Trick or treat


pumpkin-It’s the day to dress up in a costume and pretend to be someone/something else. As someone who writes fiction, you’d think I’d be into this.

I’m not. Sometimes life is full of paradoxes.

I have a confession: I’ve never dressed up for Halloween. Well, okay, I did twice in my life. Both times were not especially enjoyable. I felt self-conscious and silly, as though I were trying to get the world to pay attention to me through borrowed interest. I didn’t get the thrill of it then and I still don’t.

The first was when I was a mere five or something. My parents bought me a Caspar the Ghost costume and I went out on Halloween night, alone. (I have no siblings.) I don’t think it would have occurred to my parents that going out alone (well, with my mom in tow) would be un-fun. Anyway, my whole “night” was knocking on my next door neighbor’s house, feeling embarrassed asking for candy (felt like begging?), and deciding after just this one stop I couldn’t do this anymore. I turned around, went back into my house, took off my stupid costume and that was that.

Then there was the second time.

I was an adult now. Really. I’m almost embarrassed to admit it. I was in Pittsburgh, going to law school (another thing I’m embarrassed about, but that’s a different story) and my roommate and his girlfriend-who-was-not-his-girlfriend-even-th0ugh-she-clearly-was (he could give Sheldon Cooper a run for his money) went out. I was encouraged to join them, so I cobbled together a half-assed robot costume. I felt like an idiot, and couldn’t wait for the night to end.

I love immersing myself in another character when I write, but I do not like dressing up like someone I’m not. I can’t really explain why, other than to say the whole thing feels silly to me. It always has.

I’ve always liked being myself. I have no desire to dress up as another person, and it all just feels weird to me. Phony. Self-conscious. What’s the point? People say “it’s fun” without ever being able to explain why. Well, I suppose I can’t explain why a lot of things I do are fun. But I really don’t get just putting on the clothes. I mean, if you’re going to be someone else, go full-tilt and imitate them. But the other day I saw a short middle-aged paunchy black guy in a flight suit that said “Maverick” on the back. The Top Gun reference took a minute to register. Really? A middle-aged pot-bellied black guy?

Yet every year, Halloween becomes a bigger and bigger holiday for grownups. It seems to go with grownups’ ever-increasing immersion in childish fantasy lives when they’re not working or forced to be responsible. Along with reading graphic novels and Harry Potter, going to see super hero movies and listening to bubble-gum music, we seem to want the safety and comfort of our five-year-old lives to go on forever. I realize this point of view will put me at odds with most people.

I thought of it the other day because of a scene in Entertaining Welsey Shaw. Welsey is unable to go about as herself, so she creates an elaborate disguise, donning a wig and chic-chic clothes and sporting a perfect Russian accent. She even comes up with a cell phone with Cyrillic letters on the buttons. She fools everyone into believing she’s newly arrived to New York and is opening an art gallery with her two brothers, she’s that good. (She is supposed to be the greatest actress of her generation, after all.)

But Welsey’s doing it as a defense. She doesn’t like it, but she’s so famous she can’t be herself in public. It’s a punishment for her. Her self is banished.

I don’t think I’ll ever understand Halloween. But that’s just me, I guess. I figure I don’t need a costume. I’m scary enough already. Trust me. Boo!


2 responses

  1. Hi John,
    I appreciate your candor in this post. I can relate to the fear of looking and acting silly. I wish I could remember the name of the festival in Switzerland that takes place every year (I know I could google it, but I don’t have time) where the entire village dons elaborate masks and costumes to represent their shadow sides. This somehow allows them to be themselves the rest of the year with less violence and more self-acceptance. Proof, perhaps, that there may be wisdom in dressing up and acting like an idiot, especially if you are an intellectual.


    October 31, 2014 at 11:14 am

    • That actually sounds like more fun than dressing as one of the “undead” and going door to door asking for candy. Because what do the undead need with candy?


      October 31, 2014 at 11:29 am

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