When I first started going to Halloween parties as an adult, I wore safe, easy costumes. One year I dressed in brown corduroys and green sweater, then I pinned leaves all over myself and wrapped myself with a loose roll of toilet paper. I was tree, rolled. One year I wore a long tweed skirt, fishnets, cats-eye glasses, and carried books tied up with a belt — slightly sexy librarian. Or the time I waited too late and just wore my Cub Master uniform.
But then I started going to a party that was competitive, and my husband and I both turned it up. Witch? Forget it. Sexy kitten? Hell, no.
One year he was Nacho Libre, complete with a mask made from ladies silky blue briefs with red rick rack sown around the eyeholes. I loved the year I was Hermione Danger, a Harry Potter themed roller derby girl. I wore roller skates and fell down. A lot.
Sometimes Joe and I do couples themed costumes like Uma Thurmans; I was Uma from Pulp Fiction (hypodermic sticking out of my chest) while Joe was Uma from Kill Bill (yellow jumpsuit and katana). Or artist self-portraits — Joe was Vincent Van Gogh with an ear in his pocket to my mustachioed Frida Kahlo with my heart outside my chest. One year we were Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake from the “Dick In a Box” skit, complete with a lip sync routine.
We also have some friends who do the annual Gnome Games — yard games where everyone dresses in a gnome theme. We decided to go with puns — Joe and my son Ben were Indiana Gnomes, while my daughter Katey and I were Sherlock Gnomes. This year she was a rainbow with a handmade T-shirt that read “There’s no place like Gnome” while I was Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.
When costumes are in order, we bring it. We plan and think of costumes months in advance.
I wonder, though, at the compulsion toward masking, toward that full immersion. I wore a wig last year for Uma, and I loved it. I finally started to understand the appeal of cosplay, of being something so other than who you are every day. And I’ve longed to go undercover in some way, perhaps as a man, or just a woman who is not the one I am. Maybe I could consider it a writing exercise?