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Halloween Costume Redemption

Green M&M costume

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.

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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.”


  1. You. Are. Hilarious. I don’t know what I loved most about this: your son’s “WHAT THE HELL MOM?!”; the fantastic shot of you and the boy together, clad is costumes; or the fact that your mom totally ruined Halloween for you, too. I was a “California Raisin” for three straight years. The costumed consisted of a TRASH BAG, white gloves, and sunglasses. Kill me now.

    • I totally forgot about the California Raisins, and you know what? I think that may in fact be worse than the potato sack. And the trash bag – such an olden day mom thing to do, right? What were our mother’s drinking and smoking back then?

      Glad you liked it though. I think I’m going for the Kimbra/Gotye combo although my husband has reservations.


  2. Love this post! Found it through your link on the Daily Post writing challenge and hope it gets you Freshly Pressed! You deserve it!!!! :-)

    • Thanks Amb. I need it to compensate for being a potato sack decades ago:)


  3. I love that the M&M has such classy boots :) I’m also glad you’ve redeemed yourself for the potato sack! I am sure that was awful!

    • I certainly won’t forget the potato sack (who does that to a kid?!) and think I’ve been trying to make psychic amends ever since (hence the boots).

  4. love both your costumes!! and your sons face is priceless!!! so funny! and the potato – i remember. haha

    • Thanks. I think that was the first time in his little life I had ever seen pure disgust on his face. It took a lotta candy and distraction to wear him down.

  5. This was hilarious. I nearly lost my shit on the I still remember potato! Funny and great post!

    • I’m glad you liked it. My husband found the potato later in the kitchen and thought I was sending a “message”.

  6. Oh you guys are my kind of Halloween people. I should send you the picture of our graveyard front yard! I get a little crazy in October! Your son’s makeup looks fabulous (and that’s a phrase I only use at Halloween time) and so does yours! Love the green eyeshadow and lashes!

  7. Great pictures! They absolutely enhance this story. I, too, LOVE Halloween. We celebrate all month long. Last weekend — pumpkin patch with the kids. This weekend — Zombie Pub Crawl in Minneapolis. I have three rubbermaid containers full of costumes I’ve collected. This year, daughter (23 months) will be little bo-peep and son (3 months) her little lost sheep. Mom and dad are the same thing — but my costume is a lot sluttier.

    • Haha, I actually love slutty costumes in small doses. I’m so jealous, I’ve always wanted to do a Zombie-con or Fairy-con event, but I can’t get anyone to do it with me.

  8. This is great — the writing, the story, the costumes! WP should Fresh Press this.

  9. Yes, yes, yes! You really know how to bring the fun – may I borrow the Green M&M outfit? Fabulous! And the potato sack story really hit home. My mom made us extravagant homemade costumes when all my friends had off-the-shelf costumes. All I wanted was a store bought Dorothy or Cinderella. And to fit in. Great post!

    • I would be happy to share my Green M&M costume! It’s the perfect costume for the “not-22″ year old woman.

  10. Awesome job on the Avatar costume!! Home made costumes are THE BEST!Also, the Gotye idea is brill for next year..what a beautiful video :) Also great pictures of your costumes!

    • Thanks for the kudos to the avatar make-up! What I didn’t mention is that it took close to 3 hours to apply it, and when you have a wiggly little boy, it’s a terrible combination. My husband is still not sold on Gotye though….

  11. Hahhah thank goodness you included the pics! I wanna be a green m&m now.

  12. This brings back such fun memories! My hubby and I used to go all out for Halloween (before kids, of course). This year our whole family is going as The Avengers. We convinced my daughter to go as Thor because she’s the only one with long blonde waves…

    • Love that idea!

  13. From one Halloween costume lover to another: Go for it!

    My husband is in a band and they play a Halloween show or two every year. I LOVE having an excuse to dress up. It’s always such a blast, and the people who aren’t in costume end up wishing they were.

    If I weren’t all the way in Chicago, I’d be suiting up and heading to that fabulous parade with you.

    P.S. The Avatar and M&M costumes were both awesome!

    • Thanks for the costume support. I’m always surprised by how many adults feel self conscious about dressing up on Halloween. But it’s nice to see how many still like it, even if its not in my immediate group of friends.

  14. Our Halloween costumes one year were these specially marketed pajamas that could do double duty. Mine was a polka-dotted “clown” (just add face paint), and my younger brother’s was Superman (flame-retardant powder-blue???). Great photos with your story!

  15. I love this, and love your costumes. I so remember being little, and fighting with my mom over halloween costumes. I think it is a right of passage that every kid has to go through.

  16. This is superb! I have a Halloween themed post coming up that echoes the sublime agony that results from a misguided mom’s interference. I too was a victim of this heinous crime. Love your blog!

    • Thank you! Can’t wait for your post on Halloween.

  17. You told this story hilariously but the pictures added every last ounce of perfectness to this. Your sons costume was awesome and yours was a riot (my kids used to roll their eyes at my nuttiness!). The potato, though…that had me in stitches! Yes, the two of you as Gotye would is perfect!

  18. Yet another victim of a mother’s questionable taste in Halloween costumes. At least the potato was identifiable as a costume. My mother talked me into dressing up as a hippie in seventh grade, which consisted of wearing a fringed poncho and a head scarf. No one realized I was supposed to be anything other than a fashion victim.

    • My son asked that I go as a “soccer mom” this year, which I think would render me looking pretty much everyday as well.

  19. I love to dress up. Always have. I used to do it even when I had no kids, but I’d give out candy instead of taking it. Never really thinking that a random woman walking the streets handing out treats might be a little creepy in and of itself.

    • Ha ha, but I don’t think kids should have all the fun on Halloween. I also loved it pre-baby.

  20. I’m impressed by the make up job and I say definitely go for the Gotye this year!

    • Thanks for the Goyte endorsement, but I’m getting pressure to go Katy Perry. I’m conflicted.

  21. I like how you’re really into Halloween. And how you got past that horrible potato sack costume! We’d be pals in real life, I just know it! I’m going as Pippi Longstocking. Not too far of a stretch but there you go!

  22. So funny :) I really loved the pictures, too! You’re son is such a cutie, both in the pictures and in your story. Love it.

    • Thanks so much. He was pretty miserable for the first half hour, I must say.

  23. Hecks yeah, re: gotye. I though of being goddess Shiva this year. I hate the cheapo premade costumes, but might give in this year as my schedule suddenly got a whole lot busier. But I am open to costume, DIY quick, suggestions. So glad you have fun as an adult, few do!

    • Thanks for the Gotye support. My husband’s not bending sadly enough. I keep trying to tell him we would only do this from the neck up!

  24. That potato cracks me up! I remember asking mom if I could be a can of A & W root beer for halloween as a girl. The real reason was that I was on a sugar free diet, but we’d need a can of soda as a model and I got to drink it. I was that desperate. We made it together, cutting pieces of brown and orange felt. I was super proud of it, until I got to school and felt – exactly like you – like a dork in a big potato sack, with all the cool girls as witches and cats. Great post and terrific writing. You captured everything perfectly!

    • Wow, you had a real agenda! I hope you enjoyed that A&W. Sounds like you didn’t like the costume as much as the soda.

  25. My mom used to make my costumes too. I am not a Halloween fan, but I love how much you love it and your dedication to it! Both of your costumes looked great!

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