Costume Courage

Alexis enters the living room and my tea stops halfway to my lips. “What exactly is your costume?”

She’s wearing an artfully shredded polka-dot jumpsuit and a long, scarlet wig. Her face is plastered with red and white clown makeup and the whole ensemble is smeared with fake blood.

She spreads her arms. “I’m sexy Pennywise!”

“Sexy…okay.” I take several swallows of tea. “There is a lot to unpack here. Give me a minute.”

“Hey, at least I have a costume.”

“I told you, I’m sick. I’m not going to the party.”

“You don’t look sick.”

“Well then, I must be okay.”

“Sarah!”

“It’s fine!” I rearrange my blanket over my lap. “This way someone can stay and give out candy.”

Alexis pouts – or at least that’s the expression I assume she’s making under the clown makeup. She’s right: I’m not really sick, but it’s the only excuse Alexis and our roommates will accept for skipping a party. I was sick, though, which is part of the reason I don’t have a costume. The other part is that I just didn’t plan one. Nothing sounded right, and everything in the stores was just too: too sexy, too gory, too predictable, too gauche.

“Well, if you feel better, you can still borrow my cat ears.” Alexis says. Our other roommates meet her by the front door. Mel is in witch’s robes, complete with impressive Victorian boots; Kate is in 90s grunge gear.

“I’ll be fine.” I toast them with my glass. “Take pics for me?”

Alexis gives me a bloody thumbs-up and they whisk out the door. I settle in on the couch. Even the cat costume didn’t feel right, though I never could articulate why: it would give me an excuse to wear my favorite little black dress, the one that’s just a little too short, and flats with cat faces on them, shoes that my workplace doesn’t tolerate.

Still, a night in with tea and a classic Halloween flick just sounded easier.

The first trick-or-treaters arrive not too long after. It’s a horde of boys in assorted ninja, military, and vampire costumes. They grab candy from the bucket and hurtle away without saying thank-you. I roll my eyes and prepare for it to be that kind of Halloween.

I curl back up in my blanket. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen Hocus Pocus. I know it by heart, but that just means I don’t mind being interrupted.

It also means I’m a tiny bit bored.

The doorbell rings again. I answer it and find a trio of middle-school girls: a Jedi, a Ghostbuster, and a Tinkerbell.

Fourth grade. Mom is fitting white shoulder pads over my red turtleneck. My brother watches in horror. “You can’t be the Red Ranger!” he says. “He’s a boy!”

“Trick or treat!” They hold out pillowcases. The Ghostbuster wields a handmade proton pack; the Tinkerbell has glittery green eyeshadow that would impress RuPaul. They’re all beaming.

Seventh grade. My friend Derek helped me build my proton pack. Our jumpsuits look so believable, I’m ready to go downtown and fight Gozer. Mom is confused. “A Ghostbuster? Don’t you want to wear something more…flattering? I thought you wanted to be a Spice Girl!”

“Wow, you all look great!” I drop candy into their pillowcases. “Did you make your costumes yourselves?”

“I did,” the Ghostbuster says shyly.

“I did my own makeup!” Tinkerbell blinks rapidly at me, shedding green glitter.

Eighth grade. My friends are going as the Spice Girls. I’ve finally convinced my parents to let me go as Ginger Spice, but Mom frowns through our group pictures. “All that makeup is going to give people the wrong idea.”

“You look great! Have fun!”

“Thank you!” they chorus. Tinkerbell twirls as they make their exit, giggling.

When I return to the couch, a text is waiting for me: a photo of Alexis and the others making silly faces in the back of their Lyft. Therapy-provoking costume aside, she’s obviously having a great time.

I don’t even have to look at the TV to know what part of the movie I’ve reached. I mouth along as Thackery explains the witches to the kids. “How bad could it be?” Max says.

Alexis sends a second text: a cat emoji with heart eyes.

“Okay, fine,” I tell my phone, and turn off the TV. My cat costume – especially those shoes – is actually pretty cute. I might even send my mom a photo.

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Candy, Not Cultural Appropriation: Halloween Mindfulness

MIDDLE EASTERNfinal2photos for poster

Two examples of Ohio University’s “Culture Not Costume” posters.

Well, it’s October. Time for the leaves to start changing, the rain to start falling, and pumpkin spice everything to take over our lives.

It’s also time to start thinking about Halloween costumes.

I used to rant about oversexualized women’s costumes, and I still find the options for women’s costumes disappointing (to put it mildly), but recently I’ve become more aware of the piles and piles of racist costumes out there – mostly because, well, people keep wearing them.

I know the options for mass-market costumes are not ideal. I know coming up with a costume to make or closet-shop for yourself is hard. But please, be mindful of what you choose to wear. A costume sends a message, and however innocent your intent might be, the impact could be very different from what you wanted.

