Sunday, October 29, 2006

Halloween, Part Two

“So. What are you going to be this year?”

For a moment I stared at my friend. Such a deep an existential question. I started to think how best to answer.

“You know, for Halloween.”

Oh. Right. That.

I’ve always had delusions of grandeur when it comes to costumes. And am subsequently reeled in by the twin bull dogs of money and time. For the last few years, I’ve had my stand-by costume of Mrs. Mia Wallace…Google her if it doesn’t ring a bell. When they see me, people almost always get it right off even if they can’t remember her name. The blunt, black bob and the adrenaline needle sticking out of my chest are usually all the visual cues people need.

As a kid I always wanted to be something Mickey Mouse-related. I remember the oddly distinctive smell of the inside of a plastic mask, the poor visibility, the amplified echo of my voice saying “Trick or Treat!” And then rushing home to gorge myself on my bounty. Nowhere is the resilience of the adolescent body exemplified better than in its ability to absorb obscene amounts of sugar without going into diabetic shock.

Later, there were years of fancy costume rentals interspersed with cop-out ghost, hippie or hobo costumes. But in between there was a pivotal year. It was seventh grade and suddenly we girls were seized by a fiercely competitive desire to be seen as adults, not just cutesy kid things. We wanted to be thought of as women and respected as grown-ups. We wanted dignity. That year, nearly all of us dressed as Playboy bunnies.

Somehow proclaiming our sexuality seemed like a very adult thing to do. Interesting that presenting our young bodies as ready for objectification was the rite of passage we all bought into. Personally, I remember I was desperately hoping that dreamy Chris Cannon would finally notice me and maybe even think I was pretty. If he noticed, I never knew it and I cried into my bunny tail later.

At the time I thought we were so safe. I actually thought: “an adult wouldn’t be attracted to me because he’d know I’m just a kid and that would be wrong of him.” I believed in the upstanding, good morality in everyone. I still lived in that trusting adolescent bubble of thinking the world would take care of us because we were good kids. Now I see young girls like that and wonder if they have any clue. The men drooling at them, the older women glaring with envy. They aren’t safe and neither were we. Just lucky.

And still now, looking at a list of costumes for sale: sexy nurse, sexy witch, sexy devil, sexy pirate. Why is it only as we pretend to be something else do we feel comfortable proclaiming our sexuality? Why is being deemed sexy permissible this one day but not considered appropriate the rest of the year. Unless of course you’re, you know, a girl like that?

Is it because the patriarchy is afraid of the power of female sexuality? They know that it’s the most powerful force on the planet and need to keep it safely scandalized the rest of the year? God forbid the dominant paradigm be subverted. Wouldn’t want things to go worse for us all, would we? Wait a sec…

Something to keep in mind as you choose who you are going to be. For one night. For your life.

Trick or Treat? Neither, thanks.

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