Halloween costumes have been the subject of much colorful discussion this year in my circles.
First there was this cartoon, which I saw posted on several Facebook pages but most notably on A Mighty Girl:
Somewhat related, several of my coworkers have loudly bemoaned their difficulties in finding the perfect work-appropriate costume that is fun while remaining firmly within our safety and HR-friendly standards.
All this talk of dressing up and what to wear and whom to be and how to be it has me thinking. I don’t believe we actually cover ourselves up in this tradition of donning the perfect disguise / gag / alter ego for the night. Rather, our choices reveal much more about us than we intend.
For example, two years ago, my oldest daughter, in the midst of a tumultuous inner bout with teenage emotional upheaval, chose that Halloween to become Storm, the X-Men team member with control over any type of weather.
My beloved cousin, who moved away this year to law school, is being the Mad Hatter for Halloween: a kinetic, poetic creature driven mad by his craft, but coping through the whimsical interpretation of a comforting domestic ritual: afternoon tea. (He also happened to escape an unjust conviction and sentence through manipulation of the “law” and an appeal to the Queen of Hearts, who had condemned him.)
Celebrities often dress up in surprisingly tame choices – surprising until you remember that they are already larger than life. In that case, a simple cat or garden gnome costume is comforting in the other direction: a reflection of things that are ordinary, simple, and safe.
When you consider that the original purpose of wearing a disguise on Halloween had to do with warding off unwelcome spirits and/or attacks against the soul, the expressiveness of our costumes becomes all the more poignant.
I myself am not dressing up for Halloween, and haven’t done so for years. Whether it’s due to an excess of honesty (I am who I am and I like who I am), crippling indecision, or mere self-deprecation (I don’t feel qualified to wear the one I really want to be), I will leave to your imagination.
Then again, that might tell you everything you need to know.