Celebrating Halloween has always been one of my favorite things about living in New York; I love the way the whole town embraces all the best aspects of the holiday in so many spectacular, hilarious, often seedy, sometimes creepy, always creative ways. Just riding the subway on Halloween night ranks among my favorite all-time things to do in this city—with everyone just hanging around stoically in random costumes, it’s like being backstage at the most bizarre, awesome play never written, or landing in the middle of a rejected Sid and Marty Krofft pilot (unlike the other 364 days of the year, when taking the subway is like being stuck No Exit-style in a hellish Edward Albee play that never ends). I speak from personal experience when I tell you that riding underground through three boroughs wearing full geisha regalia, with a friend dressed as Adam Ant and another decked out as an Autobot, is probably the most fun you can have on a crowded subway train—at least within legal limits.
And yet, with every passing year, as I grow more and more crotchety (note: early-onset crotchetiness runs rampant in my family, apparently—I started channeling my inner Andy Rooney at about the age of four, I think), I keep feeling as if people are missing the point. Bad taste doesn’t bother me on Halloween—hell, Halloween is like the one day a year when life turns into a John Waters movie, and that is definitely something to celebrate—it’s the epic laziness that brings out my cantankerous, fist-shaking side in full force. People don’t even try anymore. Last year I met a guy who’d taped a small, white, jagged cardboard square to a black T-shirt and called it a priest costume. Nice try, fratboy. I may not be religious, but I believe in hell for boring people, and you just hopped into the express lane, my friend. Say hi to Garrison Keillor and my ninth grade math teacher when you get there.
And then there’s the issue of women’s costumes and the rise of “Slutoween,” a term coined two years ago by journalist/pop culture pundit Joel Stein in his Los Angeles Times column and immediately embraced with gusto by the blogospere, especially on sites like Jezebel aimed at young women. The concept should be pretty self-explanatory, but let’s break it down:
Anyone can buy a push-up bra, ladies, but it does not a costume make. Seriously—short skirts, fishnets, crazy high heels can all be fun, but piling them on altogether under a ton of makeup IS NOT WEARING A COSTUME (unless your costume is “Saturday Night at the Newark Bus Depot: A Tragedy in Three Acts,” in which case—good luck with that. You might want to take some mace out trick-or-treating). Sticking on a pair of fangs or devil horns helps, but only slightly. Wigs are good, but we’ve all seen Pretty Woman so once again—watch out for that whole “where’s-the-bus-depot?” look. Not even Julia Roberts pulls that off anymore, honey.
For the love of all that is good and holy in this world, it does not really take that much time and effort to throw together a decent costume. If you’re really that woefully devoid of creativity here’s an idea: try looking at the costumes available online or at your local Halloween Adventure, but remove whatever they want you to believe makes a costume “SEXY.” So, instead of “SEXXXY NURSE,” how about, “Nurse?” Lose the stripper heels, pasties and the see-through skirt, mix in a two parts self-esteem and maybe a little dignity if you’ve got it lying around, and BAM! —you’re on your way. Not only can you break out all those super-hilarious One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest one-liners you’ve been saving, but you probably won’t end up going home with a corn-fed, prizewinning moron with a square of cardboard dangling drunkenly from his collar. Everybody wins!
And if you want to sex it up, fine, but do it your own way—ninety-nine percent of the costumes out there for women seem to have been designed by a frenzied, drooling mob of twelve-year-old boys who’ve overdosed on episodes of The Girls Next Door (you don’t actually have to watch a whole episode to overdose, by the way…”reality show,” my ass). Prepubescent boy-drool is not the objective of Halloween—or any day, really, at least for anyone who’s passed the sixth grade. In fact, let’s add that to our list of Life Lessons right now and meditate on it the next time a Girls Gone Wild commercial rears its ugly, exploitative head at two in the morning.
Sigh…I know I’m totally preaching to the choir here—for we are geeks, and our mighty collective awesomeness should not be underestimated. Hear us roar…and dress up in fun costumes, and not be all lame and/or skanky. And just for the record: come the early afternoon hours of November 1st, we will have earned our hangovers, unlike Frat-Priest and all the generic “SEXY-fill-in-the-blanks” who dumb it down for the rest of us. It won’t make it any easier to roll off the couch and turn off the BeastMaster reruns the next day, but at least we’ll have our pride, and that’s what matters. So get out there, have fun, and Happy Halloween!