You can feel the tension, even now. You walk around with a smile on your face, sipping your pumpkin-flavored coffee, snuggling up in your long-sleeved shirt and cozy sweater, trying to ignore the nightmare that’s lurking around the corner. On the surface, the end of September is about playing in the leaves, watching new TV shows, and remembering what it felt like to go back to school. It’s cute, it really is. But underneath, Fall is about something much darker. A terrifying question that grips us all, that plagues our every moment, that soaks our palms with sweat and despair. That question is, of course: what the fuck am I going to wear for Halloween?
Halloween used to be so simple. When we were kids, Mom went to CVS, plunked down $5 and picked up whatever weird plastic costume was popular that year. It was probably Spiderman, because it’s always Spiderman. Spiderman is relentless. Then she’d bring it home, you’d throw the mask on, and within five minutes the rubber band around your head would snap in two. But you didn’t care because it was Halloween. When the sun went down, you could bother strangers, and in return for being a nuisance they’d give you candy. Candy! You didn’t have to do any of the crap you have to do now. No one expected you to look hot, or be making clever commentary on a cutting edge pop-culture meme, all you had to do was vaguely alter your physical appearance. That’s it. Got an eye patch? You’re a pirate. Borrow your sister’s flowy scarf, boom, you’re a gypsy. For pretty much the entirety of the late 80s and early 90s, I Halloween’ed as a hobo. A friggin’ hobo! I had a stick and a handkerchief and some mud that I rubbed on my face. And in return, people gave me chocolate filled with peanut butter! How did we let this slip through our fingers? You can’t get away with that crap nowadays. If I dressed up as a hobo this year, first people would yawn, then they’d say “you know, homelessness is actually a very serious problem.” Why does it have to be this way? So full of… effort. Last year I went as Kim Jong Il. I dyed my hair black, bought a workman’s onesie online that was priced, let’s say, rather aggressively, and spent two weeks shopping in Chinatown for just the right pair of crazy-dictator sunglasses. I worked harder on that costume than I did my college degree. And I didn’t even get any candy. Where did we go so wrong?
Personally, I blame girls. Somewhere, some girl, 15 years ago realized that Halloween was an opportunity to look preposterously hot. Trashy, cheesy, a little demeaning, sure — but still hot. “Hey, this baggy bed sheet isn’t doing anything for my figure. Screw being a ghost! Why don’t I just put on a bikini top and a little skirt and say that I’m, I don’t know, a princess or something?! Or…wait. I know what I can do. I can say that I’m a cat. A cat with boobs!” And then everything changed. And I know, many women frown upon this behavior. It’s not viewed as terribly dignified. But I’ve seen many of these women, who 364 days a year dress like sophisticated adults, find themselves unable to resist the sultry siren song of that 365th day. On October 30th, they turn their nose up at the slightest bit of excessive cleavage, but come 12:01 on October 31st, they’re dressed up sluttier than Sharon Stone going to the Oscars. Because that’s what Halloween does to us. It makes us crazy. And right now I am, just like you, I’m sure, in the full grips of its insanity. And it’s an entire month away.
The expectation for the perfect Halloween costume nowadays is that it makes you look sexy, smart, clever, and cool all at the same time. Basically, it turns you into Michelle Obama. Which is ironic, because if you actually dressed up as Michelle Obama, that would be viewed as kind of lame. Or really really offensive, depending on your race and how you handle the conversion. Myself, I’ve already started brainstorming options, but none of them feel right. I’m sure a lot of people will be going as that Gangnam Style guy, but I don’t really understand what that is, so I’m out on that one. I’m also sure the candidates will be popular, and of course, zombie versions of the candidates. I mean, Mitt Zombie pretty much writes itself. But is it too obvious? I DON’T KNOW. I don’t know anything anymore. Perhaps I’ll go dressed as a man who’s been freaking out about his costume for the last month and a half. But really, we’ll all pretty much be wearing different versions of that. The only thing I do know is I miss the days when all of this was easy. When a quick trip to CVS could solve the world’s problems. Sigh.
I don’t know. I guess there’s always Spiderman.