What are your favorite costumes from Halloween past? The kitty, the witch, the bumblebee? When our boys were small, I always told them I was dressing up as a Mom. They thought that was lame. I simply don’t like disguises.
When I was in middle school and at the local fair, I found myself purchasing 3 sodas for myself and a couple of pals. Unbeknownst to me, a drunken clown was standing inches away from me, hovering in wait for the moment I would turn. A crowd formed. No one alerted me. I turned and his disguised face loomed into mine and the crowd laughed. I dropped all three cups of soda. The clown backed off, miming hilarity at me. No one offered to buy me three new drinks. I stalked off mad as hell. And shaken.
Since then, I do not allow disguised persons in costumes to come near me. I do not go to places where I might have to interact. And if there appears suddenly a clown or some other character, I breathe deeply and tell myself they have no power over me.
Disguise. Costumes. Hiding. Being someone else.
Halloween costumes, I suppose, originated in tandem with a spirit filled notion of the thin veil of heaven and the underworld opening. We disguise ourselves as ghosts and witches and monsters so that the real ghosts and witches and monsters won’t recognize us as human. Once capitalism and an entertainment economy took hold, we began to dress up as anything. I’ve seen some great costumes, for sure. And people have fun. We now must give care that we are not perpetuating stereotypes when we dress up. I agree with that, in this entertainment culture.
Yet I want to ponder and wonder in the realm of the human psyche for a moment. For we all wish to disguise ourselves to a degree. We all wish to put on a costume that allows us to be in the reality of another person, if but for a night. Our own skin and being can be too much for us to handle, or the chasm between our outward characterization and our inward true self may be painfully and monstrously wide.
So, we cloak ourselves. Mark Zuckerberg cloaks himself with the illusion of simplicity in his matching Tshirts and hoodies. Simple. Yes. But a cloak, a veneer that he’s just a computer programmer with good intentions. When I worked my (beloved) office job, I bought scores of clothes that would cover and disguise a body that did not do well with office clothes. Once I left to enter my own realm of self employment I put a bag at the ready for when I put a piece of clothing on and do not feel like myself. I chuck it, and keep looking.
What if Halloween was an opportunity for us to freely explore other sides of ourselves? The sexy side, the frightening side, the side that honors another culture (rather than exploits), the rich side, the hillbilly side, the male or female side? What if we allowed ourselves the illusion of being Ruth Bader Ginsberg? What if we allowed the terror we fight within, to be on display as a monster?
What if our chants of trick or treat are dares to see ourselves differently? Or to free ourselves to be different because the disguise warrants it? Introverts become the life of the party, extroverts can relax in a corner, we believe we scare people and so we can dress like it to see if that self perception is real.
Our costuming is for ourselves. There are times I want to hover behind a notion of myself, in order to shock it into feeling/change/alarm. I want to guffaw at a part of me that is asleep or not paying attention, not looking up to see the crowd of life all around me.
Choose with care how you cloak yourselves this Halloween. Do not take on the real life visage of someone who is oppressed knowing you are free from their stigma and danger. Do pay attention to what you are wanting to tell the world or just your own self, about you.
For really, there are no disguises. We see one another pretty plainly, when we look up.