It scares the leaves off the trees, asks us to carve its image and play its tease; entices with tricks and treats–in wrappers and in human sweets. Instills fear in many, vanity in some, and for others? Drinks them dumb. It’s Halloween, baby!
As Halloween Night approaches and we decide whether to haunt the town or stay safe at home, as our Jack-o-Lanterns patiently watch, we face one of our favorite choices of the year: What costume will I wear? One that makes me laugh? Frightens me? Makes me sexy? What mask will I hide behind this year to become who I want to be?
The costume choice is a telling one. It identifies what’s important to us. Humor? Thrill? Vanity? It’s how we choose to disguise ourselves that tells more about who we are than at any other time in the year–especially true for those outfits we’re dying to show off: in these costumes, the persona transforms–we move beyond the physical alteration and actually play our characters.
It’s brilliant, completely unexpected, and unbearable more than one day a year: people living their fantasies out loud en masse, showing us the truth inside-out: hiding what’s on display 364 days a year–the exterior–in order to not only exhibit, but to scream, the interior.
Halloween is my favorite time of year. I enjoy the mature, adult things preceding–apple orchards, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, cozy parties. But as that night approaches, my interest evolves. I first become more daring, more thrill-seeking: The parties, mazes, hayrides, and homes switch from quaint to haunted. As Halloween nears, I pursue my fantasies: I choose my costume–the one that reflects myself most currently, most accurately, however embarrassingly. Year after year, my choice showcases how insecure, vain, and sometimes desperate for romantic attention, I am. I fit in with the stereotypical twenty-somethings: lots of bare skin, nothing left to the imagination– except, perhaps, who I am those other 364 days a year.
On Halloween, we remove our inhibitions. We do this because our masks protect us. They allow candor in times we’d otherwise shy away; they allow more crass decision- making when we’d otherwise have better judgment. Our masks, those things that hide us, in essence, allow us to become exactly who we are.
Drag performers live their fantasies every weekend this way. When they’re on the stage, dripping in glamour and absorbing the limelight, they’re showing us a side of themselves we’d otherwise never see were we to know them only during the day. Under their dresses their hearts beat with excitement, with thrill, with fantasy. They’ve mastered the art of Halloween, because they so thoughtfully choose each night the costume that best reflects that part of who they are. Think back to your favorite costume. Did you feel differently when you wore it? Did you act differently? Was it completely socially acceptable? Would you like to feel and act this way every day of the year?
As human beings, we have this wonderful propensity to hide ourselves from everyone else. During most of the year, we are mostly ourselves. Attached to the socially acceptable, yes. Obsessed with fitting in, yes. Worrying about and working toward all the things we only kinda-sorta want, yes. But mostly ourselves. The rest of us–the parts of us that are socially unacceptable–we hide from the world most of the time. We do this because we are social animals, and to survive socially, we must conform to something of a social order.
So we bottle it up all year long, that part that would get us in trouble were we to show it off. We hide from ourselves until it’s safe to come out and play. Until, for the regulars, it’s time to take the stage for a night lip-syncing and entertaining. Or, for others, for at least one night of the year, to show off our creativity, our passions, our insecurities.
In this way, we all practice a little witchcraft on Halloween; we show our ability to vanish behind ourselves.
Stay safe this Halloween, and don’t do anything stupid. I want you around to read my next column!