Life Lesson 31: If you need to wear a sign that tells people what you’re supposed to be, your costume probably sucks.

There are three things about Halloween that I love, and two things that I hate. Here, in no particular order, are stories to illustrate each point.

Positive point the first: I love candy. Candy is my weakness. My vice. Recently, Karl has gone on a ‘let’s reduce the amount of sugar we consume’ kick. Which is great. You know, in theory. But guys? I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. Heck, I don’t get to go out after 5:00 PM these days. So if I want to sit at my computer and eat a peppermint Rittersport (which happens to be the best chocolate bar ever invented, for reals), Imma do that. Chocolate is a gift from the heavens and we shouldn’t be so quick to judge it. Or me.


Negative point the first: When I was six, She-Ra was my universe. She was strong and smart(ish) and pretty and dammit, I loved her and what she stood for (which was…um…defeating the horde? Yes. I can still get behind that.). Anyway, when it came time to choose a costume that year, it was a total no-brainer. She-Ra.

Or, in my case, Lame-Ra.

Although I did mention my costume in my grade one diary briefly, “Tonight I was She-Ra for Halloween!” I didn’t exactly get into the specifics.

Probably because of the trauma involved.

So we all know I grew up in the ‘Vern. And that we didn’t have a lot of money when I was a kid. We weren’t exactly poor, but a store-bought Halloween costume was nowhere in the cards.

Enter Mom.


Now, when she “made” my costume (the quotes are there for a reason,  just stick with me), I’m not sure if she had ever actually WATCHED an episode of She-Ra beyond a cursory glance at the opening credits.

Because she ended up finding an old, faded purple-ish-pink-ish-gray-ish bath towel and sewing some kind of hippy-style sixties belt dealie along the top so it could tie around my neck. This was my ‘cape’. She then created a ‘crown’ out of construction paper and Bristol Board. The crown was high-tech and had strings at the back so it could tie onto my head. And there was a matching paper sword.

And then she forced me to wear a jacket over the whole damn thing (it WAS October, people), so I looked something like this:


Which, OMG. Princess of What the Hell is Wrong With That Girl. Princess of Puffy Coats. Princess of That Girl Ain’t Right.

But power? No. Not power. Unless it was the power to confuse. In which case, yes!

There were other costumes before and after She-Ra. Let me illustrate a few, just so you get the full effect. Sometimes pictures do more justice than words.

I was about two. No one could tell what on earth I was. It’s still not clear to me.



Note the rouged cheeks. That was Mom’s trademark makeup move. If you had rouged cheeks, you looked cute. Or like a street walking duck. Either or.


Truthfully, I did this to myself. I have no idea why I thought it was a great costume. Probably just a good excuse to read a book during a school dance. Oh, yes. I wore this to a dance. In grade six. Can you say ‘attractive’?

So even though I didn’t actually WEAR a sign with my costume’s name on it, I really should’ve. I really, really should’ve.

And then there was Kenneth.

If you knew Kenneth when he was a kid, you’ll recall that he LOVED pigs. As in, collected them and enjoyed visiting them whenever it was appropriate (farms, fairs…uh…end of list). He was also the only kid who brought pig cookies to school on National Pig Day (March 1, in case you were dying of curiosity).

So every single Halloween involved Kenneth being a pig-something. As in:


That’s a pig-wizard, pig-chef, pig-baseball player and pig-pig.

Mom liked these costumes because they were:

* Relatively easy to make.

* Secondary to the fact that Kenneth was a pig. So who cared if he was a kid wearing a mashed up hat and a winter coat with boots he inherited from his sister? He was still a PIG doing that. PIG triumphs all. PIG.

Positive point the second: Did I mention that I love candy? Because I do. And when I figured I was too old for trick-or-treating (from 11-year-old Jess’ diary: “I just handed out candy tonight. I figure I should leave the trick-or-treating to the kids.”), I was still happy to do the handing out. In fact, I think I was HAPPIER.


Because of the fatal allergies, that’s why. See, normally I’d go out and collect candy like a regular, non-allergic kid. And then, the second I got home, I’d dump my candy onto the kitchen floor and my brother and I would trade for things that he liked (Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Peanut M&Ms) and things that wouldn’t kill me (stuff without peanuts). But when I was in charge of the door, I just made myself a little bag of safe candy as I went along. My theory was “A few for you, a few for me.”

So I wasn’t all that altruistic in my ‘leaving trick-or-treating to the kids’ is what I’m saying.

