I don’t understand a key facet of Halloween–costumes. I understand enough historically to know why they became part of this holiday, along with candy and pranks, but it doesn’t make any personal sense to me. As a kid of course they made great sense as a portal to candy; but even then I don’t remember having that one perfect costume that I brought from concept to execution. And now that my adult teeth are fairly sugar sensitive, I’ve tended to ignore Halloween the way I ignore a non-distinct twinge in my leg or a weirdly placed pimple. Except for this year when I couldn’t ignore it. I grew ever more aware of my own confusion in the last few weeks as I saw pictures of costumes in progress on Facebook, received invitations to ‘costume mandatory’ Halloween parties, and saw my students confused faces when “my most creative teacher” did not have a costume on Friday.
I have plenty of curiosity and theories on the subject:
- Maybe costumes are a way to reconnect with your child side–one of your closest ancestors–or give love to the child that some never got to be.
- It would make sense that they are a backdoor into more fantasy and less propriety than our normal lives allow. And sometimes the boundaries only have to shift for a moment for us to consider shifting them for good. If this is the case, I wish we wore costumes everyday.
- I guess it’s a social bonding ritual? (sense my quizzical face as I write that)
- Are people trying to disturb consensual reality for a night in order to feel more present on a day when the veil between worlds is thinned?
- If the ancestors are truly visiting us, would we really need to disguise ourselves from them or other faerie folk?
None of these thoughts actually make me want to put a costume on myself, despite the grand creativity of some (I have a friend who was a jellyfish for cripes sake, and the costume was amazing!). The reason is fairly simple: I wear costumes all day. There are the positive costumes like supportive teacher and helpful colleague. These both bring me some measure of satisfaction. There are the negative costumes like disinterested daughter and derelict granddaughter. These concurrently serve me and weigh on me in different measures. There are also smaller costumes like customer who chats with cash register operator and polite pedestrian. One might rightly ask, “How can those bother you?” Everybody has to do those. The answer is that most days they don’t, but then there comes moments when I want to hop the counter and hug the worn out looking cashier or scream ‘get out of my way slow walkers!’ to the people in front of me, and it bothers me a lot.
These are all things I’ve learned, but I hesitate strongly to say that they are what or who I am.
So who are you? I’ve been working on that in sustained and surprising ways in the last few years, but doubt I will ever have a succinct answer that lays down nicely for words to roll over it. I just know that if I’ve done the work to strip my costumes with you, and be naked literally or figuratively, why the fuck would I choose to put one on again? It feels sour, like having to wear clothes straight from the dryer that didn’t dry completely. Even if I haven’t taken off the outer artifice completely with someone yet, why would I put unnecessary clothes on if I can meet you in a tank top and underpants or shorts and a short sleeve shirt? I wouldn’t.
I sat at the train station last night after releasing the final casket in the series and then going off to see a movie. The trees at this particular station are rather fierce and deliciously arrogant. None of the usual patient weariness of trees situated near transit. I had forty minutes before the train came to sit and stare, feeling anchored in as close to perfect peace as I ever get. On first glance it would’ve been easy to think that the orange street lamps near these trees made them look harsh and comical, but the more I gazed the more I disagreed. The light lifted them from below perception and made them tender. I came very close to walking across the tracks to bite the bark and see if there was cantaloupe underneath. At that moment I found myself in familiar territory–all channels open, feeling everything, and I thought, maybe costumes help some people have this. This blurse (blessing-curse) that I find myself in so often may not be part of all people’s everyday lives. And on a night like this, if the veils are thinner, we should all do what we can to understand that this space exists.
Perhaps next year that will be my Halloween party. I will gather all my fellow Aspies, sensitives, witches, and weirdos and we’ll walk around together and stop and gawk as the world winks at us in multiple dimensions. Maybe we’ll talk, and maybe we won’t, but we’ll wear regular clothes and have really good snacks. You can come to our party too. You can even wear a costume if you want to.