We don’t like hearing about people being “offended.” We tell them they should grow a thicker skin, that it’s just a joke, that they’re being too PC, it’s not a big deal, nobody else is upset so why are they, etc etc etc.

We tell them basically whatever we can think of to avoid the truth, which is that we hurt someone and we need to do something about it.

Again, your intent doesn’t matter. (Sorry.) Regardless of whether you mean to cause hurt, you don’t get to dictate whether or not someone else has actually felt hurt. Own up to it. Apologize for it.

Better yet, be mindful about your actions and avoid causing hurt in the first place.

Here are some great pieces about Halloween costumes and cultural appropriation, which will say it better than I ever could:

“Unfortunately, sometimes the “fun” comes at the expense of others, and the scariest thing is how rampant racism is on Halloween. Before you give me an eye roll and say, “Relax, it’s just a joke,” listen up. Because I used to be you.

A full archive on why not to wear a Native American costume. A few reasons: Native Americans still exist (they are not fictional characters), 1 in 3 Native American women suffer rape, and in Canada, indigenous women are over four times more likely to be murdered than other women.

Experts break down the excuses often used to defend a racist costume.

A flowchart to determine whether your costume is racist!

“It is possible for White people to dress as characters of color, or as celebrities of color – but if the only thing that makes the character/celebrity distinctive to you is their skin color? I’d rethink your reasons behind the costume and try to be a bit more creative.”

Links Lundi

Hey, folks. I’m still on a limited-typing regimen while waiting for my tendonitis to go away. Hopefully once my seven-pound, 1TB, i7 processor, 17.3″ beast of a refurbished HP arrives and I can get speech-to-text software set up, my mojo and my writing abilities will return in full force, along with actual posts.

(I can also finally find out what this Steam business is all about but that’s much further down the road.)

In the meantime, check out Black Milk’s Halloween line (this dress! these tights!), and the Mass Effect bathing suit that I would seriously consider buying…if I lived in Australia.

Natalie Portman has words for Hollywood: “The fallacy in Hollywood is that if you’re making a ‘feminist’ story, the woman kicks ass and wins. That’s not feminist, that’s macho.”

Natalie Portman is also the face of a contest designed to get more girls involved in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and medicine).  It’s open to girls grades 9-12, so if you know anyone who fits the bill, send them the link! (And if you’re a grown-up in those fields and want to be a mentor, email them!)

Related: why are there still so few women in science?

The Beheld has a lovely interview with an 80-year-old military wife and homemaker, with some nice affirmations that it’s okay to want to look good and not always follow fads.

Links Lundi

Good new, everyone (in the USA)! You can pre-order the “Doctor Who” 50th anniversary special and get it December 10th, less than three weeks after its international airing! Dang, I am running out of time to catch up on Season 7…

Also, introducing the official Tenth Doctor coat for ladies!

Sif as Wonder Woman. AWESOME.

George H. W. Bush acted as a witness at his friends’ same-sex marriage. It’s a sweet gesture, if nothing else.

Delusions of Anthropologie. Sounds about right.

It’s nearly October, which means it’s time for me to start scouting the worst women’s Halloween costumes America has to offer.  My favorites so far, from a flyer in the mail: Sexy V for Vendetta and the “Cheeky Cherokee.”  What’s that?  You’re a woman and you want to be Darth Vader? TOO BAD, YOU GOTTA BE SEXY DARTH VADER.  (What is even up with that skullcap thing?)

Now please excuse me while I go spend too much time searching this graphic of (nearly) every starship ever for the SSV Normandy.  (Okay, the comments saved me from that particular search, but I’ll still be spending too much time on it.)

Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween Reading

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week we will post a new Top Ten list that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join.

This week we’re gearing up for Halloween by discussing our favorite spooky reads!

1. “Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury.  Bradbury was the master of the eerie autumn story, with dead leaves, chill breezes, and dark mysteries.  “SWTWC” is part coming-of-age tale, part horror story, with the childlike love of the carnival set against the terror of evil magic.

2. “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro.  It’s not exactly scary, but you have a constant sense that something is very, very wrong.

4. “Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark.”  Remember those horrific illustrations?  And the story about the guy spreading out a bloody skin to dry in the sun?  And the daughter whose mother disappears on vacation, but no one at the hotel seems to recognize either of them?  AAAHHH.

5. Sandman by Neil Gaiman.  These graphic novels delve into every aspect of dreams and nightmares, complete with mind-bending art.

Continue reading

What Not To Wear: Halloween Edition 2012

The end of October is upon us, which mean Halloween is coming!  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time once again for partygoers to abandon all vestiges of good taste and deck themselves out in “Sexy ___”…and it’s time for me to get up on my smug high horse of judgment and scorn them all.

