The Halloween Party
I have a costume wing in my attic.
A perfectly natural statement for any card-carrying gay man to make. Right?
Back in the day when we could still go to parties, Halloween occupied a special place on our social calendar. It was, however, certainly not the only time when costumes were required—theme parties, impromptu theatricals, follies, photoshoots and, well, sometimes for no reason at all.
Piece by piece our costume collection accumulated. Decades rolled by and the trunks rolled in—figuratively speaking—but not just from our own use. Family and friends added items at an alarming pace. We were even bequeathed items our friends believed to their dying day, we just had to have.
Which is how, back in 2011, when friends Terry and Adam invited us to their annual Halloween festivities, I discovered a garment bag with a complete collection of hideous teal-colored taffeta bridesmaids’ dresses carefully protected in the attic.
Our Zombie Wedding Party was born. Mary Beth was the groom. Ward, Allen, Steve, and I, the bridesmaids.
Some of the dresses had to be laced up the back. I’m not pointing fingers.
We laughed until the fake blood ran from our eyes.
“But I want to be pretty!” Ward said.
We howled again.
Halloween 2020—“Ain’t No Party”
“And it doesn’t take a smarty to realize that even though my man throws confetti in my face, it don’t make it no party.” “Ain’t No Party,” Lorrell Robinson, Dreamgirls.
So much has changed since that night we all got dressed and made up in my studio. Less than a decade, really, but of a different era.
I’m tempted to say a kinder, more innocent time, but all memories are softened by nostalgia and harsh realities exist no matter in what age we find ourselves.
Still, by anyone’s standards, 2020 has been a frightful year. We have to skip the trick or treating and the Halloween parties this year, but what does it matter? The whole year is a Halloween fright fest.
Halloween words have been appropriate for months: shocking, horrifying, spine-chilling, eerie, hair-raising, unbelievable.
Life is a MASK-erade—but it sure “ain’t no party.”
SCOTUS is in the danger zone, POTUS and FLOTUS have the plague—and so does Hope (Hicks).
That’s a scary sentence, if I ever heard one. “Hope has plague.”
Hope. We’ve survived on hope for months. Hope for a vaccine. Hope for change in the White House. Hope for a time when every single day doesn’t begin with a fresh pot of misery and outrage.
Cardi B has the best take on this whole cursed year.
“Guess what Bitch…Coronavirus! Coronavirus!”
More than coronavirus, 2020 is a green slime-pit of pandemic mismanagement, demonization of science, political fearmongering, racial injustice, and criminal negligence.
Vampires and zombies will never frighten us again. We’ve come face to face with a true monster. Saddest of all—a true monster of our own making.
If we do not learn how to heal our broken political system, our real-life American horror story with continue unchecked until democracy lies bloody and cold and dead and buried in the ground.
I say skip Halloween this year. We’ve had enough. Go directly to Thanksgiving. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200.
Unless Congress can get its act together….
Fear is the Mind-killer
Fear is a natural part of our humanity. It is powerful and primitive and comes with both physical and emotional symptoms. We love our Halloween spooks, our scary movies, and Stephen King novels, but the real thing is quite different. Chest pains, chills, dry mouth, shortness of breath, trembling, nausea, plus feelings of impending doom, loss of control, and inability to reason.
Twenty-twenty has been a breeding ground for fears. Too much isolation, too much death, hidden behind masks—how easy it is for our imaginations to run wild. Add a president and administration with a penchant for employing fear as a deterrent to anything that might actually allow for real equality and justice, and the “dark night of the soul” becomes an ever-present reality.
Dale Carnegie says: "Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy."
That’s all well and good—until a pandemic arrives and sitting home breeding doubt and fear becomes a daily pastime.
No wonder so many Americans grew tired of their own company so quickly. Isolation forces us to face our biggest fears—our own failures and frustrations.
At a recent, first, small family gathering since lockdown, I joked that isolation makes us more eccentric. But it’s true. Especially for those of us who live alone.
I’m a fan of science fiction, and a super-fan of Frank Herbert’s Dune—soon to be a new motion picture (which I hope to heaven is better than the first one).
Perhaps the best-known quote from the Dune books is the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear.
"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
I’ve read Dune in just about every decade of my life, but from the very first time these words have been a comfort to me in times of fear. I especially like the idea of letting the fear wash over and through me—essentially, understanding what the fear is actually about.
Understanding the root of what frightens us is the first step in overcoming it.
I wish I could say I believed everything would be fine. An effective vaccine will be found quickly. A new administration will restore some semblance of order to our government. Compromise and true debate will save our democracy. Political parties will put aside partisanship. Racial inequalities will vanish. Science will lead us to environmental success. Peace, hope, and joy will pour forth in abundance.
Yes, I wish I believed all of that would happen.
For now, I will settle for hope.
And I will vote.
Murray Archibald is an artist and CAMP Rehoboth co-founder. Email Murray at email@example.com