Why I Hate Halloween
For weeks now I’ve been procrastinating about Halloween. To me, choosing a costume for the unofficial national gay holiday is a chore even less captivating than getting a shingles shot or having my car tuned up, both of which I accomplished yesterday in an effort to stall the inevitable shopping.
It used to be that costumes were optional for most Halloween events, and most years I would bypass the option, perhaps wearing a bright orange tee shirt with black jeans to honor the season. But for the last several autumns, good friends have hosted a wildly popular “costumes only” party for more than 100 people. It is considered the event of the year in our social circle, and almost everyone vies to arrive in the most dramatic and/or outrageous attire. Some spend hundreds of dollars on their ensembles; others invest countless hours at the sewing machine trying to replicate The Queen of Hearts from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind.
I don’t sew and I’m too frugal to throw away big bucks on an outfit I’ll wear for only three or four hours before relegating it to a box in the attic, most likely stained by meatballs marinara and shrimp-cocktail sauce from the party’s massive buffet table. While the costumes may be queen at our friends’ bash, the food is king. It’s a shame that so many of the attendees with splendid costumes cannot enjoy the eats. As several frustrated partygoers point out to me each year, there is simply no way they can chow down while wearing a full face or head mask. And oozy dips or sauces can do considerable damage to a faux girl’s makeup.
As someone who has worn glasses since childhood, I can’t do masks of any kind. Either they don’t fit over my specs or they so distort my peripheral vision that I constantly bump into other partygoers, sloshing their drinks and oozy dips or sauces all over their carefully executed garments.
I can wear a wig but I don’t believe it’s appropriate for me to wear a female wig. If a male is going to present himself as a woman, the result ought to be credible. That means no facial hair unless the costume is titled Bearded Lady Circus Freak. I’ve had a beard, mustache or goatee since college, and I’m not about to shed my daily drag for a momentary party illusion. (There’s a name for hairy drag that’s not suitable for a “family” newspaper, and I’ve always considered said term to be quite accurate.)
Besides, my John can be quite fetching in a dress and makeup, so there’s no point in me competing with him. If he goes as Miss Scarlett, I can try to get away with accompanying him as Rhett Butler. But such a simple “male” costume never wins me any kudos with the critics. The year I actually went to a party as Rhett, nobody had a clue as to who I was. I thought the ascot was a giveaway, but the closest anyone came to guessing my identity was the person who suggested Oscar Wilde. As a fan of Mr. Wilde’s writing, I acknowledged the guesser as being spot on.
John is also suffering from costume-block, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to play off his choice—especially since he is thinking of going as Honey Boo Boo. Perhaps I could be Boo Boo’s daddy, Sugar Bear Mike, but that seems way too easy. Dig out my oldest dungarees and wear my belt a couple notches too tight.
Perhaps one reason I am so averse to costume parties is that I’ve ruined so many— costumes that is. Only once did I come close to ruining the entire party. That was back in the early 1980s at the jam-packed Lost & Found disco in Washington. While dancing and smoking (two things that never really should be done simultaneously) I accidentally lit the genuine grass skirt on my hula-girl outfit with a cigarette. I didn’t realize it until a smoky stench wafted up from below my waist and people began to scream. I ripped off the skirt, and several of us managed to stomp out a flickering flame before it ignited an inferno.
I spent the rest of the evening shaking in my shorts.
I’ve never won a prize, not even an honorable mention, for a costume, so often I just try to amuse myself with my selection. Last year I purchased a cheap “Arab sheikh” outfit from a big box store and, as a personal touch, added a large button on the chest that read, “Gay sheikh.” I spent much of the evening explaining the pun.
On more than one occasion I’ve dressed as a hippie from the 1960s, which is hardly a stretch as I still own floral print shirts, bellbottoms and plenty of peace-and-love buttons originally acquired in the era.
My favorite costume was store-bought a few years ago, and it suits my personality to a t (as well as many other letters). It also proved to be a hit with my fellow party-goers. I came as a walking crossword puzzle, with a grid across and up and down my body upon which everyone could take a turn writing a word that intersected with the prior words. Not surprisingly, the first area of the puzzle to be filled in was directly below my waist. I must admit that I enjoyed the attention awarded my groin, and the wordplay was quite good, too.
Since I provided erasable markers for the crossword writers, I could recycle that costume this year. To some, the look might be familiar but the words would undoubtedly be different. And, as with most of you who work much harder to come up with memorable costumes, I like Halloween best when the attention’s on me.
Email costume suggestions to Bill Sievert. You can also purchase his comic LGBT-themed mystery novel Sawdust Confessions on Amazon.