The stress of Halloween is palpable… it pulses through my veins as we head into late October. Why? I’m not sure I can pinpoint one reason. Maybe because my mother rejected the cult of domesticity and therefore did not know how to sew, making our costume choices “witch” or “cat” in my youth. Maybe because as a chubby awkward tween when all of my friends were dressing as sexy angels, sexy cats, and sexy anything, I was dressed up as Wednesday Adams to hide my chunky thighs and hairy forearms. Maybe because my birthday precedes Halloween by a few days, and I grew damn sick of painting ceramic pumpkins at my middle class, suburban parties. Even the goodie bags were Halloween themed, down to the ghost mini-erasers I bitterly tossed in every bag before my friends arrived.
But why now? I’m a grown ass women. My thighs look great, and I manage my forearm situation. I am in control of when I celebrate my party and what theme I want it to be. It’s my choice. But as I picked out the keg for my upcoming self-organized birthday frenzy, I couldn’t help but avoid picking an autumnal beer. Still fighting against the stereotype of a Halloween-ish party, I think I discovered why in a story from Halloween past.
My morality as a child was puritanical in nature. We had a swear jar that I created, and I forced babysitters to drop in quarters even when they tried to utter swears under their breath. Because all I could understand as a kid about death is that it was caused by smoking, my hate for cigarettes was edging on obsessed. I would go up to perfect strangers and ask them to stop killing me with their second hand smoke. Needless to say, I was an asshole. This led seamlessly into my choice at 10 years old to go as a No Smoking sign for Halloween. My mom hired a seamstress to sew a white sheet into a white columun, with a rough slit for me to see out of. We ran out of time to dye the top half with tea to make me filtered, but I thought it would still work because no one would see the pointed top that would be folded over under my fiery butt. My dad fashioned me a foil and wire hat with flames. I was ablaze! The hat weighed about 50 lbs, but I looked perfect. To top off the look, my dad spray painted a hula hoop red and taped a red piece of cardboard across the center. NO SMOKING, indeed!!!
As I shuffled along (big steps were impossible because the cigarette went down to my toes plus my 50 lb hat would fall off and break my foot) with my older sister, dressed as a nun that year, I noticed that my pillowcase was significantly lighter than my sister’s sack. Smokers were short-changing me on MY holiday! It’s my birthday month! Well I couldn’t stand for this. Even something as sacred as the vow to go as a No Smoking sign could not stand between me and a pile of wax lips and mini-nestles. I handed my mom the hat to tote around and hung the hula hoop on my shoulder. I was now, officially, a ghost! I thought for sure this would bring in more candy, but alas, as door after door was closed in our faces, it was now both my sister and I that were not getting very much candy.
After another defeated block, I turned around, looked straight at my mom, and asked, “Why aren’t we getting any candy?!”
She stared at me horrified. Her youngest daughter, in a white sheet with a cone-like top, with nothing but a small slash for her eyes. My mom had unknowingly dressed me like a member of the KKK. And worse? Paired me with a nun.
After years of therapy, and countless late night purchases of bags of nestle miniatures, I have recovered from this traumatic experience and am working on loving Halloween again. My anxiety a few weeks out always takes ahold, and I have to remind myself that no one can dress me up as a God-fearing racist psychopath again. And luckily, I’m going as Glenn Beck this year. Shit, wait…