Monday, October 31, 2011

I Am Svetlana, Hear Me Roar/Meow!

According to one of the informational post-it notes on the “curriculum board” at my daughter’s preschool, one of the lessons they’ve been teaching recently is “Halloween costumes and decorations aren’t scary.”

I get where they’re coming from—two-year-olds are scared of the vacuum cleaner and the “crumbs” in the bathtub, the last thing we need to add is ghosts and witches and people dressed up like Rick Perry to the house of frights. But at the same time, really? Isn’t Halloween supposed to be a little scary? Like, pretend scary that we’re actually in control of?

I myself find Halloween terrifying. All that pressure!

On Thanksgiving and Christmas you just have to show up and be nice. On Halloween you have to be creative and relevant and sexy. I’m typically an anxious mess for a full month leading up to Halloween before settling on a costume that’s usually creative and moderately relevant and almost never even remotely sexy. My first year at my tiny little nerdy college I dressed entirely in green and went as a Whitman-inspired Leaf of Grass. (Only one person at the party I attended had the appropriate response to my costume, which was to laugh so hard he inadvertently snorted. No one else got close enough to ask what I was—and an explanation was definitely required.) The next year, I looked to the college’s Quaker history and dressed entirely in ecru and went as Quaker Oatmeal. I stuck bits of oatmeal to my face and wondered why no one asked me out—ever! The next two years I tracked down the resident Jehovah’s Witnesses and spent a quiet October 31st studying in the dorm.

Growing up in a small town in Iowa, I never got the sexy memo. When the sexy thing became obvious in college, I was mostly repulsed. Why do all these women want to be hookers for Halloween? I asked more than once. It’s not even creative. The part of me that wasn’t repulsed was intimidated and insecure. Why hadn’t anyone suggested that I should be a hooker for Halloween? Wouldn’t I make a good hooker? Aren’t I sexy? I mean, these overalls are definitely sexy. I’m sure of it!

I was scared to try, scared to fail—so I mostly stopped doing Halloween. For years I just sat it out, handing out candy to the one or two children who could find my various second-story-mother-in-law apartments in the eaves, and convincing myself I didn’t want to attend any parties. Halloween parties are dumb. Who likes dry ice in their punch?

Then I moved to Seattle and into a building for low-income artists (and one writer), and the entire first floor was transformed into a gigantic bash hosted by various hardcore Burning Man people, and residents of the building were admitted for free—there was no way I could not attend. I bought some stilettos and a trashy-looking sleeveless red tulle-y dress from Ross and went as Svetlana—America’s Next Top Model. I’m not sure why I chose to be Russian-born (or accented), and I lacked the courage and the skills to do my hair or makeup half as crazy as they do it on that show, but regardless, I was a hit.

It turns out that like so many things in life, the key to Halloween is ALCOHOL!

Another memo never received!

Those Burners sure know how to party. They had this great room full of huge pillows—so kind to provide seating! so surprised was I later to learn the room had been dubbed the “Ecstasy Makeout Room”!—and this cute boy was hitting on me and I was having a great time—until he asked if he could kiss me because his girlfriend over there—he gestured toward one of the many hookers lined up on the other side of the room—she had texted him that I was cute and she wanted to watch us kiss. It was “sort of their thing.”

“Oh,” I stammered, dropping my awful fake Russian accent. “Um…Wow. I’m flattered. Sort of. But you know what? I really need another test-tube of that delicious, off-gassing green punch.” And with I excused myself to go upstairs to my apartment to shower and sleep and transform back into my normal, boring, understated self.

That was five years ago, and now I am preparing to dress up as a cat. Not a sexy cat in spandex, just a cute, floppy, pregnant cat in a crocheted hat and tail off Etsy. It’s not creative, I know, but my two-year-old chose the costume, not me, and she’s sort of cat-obsessed. Before she even knew what Halloween was she announced that she wanted to go as a cat and she wanted Mama and Daddy to go as cats, too—and who were we to argue?

I looked online and learned that girl toddlers are supposed to be sexy, too. (I’d read something to this effect before, but I didn’t believe it.) Even on Etsy, happy home of the crafty, the costumes for little girls were sexy-oriented—short black tulle tutus over skin-tight everything. Instead, I found a granny who crochets caps and tails of various species and ordered three sets. They’re super cute. In fact, I like my hat so much I’ve been wearing it out and about this week to keep warm.

“I think I might wear this all winter,” I announced to one of the moms at my kid’s preschool.

“So long as you don’t mind everyone thinking you just came out of a rave.”

I don’t think she meant it as a compliment—a pregnant 36-year-old emerging from a rave just sounds sad—and scary—but I’ve decided to take it as one anyway. I’m so cool I don’t look 36! Or pregnant! Or like a mommy who really, really needs her sleep!

I’m a cool cat, so sexy underneath this baggy black outfit, you have no idea. No idea at all.

I guess my kid's teacher is right. Halloween isn't so scary after all.

Photo courtesy phaewilk, morgueFile


  1. I love this so much I am making someone be my Facebook friend just so I can share this with them!!!

  2. Every year around the beginning of October I contomplate getting a hooker costume like everyone else... but then I decide there is a limit to how scary Halloween should be and the sight of my post baby body flapping around all National Geographic within ample coverage might take the fright level over the line.

  3. I remember the one Halloween I dressed as a hooker. Alcohol was completely the key :) I am so glad that with age comes the wisdom that you don't have to bare ass to have a good time! Great post!