Halloween used to be one of my favorite times of year. You can probably see where I’m going with this, but let’s drag it out, because the way I write you would think I get paid by the word. Someday maybe, for the time being, each syllable is simply helping me put off something I probably should be doing instead. OK, back to Halloween. For children it’s about the candy (OK, fine, it’s still about the candy for me, as anyone could tell the way I race my son around well beyond his endurance just to grab every free and heavenly morsel), and for some it’s about the dark spookiness (fine, that’s me too – when I saw ‘The Addam’s Family’ I deeply envied their lifestyle), and others still it’s about the costumes. Yeah… the costumes.
As a younger child, I was generally consigned to that neoprene boxed bullshit from Gold Circle, but as I got older, I started making my own costumes. Not the ones I wanted to make, but nevertheless, I got to be creative. One year my dad took us up the Kenmore Fire Hall for the costume contest. I won second prize for my Viking outfit – a Timex calculator watch I wore up to my senior year of high school – but first prize went to a cheerleader. The cheerleader was a guy. While I wasn’t super excited to not take first, I was thrilled to find out that this kind of thing was an option. Who knew you could just do that? It was the early 80’s and the very notion of anyone who didn’t answer to Dustin Hoffman going in drag was, as Vizzini put it, inconceivable. It was too late for that year, but my mind was awhirl with possibility.
As it turns out, my mind was to remain awhirl for a good long time. Each year my anticipation would grow and I would plot out how to make this happen. The problem was that my severe phobia around the subject prevented me from broaching it, and the actual day of Halloween always ended up a total bummer as I stomped around in some stupid male costume. What the hell? In 8th grade my friends and I all talked about going around female. It was an idea I didn’t originate, but heavily promoted thereafter. We planned too early and somehow it changed to just telling our friend Jeff that we were going to do this, and then show up in male costumes to embarrass him. I thought this was just far too mean to both him and me, and got them to change their minds. So close!
No longer a child, and pressured by society to put aside childish things, I refused to capitulate. Every year I planned to make my breakthrough first public appearance female and it was going to be great! My nemesis was my absolute inability to get over my worry that if I showed even a tiny slice of my femininity, I would be found out and horrible, terrible things would happen. I’m still not sure what, but it all seemed very real and pressing at the time. Eventually, I finally got my chance.
I resigned myself that it was never going to happen with my friends around. One evening in late October when my roommate was a work (and before the dreadful couch incident), I dressed and went out the front door. I had the perfect cover – I was on my way to a Halloween party and isn’t this costume a hoot? In reality I was hoping that this was a fallback plan and that I would move about undetected. I walked a few blocks over to the 7-11 just for the sake of buying cigarettes. Yes, I used to smoke, but long since kicked the habit. I felt I was passing up until I asked for a pack of Camels and the cashier gave me a startled look. Just like now, I thought I was talking very feminine but apparently not. I nervously laughed off what my “girlfriend” put me up to while sweating off layers of dollar store foundation. I practically ran back to the apartment.
This did embolden me, and I decided to try the same thing a few nights later. Nothing better than a roommate with a swing shift job! This time I gave up the notion that people were not going to know and climbed the hill up to Tops, the grocery store in back of place. This was the night before Halloween, so I was very comfortable that no one was going to think this was really the real me. There were a lot of people in costume there, and for the most part, nobody paid me any attention whatsoever. In the checkout line, a girl in front of me told me she thought my shoes were really cute and it made my night. I was absolutely flying about my accomplishment and began scheming how maybe I could be doing this every night he wasn’t working, even after Halloween. It never happened. I was caught not long after and ended up joining the Air Force instead.
Now here I am 15 years later and Halloween is on our doorstep. My son is wildly excited and keeps changing his mind about what he wants to be, even though he already has a costume and will be wearing it. Me, not so much. I’m me now, and the idea of dreaming up a costume seems almost silly. I’m too old and too embarrassed to dress up in any of that cute and sexy shit they sell at Spirit, and after working on my appearance for a year and half, not loving the idea of going the gross or scary way. Maybe next year. My ex suggested I take the opportunity to cross-dress and go male. Yeah, I just don’t think so.