Thursday, September 2, 2010

Two Halloweens

Halloween 2008. Boulder, Colorado. I’ve been thinking of this costume for a couple of years now, it makes me smile during grunt work at my office job. A tap-dancing banana—a body-sized banana costume with fishnets, a leotard, high-heeled tap shoes and a cane. Ludicrous—based vaguely on Fruit of the Loom commercials and that old movie preview cartoon—“Let’s all go to the lobby, and have ourselves a snack!”

This year I decide to do it, I begin collecting the materials. I put on the banana bodysuit and have trouble making my face look like it has a head of hair attached to it—just a big pasty round thing in the middle of a sea of yellow. There is one conundrum…will I be able to be in a costume that is not sexy? I have always admired the women who are unsexy on Halloween on purpose, sort of an “F you” to gender rules. They opt to go the whole night without male validation. A lot of them are gay. But for so many young women, Halloween is the one day of the year when it is okay to be suggestive, to wear something short or skimpy, even to wear something that would other days of the year look like it came from a sex shop. There is almost a franticness to it—“I have to get my fake eyelashes perfect!” “Can I borrow your lipstick?” “I spent $100 on these heels, just to wear to the party.” My costumes have, ever since I began noticing boys, been appropriately flirty. I thought the banana might be the same, but I find that when you take away your hair and your waistline, you become completely asexual.

The night unfolds uneventfully. I wander Pearl Street with my friend and her romantic interest. She is cute—an ice princess with a long white dress with bell sleeves that have fake fur trim. He’s not wearing a costume, opting to remain coolly unnoticed. Typical Halloween costumes float by in the drunken, rowdy crowd—Super Mario Brothers, Kill Bill, Hunter S. Thompson. I even meet one or two bananas, but I am the only dancing banana. And my feet kill—they are real tap shoes. Nobody seems to understand my costume, just like “oh, cool, a banana. I’m a pimp.” No one notices all the details. It can be hard to find people with a black sense of humor in Boulder—it’s not until I move to Los Angeles one year later that people truly appreciate my costume.

My cohorts and I go into Pearl Street Pub—jam-packed with people trying to get wasted, but there are not enough bartenders to meet the demand. We go down to the basement, and I go upstairs to try and get us some drinks. There is a thick wall of people several feet deep around the bar, I know it will be awhile before I’m served. The bartender is dressed like Richie Tenenbaum from The Royal Tenenbaums—that’s Luke Wilson’s character, a depressed tennis star who always wears a headband over his shaggy hair, and a blazer. I consider it a very unoriginal costume—it’s for guys who think they’re hipsters, but really they’re frat boys. Who grow their hair out because it’s cool, but otherwise can’t think for themselves. Who might not even know that Wes Anderson directed The Royal Tenenbaums. I know that’s harsh, but you know exactly who I’m talking about.

Anyway, this bartender is hot, and I notice he’s serving cute girls first. An injustice that exists only at some bars, and men have to put up with it 365 days a year. I wait expectantly for him to ask me what I want, but he does not. Cute girls come and go, and pretty soon he starts serving the guys. Ten minutes go by. Fifteen. I try to flag him down. It’s too loud for him to hear me, but I am pretty obvious—I’m the giant yellow thing at the end of the bar. Twenty minutes go by. I’m starting to understand…this guy is consciously invalidating my femininity by choosing not to serve me. People come and go around me, I’m at the head of the bar, he goes around me, serving the people to my left and right. People who have been waiting only five minutes get served. I wait for a total of a half an hour, I kid you not, before I decide it’s time to find a new bar. Some of my girlfriends with more chutzpah might have said something—“F you, bartender! The Royal Tenenbaums is probably the deepest movie you’ve ever seen!” But I don’t. I’m shattered, I can’t enjoy the rest of the night, I can’t flirt, I can’t smile. I have been made to feel worthless because I’m not dressed like a sexy fairy. And I internalize it. I vow never to dress like a tap-dancing banana again.

Halloween 2009. Los Angeles, California. Okay, I wear the banana costume during the day, at my job at a health food store, because it got such positive feedback from my coworkers. “Oh my god, you have to wear that!” Like I said, people in L.A. have more my sense of humor. I tap dance for customers, I take pictures with my friend who is dressed like Laura Palmer’s dead body from Twin Peaks (much better costume than Richie Tenenbaum). But tonight is different, tonight I’m going to a party, and I don’t know if I have the strength to repeat 2008’s asexual nightmare.

