Part 0: A preface, of sorts
I’ve been wrestling with the point of this blog for some time. Among the thousands of nerd blogs floating out there, what am I bringing that is new? Lists, reviews, essays, all of these have been done to death. So what’s the point?
The answer for me lays in my education as a theatre student. One of the most important questions we have for ourselves whenever we choose to direct a play is, “Why this play, and why now?” Why this blog? Because this is the stuff that interests and excites me. It is what I know. Why now? Because my life has fallen apart. I have very little to look forward to most days. I’m not saying that to evoke pity or sympathy, but rather because it is the truth. Luckily, this gives me opportunity to create, well, anything. And I have plenty of free-time.
Another lesson from my education comes from my favorite book on acting, Declan Donnellan’s The Actor and the Target:
“trying to create something original is doomed to failure. Whenever we try to be original it is evidence that we have lost confidence in our uniqueness…The more we try to be ‘new’ the more repetitive and reactionary we become. We are new. We cannot be otherwise.”
What I have is my voice. It is mine, so it is unique, even if it is not original. And I realized that this blog doesn’t need any original tricks or new things. It simply needs to be me. So, here I am.
And why Halloween? Because Halloween means a lot to me. Because it says a lot about me. Because this year marks an anniversary, of sorts: An encounter at a Halloween party four years ago started me down a path that would define my life for years. And because this holiday is the nerdiest holiday, after all:
Part 1: A personal history
Halloween has always been my favorite holiday of the year. Growing up, I was more excited about this holiday than Christmas, or Easter, or even my birthday. And it was never about the candy, either. Sure, that was a great perk, but for me, it was all about the costumes.
Looking at me as a child, and my excitement for the time of year where I got to wear a costume, it’s no wonder I pursued theater. And looking at what my costumes were, it’s no wonder why I write about nerdy things.
A large part of my love for this holiday came from my mother, and what an excellent costumer she was (and still is). I have never worn a store-bought costume. Every year my mom would hand-make original costumes for me. For instance, in Kindergarten, I wanted to be Wheeler from Captain Planet and the Planeteers.
My mom made me the shirt, bought me the high-tops, and hand-made the brown denim jacket. We also dyed my hair with a temporary red dye. I was pretty freaking cool.
After that, I would go on to play many nerdy things: Mr. Fantastic, an Elven Ranger, Dracula, Kabal from Mortal Kombat 3, and two different Wizards. The main aspect in many of these costumes was the cape: My 1st grade Dracula costume had a hand-made cape, with a shiny red silk lining and high collar. My wizard capes were always layered with multiple fabric types, and my Elven cloak could probably have been used on the set of LotR.
Like I said, it’s no big surprise that I play D&D and write a nerd blog.
As I got older, and out of high-school, my costume aesthetic changed. My mom still helped me with costumes when I needed it, but I definitely had a different goal in mind, and put less work and thought into my costumes. Still, I looked forward to it.
In college one year, I had a pretty half-assed cowboy costume, but it didn’t matter: I called myself Samuel Livingstone and talked with a southern drawl the entire evening, never breaking character. It’s amazing how much easier it was to flirt with girls when I was in character.
And that’s definitely what Halloween became for me, especially living in a college town: A chance for massive, drunken parties full of costumed ladies. The costumes became less about living out fantasies, and more about making me more comfortable and free to flirt with girls. Not to say that dressing up was not satisfying in and of itself: I was still a big nerd, and theatre student, after all!
A Tangent: Sexy Costumes
You know who gets screwed over by Halloween costume choices? Girls. Seriously, most girl’s costumes are a sexy-something or other.
Peruse any racks of costumes at the store, and it’ll confirm that; Men get cool costumes, women get sexy ones. Seriously, do a Google search for “Costumes for women”, right now. I’ll wait.
So girls get told they should dress sexy for Halloween, and yet, if they do, they are branded as dressing as sluts. There is so much slut-shaming by members of my own community around this holiday, it’s just absurd.
So here’s my opinion as a privileged white male: You’re a lady who wants to wear a wookie costume or full drag? Go for it. You want to wear a skin-tight, cleavage revealing bodysuit with cat ears and whiskers because it makes you feel sexy, or because you can’t think of anything else? Rock on. And guys? Shut the fuck up. No more telling girls that sexy outfits aren’t original, or that the only good thing about Halloween is girls “dressing like whores”. Today is a sacred day where we all can wear whatever we want, for whatever reason we want, and no one should be telling anyone else that their costume is wrong.
Except Twilight costumes, obv. (kidding).
Part 2: Where was I?
Things change, and a certain Halloween party four years ago changed a lot for me. Gone were the childish costumes made by mom, and gone were the half-assed costumes that gave me a chance to become a character sexier than myself. For three years, I didn’t wear a real costume on Halloween. Instead, I stayed in with the girlfriend and watched horror movies, or we would walk around the neighborhood with last minute costumes (I put on a black t-shirt and jeans once and called myself Hank Moody), and watch all the party-goers.
But still, I never lost my love for becoming something else for a day. Ze Frank has a great video about that, in fact. I wish I could embed his videos, but for some reason they don’t seem to work on this blog. But here’s the important quote:
Sure, there’ll be goblins and ghosts this year, but my favorite costumes have always been those that represented a hidden desire. The kind of costume where you can’t help but act differently when you put it on.
The ballerina costume that makes you twirl, the tuxedo that makes you stand up straighter, and the sexy kitten costume that makes you purr. The best costumes make you do things that feel good that would otherwise be embarrassing.
For those of you without a costume this year, because you didn’t have the time or because you didn’t have the energy, don’t let the opportunity pass you by. Pick a mental costume. For just a few moments today, dress yourself up as that something you’d love to be.
Maybe take a twirl in a crowded elevator. Or blow a kiss to the copy boy. Or grab a broom and ride it around the office like a cowboy. The best feeling a costume can give you is transformation, and you don’t need a costume for that.
Also, you can watch the video here.
I still loved the holiday. We would still watch scary movies and have an excuse to eat candy, and, sometimes, dress up, or at least pretend to be something else for a moment. And it meant something because it’s how we met. But things change.
Part 3: Today
This year is hard. Those four years have ended, and I’m not in the place I wanted to be as I rapidly approach the end of my 20’s. I wish I could go out today and barhop to every party in Portland with reckless abandon. But I can’t afford it.
Luckily, I still have a supporting family, and good friends. Halloween weekend, I dressed up lazy style (random guy from the 30’s), and my friends came into town. I’m living at home again (see: broke nerd), and while my mom didn’t make my costume this year, she still made Halloween by setting up our house for all my friends to stay at, and picking us up at 4am when we were stranded in NoPo.
So Halloween has changed a lot for me over the years, from a chance to dress up and go trick-or-treating, to a chance to wear a costume that let me hit on people, to a night at home with a girlfriend and horror movie. I’m not sure what Halloween will mean for me in the future, but it’s still important to me. It’s still the holiday for nerds, letting us dress up as a Battlestar character, one of the Warriors, or a sexy version of the four seasons. No matter who we really are, we have a chance to escape for a moment, to be funnier, sexier, or scarier than we normally are.
And this year, it’s all about remembering that I still have supportive friends and family. Tonight, I plan on eating some candy, drinking some beer, and watching some horror movies with a good friend.
And I think I’ll wear a cape.