The kids and I were invited to a Halloween party at a friend’s house last weekend. Everybody was warmly encouraged to wear costumes. Everybody. Like, including the grown-ups. Gulp.
I initially attempted to avoid the issue. I announced my intention to wear blue jeans and a festive long-sleeved t-shirt with sparkly spider webs on it, thereby signaling my holiday spirit without requiring me to don an actual costume. My children were not impressed by this plan.
Okay, momma. Deep breaths. You can do this. It’s just a Halloween costume.
There was a time when I found the hunt for the perfect Halloween costume invigorating. In my college and grad-school years, Halloween was a Big Deal. Much thought and planning went into creating just the right look for spooktacular gatherings. Of course, back then, the number one purpose of a Halloween costume was to look sexy.
We will save the feminist critique of this reality for another time. For today, let’s just accept that many 20-year-old women take an “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” approach to Halloween garb. While certainly never a bombshell, I willingly wore leather pants, slinky tank tops, and sparkly devil horns on more than one occasion in the early 2000s. Maybe an off-the-shoulder peasant blouse, big earrings, and a purple scarf tied around my hair. Instant gypsy. (I know. I KNOW. Culturally insensitive and bad. Look, I was 23, okay?)
But I’ll be thirty-six tomorrow (eek!) and I’ve given birth to three tiny humans. Both my desire and my ability to flaunt things has diminished in the last decade and I can say with confidence that I have no desire to be the single mom in the cheerleader costume at the class Halloween party.
Okay, so we can safely rule out Sexy Nurse, Sexy Vampire, and Bunny. But, even when sedately attired, there is a certain amount of anxiety inherent to the experience of showing up at a party in costume. We’ve all seen enough chick flicks where the popular girls tell the dorky girl that the party is a costume party when it really isn’t. The dorky girl dutifully shows up in costume and is mortified to discover her error.
Rationally I know perfectly well that my friends did not wander off the set of Mean Girls, but I know how it feels. When I was in elementary school, my Brownie troop decided to ride on a float in the town Pumpkin Parade. We were given the option of wearing either our uniforms or a Halloween costume. I was a cave woman that year and I looked great. My mom made me a leopard-print tunic that I tied with a twine rope. We mussed my hair and smudged my face with brown makeup so that I looked appropriately feral. I even carried a club.
You guessed it. On the float, there were twenty-some little girls in Brownie uniforms and one cave woman. Memories like that tend to linger.
However, this is the year of Being Brave and my children wanted me in costume. Fortune smiled upon me in that two of my kids opted for costumes inspired by Harry Potter. My older daughter dressed as Hermione Granger (robe, striped tie, frizzy hair) while my younger insisted on being a dementor (ragged black tunic, white face paint, fondness for shrieking at people unexpectedly). I found a long green dress with a black cape, added a witch’s hat and a wand, and pronounced myself Professor McGonagall.
The party was lovely. Of course. Not all of the parents were in costume but enough were that I felt no pressing desire to try an invisibility spell. My kids were thrilled that I joined them in their fun – and that made it all worthwhile.