It’s happening. The phrases of aging are dropping out of my mouth like discarded Pick 5 lottery tickets scattered on the ground. For several years I’ve tried to disguise this as reminiscing, but the other day a nostalgic story was tinged with a slightly aggrieved tone as if the way it happened in the past was the better way, back in a gentler time.
It all has to do with costumes. When I was a girl, there’s the first hint, there was a box in our attic filled with old dresses and shawls. They were pink and beige, filmy or satiny things. On rainy days my sisters and I would drag out the box and drape ourselves with these treasures and play Dress Up. My personal favorite was a gold lamé dress that had thick straps with snaps to cross in the dangerously low back. There were feather boas, sets of rhinestone necklaces, brooches, and shoe clips that enabled us to give free rein to our imaginations of castle royalty or smoky nightclub lounge singers. That the entire box gave off a moldy mothball aroma did not deter us.
But the rainy day dress-up was small potatoes, a mere preparation for the October Dress Up Finale of HALLOWEEN. Halloween was a costumer’s ultimate high. The highlight was not just trick or treating but the Halloween parade, where one could see and be seen by every other pre-adolescent child along the main avenue on the Saturday after Halloween. In reality the gold lamé dress over a green wool snow jacket dragged along the pavement by feet shod in Keds sneakers was totally lacking in allure.
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. Back during my teaching days, there’s another reference, 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.
Over the years, small Halloween accessories have appeared on adults—a pin here, a button there.
Flash forward to my move to 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.
Last October 29, it was 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, black nail lacquer, black lipstick, and a t-shirt emblazoned with the orange tagline, “This is my costume.”
The latte line at Starbucks revealed customers with Halloween things that blinked, glittered, and glowed. Halloween earrings, makeup, and jewelry are now accessories of adult business people on their way to work. I was shocked. These were professionals? Do you hear a slight judgment tone? 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 a minor accessory for their precious little trick or treaters? These are the parents of our future generations? Hold up, girl, I sense some big time sour grapes.
Now it seems adult Halloween body ornamentation is ubiquitous. Last year the mall walkers club had a team outfit. They walked in a platoon dressed as pistons in an old-timey car. I remember those old timey cars, Buster. I saw a clown in 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, are creeping into my neighborhood.
And we’re in for an encore of even larger proportions this year. Every kind of generic wig, nail accessory, jewelry and temporary ‘tat’ is available to adorn 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? Now we are in full-blown aging attitude.
My random survey of costumes reveals marketing more to women than men, but the participating men can 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 racked my brain to justify doing for years.
Where is that gold lamé dress when I need it?