Here are some of the highlights I’ve spotted in mailed ads and the skeevier and/or more hilarious corners of the Internet:

1. Looney Luna and Terrifying Tina.   A sexy monster costume I can deal with – colorful monster “spirit hoods,” not so much.  These just make me think of all the sexy Sesame Street costumes, and I’m really not a fan of Halloween costumes ruining anyone’s childhood.  (See also: sexy Mario, sexy Disney princesses, sexy babies.)

2. Sexy Crayola Crayon, in a variety of colors.  What I really want to know is whether or not Crayola actually gave the okay for these.

3. Sexy Wolf.  Pros: warm, shiny, full costume name is “Big Bad Sexy Wolf.”  Possible con: whether you intended to or not, you look like an anime character. (Also available in giraffe and fox, which can be yours for only $230!)

4. Sexy Skeleton.  The boob ribs! Boob ribs.

5. Sexy Honey Badger.  This one could actually have some perks: wear it and start a betting pool based on how many people will yell “Honey badger don’t care!” throughout the night.  You could win back the cost of the costume (and hopefully its sold-separately hood as well).  Props to Vanessa for spotting this one.

6. Sexy Chucky: two words that should never be next to each other, one costume that should not exist.

7. Sexy Hamburger. Come on, if you’re going to dress in a food costume, at least be food-shaped.  Otherwise you’re just wearing a really strange-looking dress.

8. Sexy Urinal. At first I was like, “that’s disgusting, that’s degrading,” but then I was like, “that’s expensive!”  Does that mean it qualifies as art? (More scatological costume ideas here.)

9. Sexy Body Bag Jane Doe.  So much wrong with this I don’t even know where to start.  Dead women are sexy?  Really?  Unless you’re the clever one in a group going as the cast of “Law & Order,” there isn’t really a good reason to wear this one.  At all.

10. And finally, saving the worst for last: Pocahottie, which literally made my jaw drop when I saw it in the flyer.  The “Indian princess” costume has been around for ages, but I’d love to meet whoever thought it was a good idea to name their especially tacky costume “Pocahottie.”  As if Pocahontas wasn’t controversial enough already.  Here’s me joining the annual plea to not minimize, water down, fetishize, or otherwise misuse other cultures for your costume.

Here’s a whole pile of bad ideas to costume-ize instead:

What Not To Wear For Halloween: The 2011 Edition

The Northwest has been downright weird this year.  The last several days – in fact, most of October – have been…sunny.  We’re about an inch and a half below the rain average.  It’s broken 60 degrees on many afternoons.  This has been, in a seasonally appropriate fashion, spooky.

But Tuesday hung out mostly somewhere in the 40s and I buried myself under three layers and a quilt and decided it’s officially Halloween season, hence, the annual What Not To Wear post.

The list is long this year, let me tell you.

The number and variety of terrible women’s Halloween costumes is even more horrifying than usual.  Among the more notable childhood-destroying getups I’ve seen are sexy Mario, sexy Robin Hood, sexy mustard bottle, sexy Alice in Wonderland, sexy Ursula (AAAGH) sexy toddler (ಠ_ಠ), and sexy Smurfette, not to mention a slew of Lady Gagas and Jersey Shore kids (and I’m not exaggerating when I say “kids“).   With “Miss Representation” debuting, it makes all these options look downright nauseating.

The sad part is that it’s really hard to find alternatives.  If you don’t want to be Sexy Fill In The Blank, the other main option appears to be cultural stereotypes a la Pocahontas or a geisha, and you’ll be lucky if those aren’t also “sexy.”  And if you want to be just a little sexy – hey, it’s a holiday for partying, this is a good opportunity for it – your options are also slim.  It’s either spandex miniskirts and push-up bras or nun habits.

Luckily, the Internet has produced a few places to get ideas: look here and here.  And if you want to be sexy, but not Sexy *Insert Profession Here,* see if you can come up with a creative alternative – yes, there are a few things the costume industry hasn’t sexified yet.  For example, I know a girl who went to a Halloween party as a loofah, wearing what I assume was a strapless swimsuit covered in tufts of tulle.  How many people do you know who have dressed up as loofahs?

Me, I’m decided to be a pirate – just a pirate, not a Sexy Pirate.  I was going to be a plagiarist (Jessica’s idea) by wearing the pirate costume with a beret and carrying around famous books with my name plastered over the authors’ with masking tape.  Then I discovered I don’t know how to wear berets, so I’m just gonna be an old-fashioned pirate.

How about you?  What will your costume be? What’s the creepiest or most laughable Sexy ____ you’ve seen so far?