I love Halloween. Like, really really (add 12 more reallys) love it. When you were little, it was an excuse to get dressed up, get attention, act silly with your friends, and eat candy until you passed out. Now it’s an excuse to get dressed up, get attention, act silly with your friends, and drink alcohol until you pass out. If that’s not the American dream, I don’t know what is.
BUT I DIDN’T ALWAYS LOVE IT.
The first Halloween I remember was also the most traumatic (coincidence or nah?). I was five years old and don’t recall if I brought Halloween up to my parents or they addressed it with me, but all of a sudden my mom was excitedly presenting me with a costume that came in the mail. It went something like this:
“Honey, Halloween is coming up and you’re going to be a can-can girl.”
“Mommy, I don’t know what that is.” (Child version of: “Dafuq you talking ‘bout?”)
“It’s a French dancer; they’re very pretty and your grandma and I picked this out for you.”
First of all, I didn’t know anything French except Happy Meal fries. Why the HELL would I give a shit about being a French dancer? But she brought my Gram into it (God rest her soul), and I knew I had no choice. I would easily be an asshole to my mom, but not my grandma. Then she whipped out the outfit and I gave her a blank stare and she probably went upstairs and cried because the thing cost like, a bajillion dollars, and I just crushed her dreams.
Now here’s the thing—my mom is super creative and this was a super adorable idea for a little girl. Maybe she was in some French phase, too, who knows. She was also starting to realize how headstrong I was, so she probably knew this was the last year she could force me to wear anything, costume or not (and she was right: I dressed myself every day from first grade on).
So Halloween rolled around and I put on the costume I had learned to love (or at least pretend to).
(Shout-out to that bowl-cut mullet tho. And despite what that ratchet wooden door is telling you, we did not live in a doublewide.)
And I went off to kindergarten. I arrived and the school was abuzz with energy. All my friends were admiring my costume even though they had zero idea what it was. I knew there would be candy involved at some point. My teacher was Snow White and she was crushing it. It was bound to be a good day. Then we all got called to the gymnasium…and that’s when things took a turn.
The teachers instructed all of us to sit down in a big circle on the floor with the principal in the middle, then the “rules” were explained—they would call out everyone’s costumes, then you could stand up, then I guess we were going to dance around or hold hands and sing Kumbaya, or do something else, who fucking knows. All I knew was that it was like, 10 a.m. and I hadn’t had one Kit-Kat yet, so things needed to turn up, STAT.
Principal Whoever started calling out costumes and everyone got all excited and jumped up like they won the damn lottery when they were recognized.
“Witches, stand up!” (Yaaay, witches!)
“Cinderellas, stand up!” (Whoo-hoo Cinderellas!)
(Sidebar: If it was 2014, they could have just yelled out “Any character from Frozen!” and the whole room would be on their feet.)
All around me, boys and girls were standing up and I started to panic. I didn’t even really know what my costume was; how was anyone else supposed to?
And a few moments later, after every stupid ass costume had been called, every single kindergartener in the room was standing besides me. I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t yet a rule breaker so I couldn’t just STAND UP IF MY COSTUME HADN’T BEEN CALLED. Why didn’t anyone notice me sitting down here? Where the hell were my friends? WHERE THE HELL WAS SNOW WHITE?
And then, sitting on the ground in a red and black satin can-can girl costume, I began to cry. I was five years old, and I knew what it felt like to be a desperate French dancer.
Finally my teacher (or some other teacher, who knows) rushed over and pulled me up whilst trying to comfort my blubbering ass, but my Halloween was already ruined. My costume never got called. I was an outcast, a Halloween pariah.
But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (thanks, Kanye). I got over it and drowned my sorrows in trick-or-treat candy that night, and my mom never dared put me in a costume of her choice for the rest of my childhood. I’m not one to dole out parenting advice, but if your children are old enough to speak and may be put into social situations on Halloween, I would fight the urge to dress them in costumes they are clueless about.
As for my Halloween history, I didn’t have another traumatic one again until 2012 when I drunkenly slipped off a platform I was dancing on and ended up crying on the ground in a semi-slutty outfit.
Some things never change.