My favorite hauls from the ‘hood over the years were definitely:

* Whistle pop

* Neapolitan toffee

* Little bags of chips

* 2-Bubblicious packets

* Hot & Cold Nerds


I’ve mentioned some of these candies to friends/husbands through the years, and most of them give me a little eyebrow raise and a shake of the head. Were these ghetto-specific treats? Were they only sold at Morningside Mall’s Woolco? Who’s to say. All I know is that Hot and Cold Nerds were the bomb shizzle.

Negative point the second: I hate older kids who trick-or-treat. There, I said it. I hate them. I mean, anyone who knows me knows my general distrust of teenagers, but Halloween seems to magnify this times a bazillion. I honestly feel like Halloween is for the 4-12 crowd. After that, you’re just kinda milking it. Also, if you’re a parent with a baby under 2, don’t pretend the candy is for the kid. It’s not. You’re banking on your child’s inherent cuteness and you’re going to take that giant bag of goodies home and snarf them yourself while you watch Halloween 4 on Netflix tonight. Let’s just call it what it is.

Vaguely related:

When I was practice teaching (I won’t say which year, in case anyone who reads this knows the teacher I am referring to), I had a host teacher who was, to put it quite mildly, the worst teacher I’ve ever met. When Halloween rolled around, she came to school wearing a short skirt, tight shirt and pigtails. We were teaching a low primary grade, so this was reaaaaalllly, super-mega inappropriate. In contrast, I was wearing a fairy outfit with a long skirt (good for floor-sitting) and wings. One of the kids went up to the host teacher and said, “Are you Britney Spears?” The host teacher said, “This isn’t my costume!”

It wasn’t even her damn costume. She just dressed like that. Just ’cause.

The irony was that her costume was much more PG and much less R-rated. It was her everyday wear that was of concern.

That was a hell of a year, Imma tell you.

Positive point the third: I thought often about the spooky parts of Halloween, and they intrigued me. When my third grade teacher (the much-maligned Mrs. Matheson) asked about what kind of thing we’d like to be, if we had magical powers, I said this: “I would love to be invisible. I would walk through walls and scare people by picking up things. I would also dress up as a ghost for Halloween, because if I was invisible, it would look like I could actually float.” The unwritten part: “And I wouldn’t have to wear a sign to explain what I was trying to be. Also, ghosts don’t need to wear jackets over their damn costumes.”

I’m not sure, in hindsight, why just ‘picking up things’ would freak people out. I mean, if you were going for the scare, wouldn’t you make creepy noises and, like, throw stuff? All poltergeist-styles? Because if I just saw a book rise a couple of inches off a table and then settle back down gently, I’m not sure I’d be scared. I’d maybe cut back on the pre-bedtime snacks and try to get a little more shut-eye, but I don’t think I’d be running for my life.


The person I know who does Halloween best (and always has) is Jay. He is a TOTAL horror movie buff, and Halloween is his favorite holiday. He and his husband Shean dressed up as these freaky zipper-faced, kilt-wearing zombies one year, and I was terrified (and this was only about four years ago, so…I was a grown up and everything).

The person I know who secretly hates Halloween but puts on a brave face for the sake of the trick-or-treaters is my husband. Karl much prefers that his role is “sit in the living room eating mini-Mars-bars while watching TV and letting Jess deal with the kids until 8:30, at which time the lights are off and this stupid holiday is over for another damn year.”

The first Halloween we spent together was at Karl’s old house. He told me that he usually got a TON of kids trick-or-treating. I was super-stoked! I wanted to be prepared and make the house look all festive and whatnot. He was lukewarm-to-extremely-not-interested. So we compromised! We bought a pumpkin and carved it into a rudimentary face. I was all into the spirit of things, and trying to make Karl see how much fun Halloween COULD be. We got the bowls of candy set up, turned on the porch light and prepared to put our jack-o-lantern outside. And that’s when we realized two things:

  1. We had no matches.
  2. We had no candles.

So we just made do by stuffing a flashlight in the top of the jack-o-lantern and jamming the little pumpkin hat on top of that.


Ghetto-lantern was born. Also, as a selling feature, ghetto-lantern is not a fire hazard.
I might patent this idea, so don’t steal it or anything.

Happy Halloween!

PS: Vivi (22 months) has come up with a solution to the pesky ‘handing out candy to other kids on Halloween’ thing. Instead of candy, she’s planning to :

a) Slam the door in the trick-or-treaters’ faces while yelling “NO!”

b) Put on “Lola” by the Kinks and dance for them instead.

I’m not kidding. These were her ideas. I should be…worried? Proud? Both?

Let’s go with both.

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