So I pull out 2007’s costume—a sexy cop. Shiny vinyl hat and skintight uniform dress that you must wear with pants because it’s so short. Purchased for way too much money at The Ritz, Boulder’s overpriced Halloween store.

I enter the party when it is fully rolling, there is a good crowd. Ironically, there seems to be a dearth of singles, and a lot of couples, couples wearing matching costumes. My friend who invited me, who is married, did not tell me this would be the case. She is dressed like a respectful butterfly, and her husband as a butterfly catcher. And I am dressed like a stripper. Possibly my favorite couples costume is two friends who dress like John and Kate Plus Eight. She has a studiously blond frosted and layered wig with a tacky soccer mom outfit, and he has an Ed Hardy shirt, and eight Barbie doll “kids” wrapped around his waist that he bought at the 99 cent store. They are funny together, acting as if they are a married couple.

I go to the kitchen to get a drink, and the thing I dread happens, a guy gets turned on and expects me to dominate him. I have found since buying the cop costume that it brings out some primal submissive instinct in men, and they get a little gleam in their eye and say something along the lines of, “arrest me.” It has happened several times. But I am far from a dominatrix, I am more the awkward librarian type, and I can’t act the part. This guy is a stoner hippie—he has a long tangle of dreadlocks. “No, officer, I didn’t do it!” he yells. “Oh, well, if you have to,” he adds, and leans against the wall with his back facing me and spreads his legs—he wants me to “search” him. At the moment I panic, I have no idea what he’s doing, and so I spank him, like “okay, off you go.” He is not impressed—he gives me a strange look and walks off.

I wander out to the front porch where there are a few people talking and smoking cigarettes, including my friend. She introduces me to a cute friend of hers and I am immediately smitten. He is dressed like a rock star of the Guns n’ Roses era—blond shaggy wig, red bandana and a jean jacket. He is far too serious to own the part, he is as out of place as a rock star as I am as a cop. I know that an 80’s rock star is no more of an original costume than Richie Tenenbaum or a sexy cop, but this is one of those cases where the guy’s friends probably forced him to make an emergency stop at the Halloween store the day before the party. So he doesn’t care about his costume.

We are discussing the surface things you discuss during the first few minutes of knowing somebody, and then Kate of John and Kate comes outside. She is talking to someone near us, and she doesn’t even make eye contact with us, but I can feel the energy between her and Axl Rose. I realize that he knows her, and he is very much in love with her. I’m pretty intuitive, and I trust these instincts. I realize that my crush is a no go.

Axl and I end up inside, and we continue our conversation. He is a graduate student in chemistry, and so we talk about graduate school. At least that is what I remember. It wasn’t an incredible conversation, but I remember that it was genuine. It can be a rarity at parties to have a genuine conversation with a guy, especially in meat-market type environments, when men and women are scanning the room for other people to talk to at the same time that they talk to each other. He is good-looking enough to where I expect that he will be eyeballing other women, and yet he’s not. He’s an anomaly of a man.

Through our discussion, I discover that Kate is his wife, and so my intuition that he is in love with her proves right on. I keep a respectful distance, careful not to flirt as I observe him on an energetic level even further. He is 100% in love with her, and has no eyes for anyone else, not even a sexy cop. I begin falling in love with him because he is capable of falling in love with a real woman. A woman who projects to the world not her physical beauty but her personality, who is wearing a tongue-in-cheek costume, who wears dumpy clothes to a Halloween party.

As I observe even further I discover something else which is my saddest moment of the night. We are discussing something along the lines of the scientific merits of various universities, and I feel him feeling sorry for me, thinking, “I can’t believe she thinks she has to dress like a suggestive police officer in order to win male approval. She is far too smart for this, and doesn’t know enough about men.” As soon as I observe this I feel shame. His thought did not come from a place of condescending superiority, of putting me down, but rather a real place of concern for the plight of women. I fall in love even further. I feel like I have some growing up to do, and I send I prayer out to the universe that there is someone like this waiting for me one day.

And I wish tonight that I had dressed like a dancing banana. Because that is who I truly am.