reaction and the rash my boyfriend got from the shoe polish he wore on his face, I began to think Halloween dress up was better left to the kids.
Until I became a mom 10 years later.
My adorable baby boy, a little mini me that I could stuff into fuzzy Tom Arma animal costumes every October 31st. Costumania was rekindled, this time channeled thru progeny.
But as it goes, at around the age of 5, my son began to have his own ideas , which meant flimsy Power Ranger costume made of something flammable. My heart broke when I learned he was only in it for the candy.
Somehow, this only intensified the urge to dress up for myself. I tried to nudge the moms in my posse to do the same, but usually got a lot of blank stares that rendered me on a safe, excepted path. This meant sparkly black kitty ears, devil horns, bandit masks and Sarah Palin (although everyone thought I just had a client meeting).
But this all changed in 2010.
My son was finally old enough to handle the 69th Street Halloween Block Party, an event I had been mentally earmarking for years. Every Halloween, the brownstone lined street that stretches between Broadway and Columbus shuts down and transforms into a spooky Tim Burton set. In fact one year a Broadway producer had live Spiderman and Cat Woman stunt people rappelling from the roof and scaling the building, dipping in and out of the windows. It’s neighborhood New Yorkers at their best; sitting on stoops, passing out candy, and dressed in full Halloween regalia. It’s what I imagine Heidi Klum and Seal’s famous Halloween parties have been like before their divorce, without the celebrity or invitation.
But to do 69th street right, you need a statement costume.
Enter Jake Sully, the blue guy from Avatar and my son’s costume of choice. I knew he would be disappointed by the cheap off the shelf version, so I waited at the ready to jump in for a little creative intervention. An hour later were we at Ricky’s, stocking up on multiple shades of blue Ben Nye stage make-up, when I saw it; costume perfection in the form of the Green M&M. Not too dumpy, not too slutty and perfectly me.
October 31 came and I sashayed into out living room, resplendent in my green M&M, platinum wig, glitter eye make-up, thigh high boots and 2 lbs of fake eyelashes.
“What the hell, Mom!” my son shrieked in disgust.
“What? You were there when I bought this and I”m wearing it.” I said defensively, as a cloud of parental guilt settled over my hubris. ”It’s 69th street, you have to dress up”. After some cajoling and cash bribery, my son resigned himself to his circumstances. I took a deep breath, and out we went, although I couldn’t shake the picture of him working this out in therapy in his mid thirties and blaming–mother.
Fortunately, reservations melted as attention shifted to my son who got kudos for his costume. But reparations came in the form of an older kid who elbowed my son with ,”Hey, your Mom’s fun”. The night ended on a sugar high hug, but a request that in the future I stick only with my glitter pitchfork.
Which I’ve done since The Halloween That We Hope To Forget in 2010.
But this year, with my son gaining independence and trick or treating with friends, my husband and I just might get our costume freak on.
Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke is too obvious and tacky. I think instead we’ll take inspiration from Ylvis’s “The Fox” viral video and embrace the whole animal cos-play trend. What does the fox say? ”I’ll have another glass of Pinot Noir please.”