Saturday, November 1, 2008

halloween warmed over

As NH and I strolled down Broadway for a post-brunch constitutional this morning, we animatedly discussed the Halloweens of yore, when costumes purchased from party shops and toy stores cost less than thirty bucks. Yesterday afternoon’s trip to Ricky’s to help a friend locate a Halloween costume did cause of surge of nostalgia for the days when Halloween was good cheap fun. May I never drop a hundred bucks on a costume.

One vivid memory we shared: vicious screaming matches with our mothers centered on coats-over-costumes mandates. We’re both New York natives, and it’s rarely warm enough at the end of October to wear even a conservative costume without a coat, but we both railed against authority; a down coat completely undermined the effect of a Scarlett O’Hara or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume. For several years, neither of us suited up on Halloween, content to spend All Hallow’s Eve relaxing at home, away from the scores of scarily, scantily or scarily scantily accoutered celebrants. This year, we participated in the festivities, dressing up and heading downtown for some ghoulish fun. NH went the topical route, in a home-assembled Joe-the-Plumber costume that was perfectly suited for a warm coat. I slipped a black trench coat on over my own vaguely frightening disguise (these, along with blood-red fishnets, black sequins and loads of eye makeup). The friend who I accompanied to Ricky’s? The lipstick red wool she wore over her adorable Alice in Wonderland costume made her look more than a little like Little Red Riding Hood. Was our willingness to wear something warm proof that all those years ago our mothers had been right? Maybe, but I don't think it's a stretch to say that it was the desire to show off our costumes to the myriad strangers encountered on a trick-or-treating expedition that inspired NH, myself, and probably every respectable kid in a temperate climate to fight mom on the coat issue. As adults, Halloween fun centers on parties, bar crawls and other events, so that the exhibitionist instinct is fully satisfied once the costumed party goer steps indoors and sheds his or her outer layer. This might explain why, after arriving at our destination, my party spent the first fifteen minutes of the event searching for the coat check. I hope the coat check girl who didn't come into work last night spent the evening deliciously, wearing a fabulous costume indoors, sans-coat. Eventually, we piled our outerwear, from designer wools to pedestrian cotton jackets, in a corner. This act of abandon left us free to show off the various manifestations of our whimsy. Still, even when outside, in the windy earliest hours of November, we left our pea coats and trenches unbuttoned against the cold. Perhaps the truth is that on Halloween, the one night when we can be anything at all, unabashedly sexy or angelically cute or pure evil, we want to exact every second of pleasure from that brief moment transformation. Maybe children, to whom pretend and metamorphosis come with ease, are most susceptible to the temptations of this holiday, and more importantly, more eager to claim those pleasures.

What did you dress up as last night? Did you wear your coat, as mom would have preferred?

general housewifery is participating in National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo).

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