Costumes. It’s happening. It all has to do with costumes.
My parents reveled in costume parties at New Years. My sisters and I recycled the costumes for rainy day dress-up from boxes in the attic. My favorite was a long and large gold lame dress that could be fitted with strategically placed rhinestone brooches. All a mere preparation for the October Dress Up Finale of HALLOWEEN. Halloween was a costumer’s ultimate high.
During my teaching days, I encouraged costumes amongst my young charges. “Make your own costume.” Along with costuming, I supported personality interpretations worthy of Stanislavsky. “Be the ghost. Glide. Moan.”
As the teacher, I had to set an enthusiastic sartorial example for my students. I usually chose a character from the year’s most popular book—Curious George one year, a purple crayon the next to introduce Harold and the Purple Crayon. I’ve been Miss Viola Swamp, Amelia Bedelia, and Pippi Longstocking. My only mistake was the year I was The Grinch with an all too authentic mask that caused a shy kindergartener to leap into her teacher’s lap for protection.
Into college and adulthood, I fanned the flame of dress-up by gathering like-minded friends who not only went all out, but also over the top on October 31. Over the years, I’ve witnessed small Halloween accessories appearing on adults—a pin here, a button there.
Flash forward to living in Tucson. I am now semi-retired and exploring this part of the US. When one is retired with a part-time passion for writing there exists an entirely different schedule, or lack of schedule. You can grocery shop at 6:00 AM, 2:00 PM or 10:00 PM. You observe stay-at-home or work-at-home adults, and swing shift folks who like to work at night and so shop around 7:00 AM after they get off work.
It was there at the check-out counter of Safeway where I noticed a major population crossover of the Halloween celebration. My morning cashier feigned indifference with her black eyeliner, nail lacquer, lipstick, and a t-shirt emblazoned with the orange tagline, “This is my costume.”
The latte line at Starbucks contained Halloween things that blink, glitter, and glow. Halloween earrings, makeup, and jewelry are now accessories of adult business people on their way to work. I was shocked. These were professionals? When did these adults start dressing up for Halloween just for themselves? When did this usurping of the children’s holiday sneak into the general population days before Halloween? When did it start going public, not just as an accompaniment with their precious little trick or treaters? These are the parents of our future generations?
Now it seems adult Halloween body ornamentation is ubiquitous. The mall walkers club has a team outfit. They walk in a platoon dressed as pistons in an old-timey car. I remember those old timey cars, Buster. I saw a clown behind the wheel of a Hummer at the light at Sabino Canyon. Elvis walked into Walgreens looking far bigger and rounder than he ever had in real life. Vampires, politicians, both domestic and foreign, Elvis again, inhabited my neighborhood this past week. Every kind of generic wig, nail accessory, jewelry and temporary ‘tat’ has adorned ordinary citizens. It’s as if my adopted hometown’s inner child said, “I didn’t get enough as a child so, by golly, I’m gonna do it now.” What is this world coming to?
My random survey of costumes reveals more women than men are involved, but the participating men do go in for very obvious looks—vampires, aliens, and monsters. Females are apt to be garbed in subtler tones although there is no holding back on makeup and gems.
This is all okay with me if it fills that old “hole in the soul” that inner child work purports to endorse. But what about the actual child in the family? Is there is a lessening of Halloween delight if someone really bigger and louder and noisier is literally in the driver’s seat on the way to school on Halloween Day? Can that little four-year-old princess compete in any way with Mom’s Lady Gaga outfit? Or is this all just plain ole jealousy on my part? Adults are openly doing what I’ve racked my brain to justify doing for years.
Where is that gold lamé dress when I need it?
Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships.