There’s a red, blue, and gold Wonder Woman costume hanging in my closet year round. It’s the Deluxe package – you know, the one that comes with covers to slide over my thigh-high boots and a gold belt to tie around my waist and a tiara to wear atop my hair that’s not nearly as ink-black the real Wonder Woman’s.
I have a plastic drawstring bag stuffed with halos, three different headbands with devil horns – one that’s sparkly, one that’s stiff and spiky, and one that’s made of red pleather – and tails of various species.
Crinolines in various colors – white, pink, and one in red that is made of so much layered tulle that it takes up a remarkable amount of space – sit on a high shelf. I smile every time I see them with such genuine happiness that you’d think I was a frustrated ballerina, an insane person, or President of The National Tulle Fetish Club, a thing I’m not sure actually exists, but there are some strange fucking people in this world so I wouldn’t be too surprised.
I have wings in silver and another pair in a sparkly green. As someone who hates things that fly that are not supposed to – like, shiver, the Pegasus – it’s odd that I pretend my very real and crippling fear doesn’t exist on October 31st.
Crammed into yet another bag are the following:
· A sexy Mrs. Claus dress, clearly made for a nice Jewish girl like myself.
· A referee costume so short that I think my vagina was meant to be part of the outfit.
· A Strawberry Shortcake ensemble that reminds me every time I look at it of the dolls I had when I was little and that they were scented and my older sister was allergic to the one who was purple named Plum Pudding. When I was mad at her, I used to rub Plum Pudding across her sheets so Leigh would get a rash. (I could always be counted on to be devious when it became absolutely necessary.)
· A white lab coat, meant to be worn over as little as possible, with the name Dr. Ophelia Cumming stitched onto the front.
· A black latex dress that zips down the front and laces corset-style in the back. Feathers cover the bottom and fall from the garment each time I try it on, which is several times a year because, besides a Springsteen tee that is almost as old as I am, it is maybe my favorite outfit ever and I wish I had chosen to embrace a lifestyle that would have allowed me to wear latex all the time.
· A red and white baseball player outfit that is teeny tiny, and while I can’t remember off the top of my head, I’m willing to bet a thousand dollars and that latex dress I love that the number on the back of it has got to be 69.
I didn’t always dress like a whore on Halloween. I didn’t used to put on a tube dress and claim, What? I’m a beetle! I’m certain there were plenty of Halloweens I didn’t risk hypothermia just by stepping outside while scantily clad in something I called “a costume” with a straight face.
I know I was an M&M back in my grade school days. I think I was a green one. I remember that I went as a baby a few times and I still remember the plastic taste of the pacifier I kept crammed in my mouth so that I’d remain true to character. I wore a mod dress when I was a senior in high school and paired it with tights in a psychedelic pattern and a wide black velvet headband and pale lipstick and I went as a girl who might have danced in a Hendrix video back in 1968.
I was never once a black cat, a Disney princess, or a bumblebee, but I was once what I called Madonna Now as my friend Nicole went as Madonna Then. She wore a white tulle skirt and a belt with that Boy Toy buckle and penciled in a beauty mark above her lip. I wore a velvet coat and straightened my hair until it fell like a perfect curtain around my face and put Indian-style designs across my hands and carried a Cabbage Patch preemie like it was the newborn Madonna had just popped out before turning spiritual.
I’m pretty sure I accidentally left that baby at the bar.
I was a Playboy Bunny and my boyfriend was Hugh Hefner. In his silk pajamas, he was way more comfortable that night than I was walking into public wearing garters. I’d tried to get him to go as a guy from a metal band in the 80s while I went as a denim-and-leather-clad groupie, but he wasn’t into it.
Maybe he had a phobia of Aqua Net, eyeliner, or blowjobs.
As a teacher in a school that has yet to outlaw dressing up on Halloween the way it has outlawed baseball hats and flashing gang colors (really), I have dressed up every year since I have worked here. My costumes for work have never been too elaborate, but I have, over the years, been an angel in pristine white with a marabou halo; a Goth-looking devil – and might I say that I look insanely hot when I wear black lipstick; and Strawberry Shortcake, because if you toss on one of those crinolines under the short skirt of the costume, your labia can all of a sudden be hidden due to the tricks of tulle camouflage.
One year I was observed by the school’s Assistant Principal while completely decked out as a ladybug. The antennae on my head kept getting in the way each time I lifted my hands to write on the chalkboard, but I think I was the only one who noticed. My lesson on how a filmmaker manipulates a viewer into identifying with an antihero went well; the Assistant Principal – who himself was dressed like a sheriff – loved it.
Back in the day, I was the girl who always wanted to go trick or treating. If we had shaving cream fights along the way, that was fine, but I was there for the candy. I dragged my friends with me all through high school. As long as we were still in costume and holding out a bag, I saw no reason why we shouldn’t be given snacks when we rang a doorbell.
My very favorite thing is when someone doesn’t just hand you a mini Snickers but instead gives you a paper bag with a pumpkin on it and inside is a bunch of different candy. I have complete respect for a family that does such a thing. I know it takes time and costs more, but I wildly appreciate the dedication. I prepare candy bags for my students every year stuffed with things like Fun Dip and Pop Rocks and mini chocolate bars and sugar-filled gum. I make about one hundred and twelve of those candy bags a day or two before Halloween, the candy spread across my living room in piles as I try to make sure each bag is equal, even for the kids I don’t like – and that number is growing. Then I tie the bags with a curly orange ribbon and I count them to make sure I have prepared enough and I toss the mini bags into several huge bags I will lug to work on Halloween and I’ll hand them out to my students, pretending we don’t have some new Nutrition policy that prohibits such acts. And it doesn’t matter that they’re eighteen years old and they can drive to the 7-11 or the local bodega to get candy on their own during a free period. It’s just different when someone gives candy to you, and this is something I completely understand.
This year I’m actually giving a test on Halloween. As my kids sit there in costume, they will be answering essay questions on the ways L.A. Confidential can be seen as a neo-noir. As they suck down the sugar of an orange Pixie Stick, they will have to explain what iconography is and how Venetian blinds and the shadows they create are typical of iconography in Film Noir. Look, I feel badly that I’m giving a test on Halloween, but that’s just the way the semester has panned out.
At least there will be candy bags. And candy just makes everything so much better.
Candy has always been remarkably important to me. I’m not sure where the obsession came from, but for as long as I remember, Candy Land was my favorite board game. I definitely liked it better than Monopoly – which would last for fucking forever – and Life, though I did always like those little pink and blue pegs that you stuck in the car that illustrated your brand new offspring.
I had a tee shirt when I was little that had foil pictures of ice cream sundaes and fluffy pink cotton candy on it. The shirt said I’m a Junk Food Junky in silver script. It was my favorite thing to wear and there are many pictures of me rocking that tee when I was about six years old.
My goal for going to birthday parties when I was little was always the candy bag I received at the end. I mean, sure, I was happy to celebrate my friend’s birth or whatever, but really? It was all about that bag of fucking candy. I always really liked it when the candy bag would also include a small bag of chips – like Fritos or Cool Ranch Doritos – because my mother never bought that stuff for me and I liked going to school with the same snacks as other kids stuck in my brown lunch bag instead of having to pull out a bag of baby carrots.
I still remember the utter shame caused by those vegetables…
All these years later, all I can remember about my brother’s Bar Mitzvah was that as you left the ballroom, there were enormous bins of candy from which you could make your own custom candy bag. I used the shovel from each bin and loaded gummy coke bottles and Sour Patch Kids and chocolate covered raisins and Peppermint Patties and anything else that wasn’t tied down and walked away with a trough of sweets. And I’m sure Devin did really well during the temple service where he had to speak in Hebrew, but not a minute of that experience has remained clear in my mind the way the I remember figuring out that gummy coke bottles taste even better when you stick them in the refrigerator overnight. Trust me on that. But congratulations on being a man at thirteen, Devin! I celebrated your pretend-masculinity with a sugar rush.
Once my niece and my nephew were born, trick or treating came back into my life. I would drive to Westchester after work in full costume and walk for miles around my sister’s hilly neighborhood with the specific goal of getting myself a huge bag of candy. One time I was a fairy, swathed in pink and in white, and I wore the clear heels that would belong on a fairy only if she’s also sometimes a prostitute, and I walked up steps with my niece and my nephew and held out a bag when someone opened the front door.
And do you know that some people would not give me candy? What the fuck is that?
Now listen: I know I was older than the average trick or treater, but so what? I was fully dressed in a costume. I was wearing wings! And I was holding out a bag. Where exactly are the mixed messages in the situation?
It got so bad that I started having Jadyn, at the tender age of three, politely say, after being given her own candy, “And one for my Aunt Nell?” Most people gave her an extra piece of candy to give to me, but some assholes wouldn’t. To this day, I snarl as I drive by those houses and I hope that some of their offspring have been plagued by rampant bouts of lice.
Now that I have a home, I buy Halloween candy to give out to the lucky children who still get to legitimately trick or treat. Oh, how I miss the days of getting home and dumping out my bag of stuff and separating all of it into piles, telling whomever was in the room: I have twelve Pay Day bars, eight Snickers Peanut Butter, about a hundred boxes of Dots, seven Milky Way bars, five Three Musketeers, four Mary Jane peanut things – does anybody actually like these? – and three Twix bars,which I would try to eat last because they’re my very favorite, but I could never hold out.
The thing is, I can’t have chocolate in my house and not eat it. I just can’t, and I’m strong enough to know where I’m weak. So I bought huge bags of Tootsie Pops and Blow Pops and that’s what I’m giving out this year. But still, there’s a piece of me who remembers getting a lollipop at someone’s house and being let down that it wasn’t a Mounds bar or something, so there’s a bit of me that feels like a failure for passing out sugar on a stick.
I suppose I’ll get over it. My ass has already forgiven me and so have my skinny jeans.
And I think this year I will go as Wonder Woman. After all, it’s been a long, tough year. I have learned how to suss out sociopaths and swan dive over douchebags in a single bound.
I think I’ve earned my cape.