When I was little, Halloween was magical. Around the time my age hit double digits it started to be…complicated. I believe this is a common experience as children begin to be self conscious. In my case I was frustrated because no one ever knew what my costumes were, and I found them hard to explain. This is because I never chose to be a commonly known character. Instead I would create a character based on half a dozen worlds that I’d read and synthesized. Why could no one see that my long blue dress and cloak obviously meant that I was an empath who rode a winged horse? They would ask “what are you?” in a confused tone of voice and I wouldn’t know how to summarize, but I knew they didn’t want to hear the whole back story. When I was a kid among other kids, they understood that costumes had stories. But by junior high, they stood there in a yellow crayon outfit and stared at me like I was the weirdo. That was a difficult year and it put me off costumes for the rest of junior high.
Halloween became a big deal again after I met Howard and got married. It started small with just some stage make-up. But the seeds of the next year’s costume were planted until the pinnacle years when we had a group of six people and our toddler all dressed up like post-apocalyptic cyborg survivors. And then like medieval warriors with a preschool dragon and a baby dragon. We got professional photographs that year and had a great time. Then our Halloween loving friends moved away and somehow our Halloween efforts dwindled. The creative energy that we used to spend on costumes got spent on other things instead. I’m not going to complain because I like Schlock and I’m not sure it would have begun if we’d had a full-blown costuming hobby in place.
Today I went to our church Halloween carnival and for the I-don’t-know-how-many-th year in a row, I was boring. I didn’t wear a costume at all. I think I started being Halloween boring when Gleek was a toddler. I had three kids and it was challenging enough to keep track of them without adding complicated clothing. I always ended up toting their discarded props and trying to juggle all of their things plus a heavy cloak or a long dress stopped being any kind of fun at all. I used to make jokes about being dressed up as the storage closet because of all the things I ended up carrying around. Not only that, but there was never time to think up something to wear when I was so completely occupied with supplying four outfits to the exacting specifications of my children. I still enjoyed Halloween, but from a spectator role.
A few weeks ago I ready this Hyperbole and Half piece about a dinosaur costume. Not only was it really funny, but it made me think about identity. I have come full circle to a place where I am again friends with people who love costuming. I admire their brilliance at conventions and yet have never planned to don a costume “That’s not me” I thought. “I’m not a costume person. I am a writer person.” Yet I used to be a costume person. I used to be willing to put on a different identity for the span of a day just so that I could play. True, I was always a little awkward with it, unwilling to fully own an outfit, but at least I put the outfit on. The tale of a little girl and her dinosaur costume made me re-consider the power of costume and how being something else for a while might teach me something about who I am when I’m wearing my regular clothes.
Also, I’m tired of feeling boring on Halloween. I can’t guarantee I’ll follow through on anything. My life is full of projects and any costuming project is pretty far down the list, but when Howard dons his steampunk clothes I’d kind of like to have an outfit that matches. Perhaps this next year I’ll learn how to play dress up again. And maybe I’ll learn a better answer to the question “who are you?” or perhaps I’ll be the beneficiary of a world that is more open to adults in creative costumes.
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